A Digital Archive of Architecture Images

SAHARA is a digital image archive developed by the Society of Architectural Historians in collaboration with ARTstor. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, SAHARA contains more than 47,000 images of architecture and landscapes contributed by SAH members—architects, scholars, photographers, graduate students, preservationists, and others who share an interest in the built environment.

Through SAHARA, SAH members:

  • upload their digital photographs and QTVR panoramas to a shared online archive
  • organize images in work folders
  • download images to a computer or directly to PowerPoint
  • collaborate with other members to create image categories for teaching and research

The SAHARA collection has been developed for all who teach, study, interpret, photograph, design, and preserve the built environment worldwide.

SAH members - click here to log in to SAHARA

Please note: 

ARTstor is pleased to announce an update that will eliminate the need for Java in the ARTstor Digital Library. In the near future, single image downloads will be delivered in zip files, which will contain a JPEG image and an HTML file with the associated metadata.

Tips for using SAHARA

Search and Download

  • Use the advanced search to specify date ranges, locations, and other criteria.
  • Use the ARTstor ‘Search Tips’ to modify keyword and advanced searches.
  • Use the personal work folders to group images for your upcoming courses or research.
  • Download images in your work folders directly to PowerPoint.


  • If there is a date range, fill in both earliest and latest so the dates are searchable.
  • If uploading multiple images with the same metadata, fill out the metadata for one image and copy the appropriate sections to the other images using the copy button.
  • When applicable, tie the ‘Creator Name’ field to the appropriate ARTstor record, which will automatically populate the applicable fields. 
View an ARTstor Tutorial.
View videos of selected modern
 and historic images in SAHARA.

SAHARA Documents

Frequently Asked Questions

Who has access to SAHARA?

SAHARA is available to all individual SAH members. SAHARA has been developed as an online academic resource for people in the field of architectural history and its related disciplines. Join or renew your SAH membership today.

If images will be available for teaching, will they also be available for use in scholarly publications?

Inquiries should be made directly to the person who holds copyright. If you need assistance locating the copyright holder, contact

What should I do if I want to use a SAHARA image for commercial or non-educational purposes?

Inquiries should be made directly to the person who holds copyright. If you need assistance locating the copyright holder, contact

Why does SAHARA keep timing out?  

Some technical difficulties are browser related. For best performance, please use the Firefox browser.

Contact Information

Anne Bird, Director of Membership

Membership and Registration or call Anne Bird at 312.573.1365

Technical Troubleshooting

General Questions

SAHARA Editors:
Jackie Spafford and Jeffrey Klee (Co-Editors)


The predecessor of SAHARA was the innovative SAH Image Exchange, developed in 1996 by SAH member Jeffrey Cohen and the SAH Electronic Media Committee. SAHARA had its genesis in 2006 when the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation invited the Society of Architectural Historians to participate in the Scholarly Communications Institute (SCI), a two day think-tank which focused on architectural history. Participants--which included scholars, graduate students, journal editors, librarians, technology experts, publishing experts, representatives of SAH, and others--discussed how the field of architectural history could benefit from digital presentation of scholarship. As a result of SCI and generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, SAH created SAHARA, which launched in 2009, and JSAH Online, which was released in April 2010. The Foundation's far-reaching vision of and support for the field of architectural history has had an enormous impact on the history of the built environment.

Partners Who Created SAHARA

In creating SAHARA, SAH collaborated with several partners to ensure that it would be an academic resource of great value to scholars, students, architects, historic preservationists, and all working in the field of architectural history. 

Our technology partner is ARTstor, whose online archive of art and architectural images are used for teaching and research in the arts and humanities. ARTstor developed the website interface and the tools for uploading and downloading images to SAHARA, merged architectural data with the existing ARTstor database of information, and helped us communicate with SAH members and the public about this new online resource.

SAH partnered with the library staff at three universities, namely BrownMIT and University of Virginia who contributed the initial 10,000 images and ensured that the factual information attached to each image is reliable.

SAHARA has received generous contributions of images from SAH members around the world. SAH is indebted to the many contributors to SAHARA and to the large Editorial Committee which peer reviews all images that are submitted to this shared online resource.