THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Endangered archives blog

7 posts categorized "Oceania"

13 October 2016

New collections online - September 2016

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Over the past month we have made four new projects available to view through our website. We have also added two new projects to BL Sounds. There are now eight EAP funded projects on Sounds in total, with over 25,000 tracks to listen to. This includes a wide variety of genres of music from Micronesia (EAP115) and Guinea ( EAP187, EAP327, EAP608); folk and traditional songs and talks from the Uralic speaking regions of Russia (EAP347); Indian classical music (EAP190; EAP468); and musical pieces and poetry from Iran (EAP088).

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EAP347 - Vanishing voices from the Uralic world: sound recordings for archives in Russia (in particular Udmurtia), Estonia, Finland and Hungary

The EAP347 project was funded to help preserve sound recordings from the Uralic speaking world that were collected at the Udmurt Institute for History, Language and Literature, Izhevsk, Russia. Most of the recordings are from the Udmurt Republic and the surrounding regions of the Russian Federation, including the Republic of Tatarstan, Kirov Oblast, Republic of Bashkortostan, and Perm Krai. These recordings can be browsed through their region, language, subject, title and recording date. They include many recordings of traditional songs and oral history, featuring subjects such as ‘army recruitment’, ‘drinking songs’, ‘guest songs’, ‘fairy tales’, and ‘wedding’. There are 6118 recordings in total available to listen to here

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EAP704/1/1: Mäshafä salot - Book of Prayer [1495-1505]

EAP704: The Melvin Seiden Award: Digitisation of the monastic archives of Marawe Krestos and Däbrä Abbay (Shire region, Tigray Province, Ethiopia)

This project aimed to secure and digitise two collections of Ethiopian manuscripts kept in remote monasteries located in the Shire region of the Province of Tigray: Marawe Krestos and Däbrä Abbay. These manuscripts are crucial for the study of Ethiopian and Eastern Christian monasticism and the history of Ethiopia, particularly for the northern regions which are now a part of Eritrea and difficult for researchers to access. They also document the history of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Church and bring to light the new and little known works of Christian and Ethiopian Church literature. The digitised material is a great resource for researchers studying the history of manuscript and Ethiopian art history in the context of Christian, Oriental and Byzantine artistic traditions. The project was able to fully digitise the two collections. 61 manuscripts were digitised from Marawe Krestos and a further 45 belonging to Däbrä Abbay. A total of 14,602 folios, covers and edges were digitised. The material dates from the 14th century to the 20th century.

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EAP704/1/5: "Mäshafä kufale, Isayeyas - Book of Jubilees, Book of Isaiah [1360-1399]

 EAP115 - Collection and digitisation of old music in pre-literate Micronesian society

The EAP115 project aimed to collect and digitise music and recorded chants from around the Micronesia region. It achieved this by gathering music from government radio stations in Majuro, Marshall Islands; Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk and Yap, Federated States of Micronesia; and Koror, Palau, as well as from private collections and church sources in Chuuk, including the Liebenzell Mission and the Catholic Church media studio. The collection features a wide variety of musical styles and charts the evolution of music in the region, with recordings ranging from religious chants and choirs, to more modern rock and reggae songs. All 7069 recordings are available to listen to freely from around the world on BL Sounds. So far the most shared track is the aptly named ‘A happy celebration song’, performed by girls from Woleai, Yap State. You can listen to the track here and explore from there.

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EAP636/5/43: Historia da Misericordia de Goa [1912]

 EAP636 - Creating a digital archive of Indian Christian manuscripts

Portuguese rule in Goa bequeathed a vibrant Catholic community and a rich legacy of texts in Portuguese and Indian vernacular languages. These texts are held in a number of different State, Church, private institutional and family collections and have often been forgotten or lost in collections with no catalogues, remaining invisible to scholars and those interested in the history of Christianity in the area. Many of these texts, dating back to the sixteenth century, were in danger of being lost altogether due to uncertain archival conditions and poor preservation. The aim of this project therefore was to locate, identify and digitise many of these Christian manuscripts located in the region of Konkan. By creating a centralised digital archive of these texts the project has been able to provide a significant resource for scholars and community members interested in the history of Goa, particularly its Catholic communities.

