THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Endangered archives blog

News about the projects saving vulnerable material from around the world

14 June 2018

A Football Team from Lesotho

I cannot say that I am much of a football fan. When the World Cup takes place I find my favourite television programmes postponed. Also, my local London pub, which is usually a haven for a quiet evening out with family and friends, is taken over by crowds of supporters watching a match in the corner of the bar and shouting words of encouragement to their much-loved teams.

So, with an initial heavy heart, I started searching the EAP website for material connected to soccer that would be appropriate for a blog post. As always, I got swept away with the archives and for the first time, I feel I may have found my own team to support. I came across a file of correspondence concerning Mabeoana Football Club that was digitised as part of the Matsieng Royal Archives in Lesotho (EAP279). Some of the letters are written in Sotho and so I am unable to read them, but others are in English and they have given me a wonderful impression.

Lesotho_South_Africa_Locator 

Map indicating locations of Lesotho and South Africa (Wikimedia Commons CC BY SA 3.0)

The Club was founded in 1932 but the letters that have been digitised date from 1952-1954. I am assuming the Mabeoana team were made up of talented non-professionals, as indicated by this wonderful letter from the Club Secretary asking for Mr S.C. Pholo to be released from his driving duties so that he could take part in the Sir Sturuk Cup Finals.

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It looks as if the Daamboos Choir had been booked to entertain the spectators during this important match but were unable to perform and had to return their fee. What I desperately wanted to know was whether Mabeoana won the Finals but sadly there is nothing within the archive to indicate whether they became the champions.

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There seem to be a mixture of official matches and friendly games. I love this letter to an unknown team again from the Secretary, saying they wish to have a ‘Hot’ Match – I do hope the challenge was taken up and that it was a close and exciting game, certainly the results for 1954 imply that Mabeoana were a talented group of players and at the top of their game.

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1954 results

1954 match results

Sadly, having warmed to this team, a quick search on the internet told me that in 2011 they were relegated from the Lesotho Premier League, and I have been unable to find out anything further about them. So, if there is anyone reading this blog who can tell me more about Mabeoana F.C. – I would love to hear from you. 

07 June 2018

EAP and International Archives Day

9 June is International Archives Day –  This year's theme comes from the ICA conference “Archives: Governance, Memory and Heritage” to be held in Yaoundé in November. How could EAP miss the opportunity to highlight some of the earlier projects it has funded around the world, starting in the host country for this year’s conference - Cameroon.

EAP051 was awarded in EAP’s very first round of grants and was based at the Bamum Palace Archives digitising documents written in the indigenous writing system – Bamum. The results of the project have helped the community to rekindle their interest in cultural patrimony. There has been a resurgence in learning the script, which had been previously on the decline.

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For the next round of funding, I have chosen the project based at Tuvalu National Archives (EAP110). Climate change in this cyclone-prone area has made these documents vulnerable to complete destruction.

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In 2008, we funded the initial phase of a major project digitising the Buddhist archive of photography based at Luang Prabang in Laos (EAP177). The images cover 120 years of photography and it is thanks to the highly venerated monk, Phra Khamchanh Virachittathera, who collected these photographs for more than 70 years, that this archive is now available.  

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The following year, we supported our only project in Lesotho (EAP279), where the project team digitised the Matsieng Royal Archives. The ceiling to the archive had collapsed, leaving the material exposed to rain. This, of course, meant it was an ideal candidate for EAP support.

EAP279 Lesotho

I must not ignore the sound projects that have been funded. In 2010, ‘Vanishing voices from the Uralic world’ (EAP347) was awarded; sound recordings for archives in Russia (in particular Udmurtia), Estonia, Finland and Hungary. There are 39 languages from the region and the 6,000 sound recordings are available online containing endangered languages and dialects.

EAP347

My quick tour finishes in Columbia (EAP650), with a project based at Caloto Viejo (Old Caloto), the administrative capital of a wide region including Native American groups, European settlers, their enslaved Africans, and maroon communities formed by escaped slaves. These documents are critical for the understanding of Afro-Colombian history. It seems appropriate to end this blog with a photograph of archivists ensuring the safekeeping of material for the future.

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10 May 2018

Endangered Urdu Periodicals

This blog post has been written by Mr Nasir Javaid, grant holder for EAP839. The material has just been submitted to the EAP Office and it will be online later in the year.

EAP839 produced digital images of rare Urdu periodicals from the 19th to the first half of the 20th century in order to preserve and make them available to researchers. During this period the project team has successfully produced 3,832 issues. Urdu journals played a significant role in the development of Urdu literature, especially fiction, religion, history, poetry and culture of the South Asian region as a whole, particularly in Pakistan and India. If someone wants to write on the development of fiction or religious literature, they should refer back to these rare periodicals. Literature on Urdu criticism also flourished through these periodicals. Numerous books that were published later also drew content from these periodicals. Some of the best novels available in Urdu were first published in parts in Urdu journals. These periodicals also remained the primary source of advertisements for all major trade brands of that time. A large number of prominent writers and society figures gained popularity through these periodicals.

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Humayn, May 1935

EAP839_Biswin_sadi_August_1951_v15_no8

Baby Powder advertisement, August 1951

Unfortunately, the highly acidic paper used has made this literature highly vulnerable. It is rare to find complete runs of even the most important Urdu periodicals. Some of the publications have vanished; others are on the verge of extinction. Through digitisation and online presentation it becomes possible to access the publications, overcoming obstacles of location.

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Taj, October - November 1924

Urdu language, now spoken by more than 60 million people worldwide, was the lingua franca of 19th century northern India. It was a common medium of mainstream communication when mass printing culture began. It was also the primary South Asian language used by colonial rulers for administrative purposes during the early British Raj. Previously it was very difficult for researchers to find full runs of the first Urdu periodicals. Further, tensions between Pakistan and India have made it very difficult for scholars to complete their research in topics requiring materials published across the national borders.  Making the rare Urdu periodicals accessible online will help improve scholarship on both sides of the border. During this project we have received many requests for copies of these digitised journals from India. The Endangered Archives Programme is making a major contribution towards the preservation of cultural heritage in countries, such as Pakistan, where the governmental support of such initiatives is not a priority.

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Humayun, January 1945

This project has enabled staff in Pakistan to develop professionally and to attain levels of performance in the field of technology never before attained within a Pakistani library. Project staff have not only learned to preserve and digitise, but also have become expert in the listing and cataloguing of periodicals. It was our fortune that while scanning these journals we had a chance to see and learn a lot of interesting articles and advertisements on different aspects of social life. Through this project the Mushfiq Khwaja Trust for the Advancement of Knowledge and Culture has developed exceptionally strong and close working relationships with the contributing institution in Pakistan and shared knowledge and skills with those partners.

EAP839_Ismat_May_1928_v40_no5_001 - Copy

Ismat, May 1928

The Urdu literary journals have a long publication history some of these have been published continuously for more than a hundred years. It was not an easy task to locate the issues, even family members of the founder, editor and publishers of these journals have only limited numbers. When we digitised these journals they were incredibly pleased that we have preserved the legacy of their ancestors. On occasion, when they need an article they would contact us and also referred other people to us.

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Political cartoon, Avadh Punch 1886

The Mushfiq Khwaja Library and Research Centre was also the archival partner on EAP566 resulting in 8635 issues of rare Urdu journals with total number of 615000 images having been digitised. No other institution in South Asia has extensively worked to preserve Urdu journals to this extent.