Witnesses to Change

Frauke Heard-Bey and David Heard Collection

On view at the NYU Abu Dhabi Library through May 15, 2023

It has been nearly 60 years since David Heard arrived in Abu Dhabi, as a recent university graduate from England, with a degree in engineering, ready to start work in the oil fields near Tarif. Four years later he was joined by his new bride, Frauke Bey, who had just completed her doctoral studies in history in Berlin. In the six decades since, they raised a family and established a home and careers in Abu Dhabi: David as an engineer with the Abu Dhabi Petroleum Company, and later, as a senior advisor and liaison between the oil company and the government, and Frauke as one of the best known historians in the region, a longtime employee of the Center for Documentation and Research (today’s National Archive of the UAE), and the author of From Trucial States to the United Arab Emirates, one of the fundamental texts about this history of this country.

During that time, they collected numerous publications and documents about the region, which they not only used for their own research, but preserved with an eye to the future, believing such materials would one day be useful to future students and historians of the UAE. Since 2018, they have generously donated many of these materials to the NYU Abu Dhabi Library’s Archives and Special Collections department, where they now comprise the Frauke Heard-Bey and David Heard Collection (MC.064), the largest single collection in the department, occupying over 70 linear feet (21 linear meters) of shelving space. The three display cases in the exhibit present selected publications and documents grouped into three themes: early days of the UAE, the oil industry in Abu Dhabi, and cultural and social life in this city.