The project was able to digitise the collections of several local families as well as those of institutions in the region. This included digitisation of the manuscript collection, as well as significant books, from the Seminary of the Missionaries of St. Francis Xavier in Pilar, relating to the order and to the Church in Goa. The Jesuit-run Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr (TSKK) research, educational and cultural centre also agreed to let its collection of manuscripts be digitised. This included its collection of microfilms of early Marāṭhi and Kōṅkaṇī manuscripts.

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EAP636/4/39: Historia dos Animais e Arvores do Maranhao [1967]

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 EAP675/23/1: "Turks in Kardzhali region, South Bulgaria. Akhmed Yusmenov collection [1950s-1980s]"

 EAP675 - Documentation of the pre-industrial elements in Bulgarian minorities' culture during the 20th century - phase II

This project was focused on the discovery, analysis and digitisation of 20th century photographs depicting elements of Bulgarian minorities’ culture. The project was targeted at different ethnic and religious communities, such as Old Believers, Turks, Armenians, Karakachans, and Vlachs. This major project continued the work carried out in the earlier EAP500 pilot project, which focused mainly on a few small collections of Pomaks, Turkish, Karakchan and Tatar images.

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EAP675/10/1: Armenians from different Balkan regions - Haskovo city. Philip Derandonyan's collection [1910s-1960s]

Documentary material from minority groups in Bulgaria is scantily represented or missing from Bulgarian archives. The reason for this is rooted mostly in the mono-centred state policy, focused for a long period solely on the Bulgarian ethnic tradition and culture, as well as in the policy of the Bulgarian state before 1989 aimed at forced assimilation of minorities. This is the reason for the gradual disappearance or even purposeful destruction of pictures and photographic collections of the different minorities in the country, particularly of the Muslim minority during the so called “Revival process” in Bulgaria in the 1960s-1980s. The policy of the Bulgarian state for a forced assimilation of the Muslims was accompanied with the destruction of all documents – official, personal and family – that were testament to their minority identity. Through the research carried out both in this project and EAP500, it has been found that such documents had often been hidden and saved, although often in inappropriate conditions. The project succeeded in discovering and safeguarding these images, and helped create an understanding amongst these groups as to the importance of the project and the need for preservation of these endangered archival documents. Since completion of the project the team has continued to be notified of newly discovered material with families opening up their own collections for study and digitisation.


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EAP675/22/1: Karakachans in Sliven region [1930s-1980s]

 EAP683 - Rāmamālā Library manuscript project

This project set out to create an inventory of 6000 primarily Sanskrit, Prakrit and Bengali manuscripts held in the Rāmamālā Trust compound in Comilla, Bangladesh, and to digitise a sample of them. Established in 1935 by Maheśacandra Bhaṭṭācārya and currently run by the Mahesh Charitable Trust, the collection was meant to promote education and preserve Bengali culture. It was also intended as a resource for preserving and promoting Hinduism within a dominant Muslim environment on the eve of British colonialism. Much of the library is thus dedicated to Sanskrit scientific and legal literature. Yet it also contains unique texts in a variety of other Sanskrit genres and includes many regional works in Bengali (eg, a rare version of the Mahābhārata), together with some works in Prakrit. Consequently, it preserves a snapshot of the literary and religious culture of the region in pre-colonial and colonial times, encompassing not just Hindu works but also works related to a distinctive, regional variety of Islam (Satyapīr). The collection has been physically displaced twice. First during the upheavals in 1947 when India and Pakistan were partitioned, and then again in 1971 when Bangladesh broke away from Pakistan. Early attempts to itemise, catalogue, and identify manuscripts have been largely lost; all that remains by means of a catalogue is a general overview of the collection and archives of a few handwritten notes. The manuscripts themselves suffer from physical neglect and dilapidation. They are housed in rooms with glassless windows and leaky roofs, exposed to the elements, and open to vermin and potential theft. Since Bangladeshi independence, there have been limited efforts to ameliorate the disarray of manuscripts, including some microfilming in the 1980s, and classification of the manuscripts’ general categories. Despite the promise of these preliminary efforts, the full scope of the collection remained unknown.

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EAP683/1/1/81: Mahābhārata - Sana 1197, Phālguna 15, [February 27, 1791] (f. 617v)

The project found that there were far more manuscripts in the collection than initially thought, with an estimated 9000 in total. This discovery added a significant strain on resources for creating the inventory and managing their assessment, however, the team were able to complete their work, converting handwritten lists into spreadsheets, and make the inventory readily available to scholars worldwide. The project was also able to digitise a sample of 85 manuscripts ranging from 1 folio up to 620 folios in length dating from the mid-17th century up until the early 20th century. The project also carried out preservation work on many of the endangered manuscripts and moved them to less exposed locations away from vermin and water leaks.

EAP683_1_1_65-rlms5566_003_LEAP683/1/1/65: Praśnacakra

01 September 2016

Call for Applications

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Do you know of any collections that are currently at risk and need preserving? The Endangered Archives Programme is now accepting grant applications for the next annual funding round – the deadline for submission of preliminary applications is 4 November 2016 and full details of the application procedures and documentation are available on the EAP website. This year we will also be accepting online applications.

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EAP843: Part of the Archibishopric’s Archive, Sandiago de Cuba. A pilot project undertaken in 2015 with a major project about to begin.

The Endangered Archives Programme has been running at the British Library since 2004 through funding by Arcadia, with the aim of preserving rare vulnerable archival material around the world. This aim is achieved through the award of grants to relocate the material to a safe local archival home where possible, to digitise the material, and to deposit copies with local archival partners and with the British Library. These digital collections are then available for researchers to access freely through the British Library website or by visiting the local archives. The digital collections from 165 projects are currently available online, consisting of over 5 million images and several thousand sound recordings.

This year we have started making our sound recordings available for online streaming and one of our most popular archives is the Syliphone Label.

The Programme has helped to preserve manuscripts, rare printed books, newspapers and periodicals, audio and audio-visual materials, photographs and temple murals. Since 2004 approximately 300 projects have been funded. Last year awards were given for projects based in Argentina, Bulgaria, Cuba, Ghana, India, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Malawi, Mexico, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan and Turks and Caicos Islands.

The following images give a sense of the type of material that went online over the past year.

Image 4EAP692/1/1/2  Alagar kovil Kallalagar Inner Mandapa Ceiling East [17th Century]. Part of the pilot project to digitise temple murals in Tamil Nadu. The team have now started a major grant.

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EAP727/6/25: བླ་མའི་རྣལ་འབྱོར་བསམ་པ་ལྷུན་འགྲུབ་དང་མྱུར་འགྲུབ་མ་བཞུགས་སོ།། (bla ma'i rnal 'byor bsam pa lhun 'grub dang myur 'grub ma bzhugs so) [Mid-19th century]. Tibetan Buddhist manuscript from Amdo, PR China

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EAP755/1/1/86 Mendoza. Photographs taken by Annemarie Heinrich, Argentina. The team working on this project have also been awarded  a major grant.

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EAP856/1/6 Journal du Premier Ministre Rainilaiarivony (Tome III) [May 1881 - Sep 1881]. 19th century archives written by Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony (written in Malagasy.  Another project is also underway on Madagascar.

So, if you know of an archive in a region of the world were resources are limited, we really hope you will apply. If you have any questions regarding the conditions of award or the application process, do email us at endangeredarchives@bl.uk

08 January 2010

December Accessions 2009

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Looking over the EAP Accession records it appears most of December was spent processing new material into the library. We received discs, microfilm and hard drives from seven projects! Some of these were continuing transfers from on-going projects. Some were the first receipts from new projects.

Material was received from:

Preserving the archives of the United National Independence Party of Zambia

Collection and digitisation of old music in pre-literate Micronesian society

Study and collection of Hakku Patras and other documents among folk communities in Andhra Pradesh

Saving archival documents of archaeological researches conducted during the 1920s and 1930s in Ukraine

Digital archive of north Indian classical music

Digitisation of Bolivian indigenous communities' records on ayllu structure, tax and land tenure

Preserving more Marathi manuscripts and making them accessible - major project

This last project is the second undertaken by Dr Feldhaus to copy Marathi manuscripts in India. Her first project, Preserving Marathi manuscripts and making them accessible, was completed in 2007. It successfully microfilmed 300 manuscripts including:  works of the Vakari poet-saints from the 13th to the 17th centuries;  works of the 'Pandit' poets of the 17th and 18th centuries;  notebooks of songs used by performers of kirtans and other types of (mostly Vaishnava) religious performances;  manuscripts on yoga, astrology and other kinds of sciences including (interestingly) the science of horses; and manuscripts of the vast literature of the Mahanubhav sect. The project also conducted training for staff in digital preservation and raised awareness of Marathi manuscript collections and their care.

The current major project is continuing to microfilm Marathi manuscripts and training staff. Here is a glimpse of the result:

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Lynda

05 November 2009

The Collections - Political Records

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It's November 5, Guy Fawkes Day. In Britain, on this day, we commemorate the gun powder plot of 1605 which failed to blow up James I's parliament. The lives of many politicians and other people were saved. I often think, though, that in the act of destroying parliament the explosion would also have destroyed a large number of government papers and archives.

It's worth reflecting that, by thwarting the conspirators, the authorities simultaneously rescued some of Britain's important and irreplaceable political documentary heritage. This made me wonder how many political archives are the subject of EAP surveying or copying activities. As it turns out, quite a few. And they are:

Tuvalu National Archives preservatoin pilot project and Tuvalu National Archives major project

First Yap State Constitutional Convention audio tapes conversion project

Rescuing Liberian history: a pilot study to preserve and enable access to Liberia's Presidential and National Archives and Rescuing Liberian history: preserving the personal papers of William V S Tubman, Liberia's longest serving President and Rescuing Liberian history - preserving the photographs of William VS Tubman, Liberia's longest serving President

Pilot project to seek, identify, contact and report on collections of the endangered archives of the states of Maranhao and Para in the Amazon region of Brazil and Endangered African diaspora collections of the State of Para in the Amazon region of Brazil

Rescuing Eastern Nigerian history: preserving the holdings of Enugu and Calabar regional archives

Digitising the photo documents of Georgia's central state audio-visual archive

Pilot project to identify endangered African diaspora collections at the major archives of the province of Matanzas, Cuba and Digitisation of endangered African diaspora collections at the major archives of the province of Matanzas, Cuba

A survey of the endangered court records of Nevis, West Indies

Preserving the archives of the National Independence Party of Zambia

Inventory of archival holdings in Jamaica

Digitisation of Bolivian indigenous communities' records on ayllu structure, tax and land tenure

Creating a digital archive of Afro-Colombian history and culture: black ecclesiastical, governmental and private records from the Choco, Colombia

Preservation of endangered historical records in the Public Records and Archives Administration (PRAAD) in Tamale, Northern Ghana

History of Bolama, the first capital of Portuguese Guinea (1879-1941), as reflected in the Guinean National Historical Archives

Digitising the endangered archives of Grenada

The titles alone display the variety and reach of these collections. They comprise and document African diaspora and slavery records, the struggle for political independence or separation from colonial powers, land use and taxation of indigenous populations, the early histories of new states, the correspondence of local and national governments, the relationship between church and state and the papers of long serving political leaders and their parties.

Some of these projects have been the subject of past blog entries. One early project focused on photographs held by Georgia's central state audio-visual archive. This was a pilot project and the team aimed to survey the existing photographs. In this they were successful. Although no major copying was done, some sample images were made:

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30 October 2009

Visits

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Although it's exciting to receive material copied from all over the world, to be honest I sometimes wish I could visit all of the EAP projects first hand. That's why it's such a pleasure when members of the projects come to the Library and visit us instead. It puts a human face to all those correspondence emails and progress reports. Recently Cathy and I met members of two EAP projects.

Last month we were visited by Dr Fakhriati M. Thahir. Dr Thahir successfully completed a pilot project and is now working on a major project to digitise private collections of Acehnese manuscripts located in Pidie and Aceh Besar Regencies in Indonesia. The manuscripts being copied are held by private collectors and dealers. They contain stories and histories relating to the Acehnese lifestyle, the kingdom of Aceh and the war against colonialism. They also contain material relating to Islamic knowledge and Islamic mysticism (Sufism).

Here is a picture of Dr Thahir and myself at the British Library (I'm on the right):

EAP329 in british library 

Earlier this week Cathy and I caught up with Dr Tigran Zargaryan from the Fundamental Scientific Library of the Academy of Sciences, in Armenia. Dr Zargaryan's project is copying rare books, periodicals and newspapers dating back to the 16th century. The results of this project are being made available through the Fundamental Scientific Library's attractive and easy to use website. Some of the rare books may already be accessed via this site.

EAP180 from library site Girq_jamagrutyan

21 April 2009

Shared histories

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The recent G20 summit meeting in London got me thinking about our interconnected world. The current economic troubles are shared on a global scale. With this meeting the G20 countries acknowledge joint responsibility for the solution, and for the future. This in turn led me to think about our interconnected past and our shared histories.

The idea of shared histories is used to reconcile the memories different individuals or groups have of a shared experience. For example, a more complete picture of slavery is given if it includes the memories of both black and white families living on plantations; a fuller picture of Empire is found by examining the stories from both indigenous peoples and colonial settlers. The idea of shared histories also enlarges the scope of a subject, event or period by allowing all participants a voice. For example, our understanding of the history of warfare has been expanded by adding the diaries, letters and other records of mothers, sisters, wives and sweethearts to those of soldiers and government units.

In this way shared histories are used to create a common memory of the past. Material copied by EAP projects has the potential to pay an important part in this process. The projects actively find and preserve historical records from local areas and countries. They also preserve the records of religious and political movements that span countries and centuries.

Here are two examples:

The records copied by EAP006 First Yap State Constitutional Convention audio tapes conversion project are of immense importance to the history of Yap Sate in Micronesia. These records also form part of the history of constitutional government in Oceania, and in the world. This project digitised audio recordings from the First Yap State Consitituional Convention held in 1982 to develop a constitutional framework by which they intended to be self-governing. A referendum followed with the majority of the citizens accepting the Constitution.

The records copied by EAP071 Archiving texts in the Sylhet Nagri script are important to the history of north-eastern Bengal because of their subject matter and because they represent a corpus of material written in a unique script. They are also significant for the history of writing and the history of printing in India. The script became a vehicle for popular culture and religion. The texts cover religious themes, social issues and popular stories.

Here is a page from Haribamsa, from the Khaunis Cakrabarti Collection. This text narrates the love story of Krisna and Radha, Hindu divinities.

Haribamsa By choosing to preserve and value a wide set of historical records the stock pile from which fuller histories can be written grows. The EAP allows items from the historical record to be found and examined by those whose local history and identity they record. It also makes these available to a wider audience thereby allowing more people to share in a wider understanding of history. And by sharing this history, perhaps to make it their own.

18 March 2009

Saving the endangered records of Tuvalu

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Rising sea levels are swallowing Tuvalu. Increased climate change is a threat to the people who live there and to their archival heritage. The National Archives at Tuvalu is also at risk of being washed away in a cyclone or being saturated and damaged by tidal surges. Little wonder then that they decided to copy some of their records.

The Tuvalu National Archives has formed the focus of two EAP projects. The first, a pilot project, copied quite a number of records from when they formed part of the British Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony. This was the first project whose material I catalogued after joining the EAP. The final catalogue is available on the EAP web pages.

The records copied by the pilot project cover many aspects of government administration. Most of the records relate to land ownership and use, including a request from the inhabitants of Funafuti for “some form of continuing compensation from the permanent loss of their pulaka pits which were filled in by the Americans during the last war” (EAP005/COL9/4). I also found a letter from 1959, informing the Chairman of the Funafuti Island Council that they won’t be getting a visit from a dentist until 1960 (EAP005/COL1/9/8).

Tuvalu2 Education is also covered. This piece of correspondence lists the items girls needed to bring with them to the government school. Note that they needed to provide their own mosquito net and pillow, as well as 6 handkerchiefs and 1 dancing skirt.

Tuvalu1 Compare this to the items required of the boys. They must bring devotional books, hair oil and also 1 dancing skirt.

Tuvalu3 Finally, I was pleased to come across these tables showing the costs of building works. The “Village Development” table reveals that the Villages valued books and wanted 2 story public libraries in which to house them.

The records in this project were copied by the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau.