THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Endangered archives blog

News about the projects saving vulnerable material from around the world

30 January 2017

Kaleidoscopic stories: first impressions from our new Grants Portfolio Manager

This week's blog is written by Ruth Hansford who has recently joined the Endangered Archives Programme as our new Grants Portfolio Manager. In this blog she shares her first impressions of her new role.

The world of archives has not always seemed like a high-pressure environment, but rescuing endangered archives does acquire a sense of urgency when you read the stories of those who are trying to ensure they survive. I have spent my first few weeks in the Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) reading applications for the next round of grants to digitise and find a home for at-risk archives from all over the world.

My arrival at the BL coincided with the press coverage of the Louvre’s secure storage facility being extended with the potential to accommodate works of art threatened by conflicts.

At the Endangered Archives Programme we’re talking about other threats too: the more localised conflicts around the ownership of a collection – or its opposite: neglect or indifference from the custodians.

This year we are up to Round 13 of the Arcadia-funded Endangered Archives Programme and we have seen the highest number of preliminary applications to date: 112 in total. Many of the applicants are dealing with the logistics of digitising material, clearing the rights so that it can be put online, and in some cases ensuring the original material will be appropriately housed. Some need finance for digitisation equipment, while others may need support for negotiating access with archive owners who are worried that the process of creating a photographic record may damage the material or devalue it in other ways.

I have been captivated by stories from all over the world. First, the stories of how and why these archives are at risk: tales of political or cultural figures who might be forgotten in the rush towards cultural homogenisation; tales of neglect when the prevailing winds change and the archivist’s job disappears; tales of leaking roofs; of rodents or termites chewing their way through unique documents, of photographic negatives disappearing before our very eyes, and of acidic paper eating itself.

DSCF2822

Every application tells a different story, with its local dilemmas around how to get hold of the kit, how to cope with power cuts, and its cast of monks, heirs, civil servants. In the last few weeks, reading the applications has taken me to the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, the Steppes of Central Asia, and places that are closer to home but seem very far away.

Then there are the human stories revealed by the material itself: records from the churches, orphanages, the courts, that open a window on to civilian life all over the world. Not only can we marvel at the spectacularly elaborate bureaucracies that grew up at a certain period, we can also contemplate the lives of the thousands of bureaucrats who made it all work, as well as the beneficiaries of the services, the people in the dock or the witness box.

Once online these stories will be available for anyone to use for research or for inspiration, or simply to enjoy.

Ruth Hansford, EAP Grants Portfolio Manager

27 January 2017

Good Fortune for the Year of the Rooster

As it is Chinese New Year this weekend, I thought I would browse through the EAP collections to see whether I could find any appropriate images of roosters. I came across this wonderful manuscript that was digitised as part of EAP217, which focusses on Yi manuscripts from Yunnan in southwest China.

The Yi archives cover a wide range of topics including calendars, epics, history, medicine, philosophy, rituals, geography, literature and music. The information written in the Yi language is not available in either Chinese or any other script.

Most of the Yi archival material digitised as part of EAP271 is not illustrated. However, one major feature of manuscripts written in the south dialect is that they have unique and beautiful illustrations painted in bright mineral pigments.

This particular manuscript is from southern Yunnan and is written in the Xinping dialect. It dates from the 19th century and is a sutra predicting fortunate or ill-fated dates and events. The illustrations are delightful and it seemed very appropriate to share them, on what I hope will be, a very auspicious year.

Image 4EAP217/1/5: Zhan bu yu ce shu [19th century]

Image 7 Image 5

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26 January 2017

New Horizons of Digitisation in Serbia

The conference New Horizons of Digitisation in Serbia was held at the University Library ‘Svetozar Marković’ in Belgrade on 23 January 2017. It was organised as the final activity for EAP833 the project that digitised the Lazic family collection.

The conference theme covered a range of topics ranging from new digitisation trends to examples of best practice in national and international projects. The presenters were renowned university professors, librarians and digitisation experts from different types of libraries in Serbia. The conference was moderated by Dr Vasilije Milnović, project coordinator. The audience turnout was beyond expectations and there was great interest in the topics presented.

Digitalni horizonti - 03

Professor Dr Aleksandar Jerkov, CEO of the University Library, opened the conference and keynote speeches were delivered by Ministry of Culture and Information representatives Ms Ivana Dedić and Mr Dejan Masliković.

There were two plenary sessions. The first included the presentations on: “Digitisation: Past, Present and Future” by Prof Dr Cvetana Krstev (University of Belgrade), “Uncovering the Digital Document” by Prof Dr Ranka Stanković (University of Belgrade), “Standardisation of Digitisation of Library Materials in Serbia: Possibilities, Needs and Practical Examples” by Dr Bogdan Trifunović, (President of the Serbian Library Association), “Digital Humanities: Potential Future for Libraries in Serbia” by Tamara Butigan Vučaj (National Library of Serbia) and “Collections from the Private Archive of the Lazic Family” by Gorica Lazić. The focus of the morning session was on digitisation and the importance of metadata.

The second plenary session covered: “Digital Archives of the Institute for Balkan Studies of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts” by Dr Bilјana Sikimić and Bratislav Vukojčić, “Digitisation of Manuscripts and Dialectal Materials at the Institute for the Serbian Language, Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts” by Dr Snežana Petrović and Toma Tasovac, “Using Open Source Digitisation Software at the Public Library ‘Milutin Bojić’” by Jovica Krtinić and Andrija Sagić, and finally “Digitisation at the University Library ‘Svetozar Marković’” – Experience and Perspectives held by Dr Adam Sofronijević, Deputy Head at the University Library. The last presentation also focused the results for EAP833.

The conference was rounded off with a lively discussion resulting in useful suggestions and interesting observations. It was pointed out that best practice examples were both technically and scientifically beneficial. Finally, some of the new partnerships between the representatives of the participating institutions are on the horizon so it was clearly a fruitful, productive and a very enjoyable conference.

All presentations will be available by the end of January on the Svetozar Markovic website and the material digitised as part of EAP833 will be online very shortly.

20 January 2017

A Royal Proposal of Marriage

Now well into our digitisation workflow process, team EAP880 all took some time out mesmerised by the contents of one particular file…

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Caught at the crossworlds of British India, Tibetan Buddhism, and Burmese political transitions, this file captures the furtive and subsequent official engagement between a Himalayan prince, HRH Sidkeong Tulku of Sikkim (1879-1914) and a Burmese princess-in-exile, HRH Teik-Tin Ma Lat (b.1894).

Through first-hand accounts, it provides a rare lens into the emerging internationalism of the era touching upon Britain, Ladakh, India, Sikkim, Tibet, Burma, and Japan. It takes us through the couple’s first meeting, their love letters, their differences, and their wedding plans, and culminates with the Prince’s untimely and mysterious death—three months before his wedding—at age 35.

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Photo: Prince Sidkeong Tulku Namgyal © Sikkim Palace Archive / Project Denjong

Prince Sidkeong Tulku Namgyal was never destined for the throne: As the second son of Sikkim’s 9th Chogyal (King) Thutob Namgyal and a recognised reincarnate lama he had taken monastic vows of celibacy and was beginning his Buddhist studies in the monastery.

 

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Photo: 9th Sikkim Chogyal (King) Thutob Namgyal © Sikkim Palace Archive / Project Denjong

However, his father’s reign had been characterised by waves of aggression from both modern day Nepal and Bhutan, and—in a regional theatre dominated by the Great Game—increasing British interventionism as the latter strove to counter a perceived Russian influence in Lhasa. It was through the Sikkim Himalayas that they saw their greatest chances of success.

Increasingly wary of the scope of Tibetan belligerence, the British sought to exert influence over Sikkim’s politics: On refusing to recall Crown Prince Tsodag from their summer estates in Chumbi (Tibet), the British held the Chogyal and his family, for two years near Darjeeling – ironically, a tract of land leased to them by the 8th Chogyal of Sikkim.

While in captivity, the Chogyal—out of mistrust of British intention and fear for his son’s life—maintained his refusal to order the Crown Prince’s return. He was finally released when the Viceroy of India, authorised the removal of the Crown Prince from the line of the succession, and investing Prince Sidkeong Tulku as heir apparent. And so, began the generous grooming of Prince Sidkeong Tulku Namgyal.

 

04_IMG_1466Photo: Lt. O’Connor © Sikkim Palace Archive / Project Denjong

After a brief stint with Sarat Chandra Das and at St. Paul’s School (Darjeeling), the prince went to Pembroke College, Oxford University (1906-08), during which time he was under the care of Lt. Col. O’Connor with whom he became quite close, and John Claude White (Political Officer, Sikkim).

Fluent in Chinese, Hindi, English, Lepcha, Nepali, and Tibetan, the Prince visited New York, European capitals, and Burma keeping a handwritten, large-format diary—in English—of his travels, replete with photos, mementos, invitations, and playbills. He returned to Sikkim progressive and full of energy, advocating for judicial, land, and monastic reforms.

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Photo: Letter from Prince Sidkeong Tulku to John Claude White (5th November, 1906)

By 1906, Sikkim’s new Crown Prince decided he should soon marry and began a search for a well-educated woman with a compatible fluency in English, and a shared Buddhist heritage.

Though the Government of India had no objection, the Chogyal of Sikkim, still raw from the treatment he had been subjected to and perhaps moved deeply by his devotion to the Buddha dharma, held the opinion that the Prince—an incarnation of a lama—should refrain from both marriage and activity in worldly affairs, in favour of spiritual practice. The British, in contrast, were only too eager to help the Crown Prince!

06_DSC00600Photo: Letter from Prince Sidkeong Tulku to Curzon Wylie (13th June, 1908)

Prince Sidkeong Tulku—in admiration of Japanese culture—wished to marry a Japanese. During a visit to Japan, the British Ambassador bore the responsibility of inviting Sidkeong to various dances and dinners, but with no obvious match made, the Government of India decided that a Burmese would be preferable, as unlike Japan, Tibet, or Siam, Burma was under British rule.

07_DSC00599Photo: Letter from W.H. Hodges to Prince Sidkeong Tulku (9th October, 1910)

It then fell on the Government of Burma to provide a list of suitable ladies, and the respective governments of Bombay and the United Provinces, to provide lists of Burma’s royal lineage ladies whose families were living in exile in India. These were  presented to the Prince in late 1910.

The Prince of Limbin (Limbin Mintha), a grandson of King Tharrawaddy, and his daughters were living in Allahabad, which, in December 1910 was (rather conveniently) preparing to host the the three-month Allahabad Exhibition. This provided the perfect opportunity for Prince Sidkeong to meet Limbin Mintha’s family, while arousing minimal suspician at home.

Accompanied by Kazi Gyaltsen to Allahabad, Prince Sidkeong hosted a dinner party for Limbin Mintha and gifted Princess Ma Lat an image of the Buddha and a basket of Sikkim oranges. After a few meetings, Charles Bell (Political Officer, Sikkim) noted that the prince had not made a decision and that he had instead requested enquiries to be made for potential brides in Siam, Kashmir, Ladakh, and again in Japan.

However, finding a woman in Siam educated in English proved too difficult, and though one Shimchung Gialmon Lhadun of Mathu (Ladakh) was suggested, the Prince disapproved of her illiteracy (despite remarking on her physical beauty).

Again, in 1911, he wrote to Colin J. Davidson (Assistant Secretary, British Embassy in Japan) requesting his help in finding a suitable bride, however, the Anglo-Japan relation was deteriorating and Davidson advised against this, citing in addition that, “The knowledge they (Japanese ladies) acquire is very meagre and as a rule almost useless for practical purposes…”

So it was in 1912 that Prince Sidkeong chose to marry Princess Ma Lat, whose family by this time had returned to Rangoon, despite the fact that on principle, his father—the Chogyal—still opposed any marriage just as he had in 1908.

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Photo: Letter from W.H. Hodges to Prince Sidkeong Tulku (30th June, 1913); and Letter from Prince Sidkeong Tulku to Charles Bell (28th July, 1913).

Instead, the Government of India assumed the role of a negotiater securing the consent of Limbin Mintha for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Prince Sidkeong advised that the Chogyal should not yet be informed due to the seriousness of his father’s illness. Yet in the meantime, the Prince made a visit to Rangoon, to fulfill the dual purpose of both pilgrimage and proposal.

09_DSC00605Photo: Letter from Princess Ma Lat to Prince Sidkeong Tulku (22nd November, 1913)

The initial 1913 Rangoon wedding date was repeatedly postponed by the Prince whose concern for his father’s deteriorating health became his priority. However, over the course of a regular correspondence between the engaged, the Prince and Princess exchanged letters discussing designs of the wedding dress and rings, as well as expenses.

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Photo: Sub-folder of astrological calculations for the marriage of Prince Sidkeong Tulku of Sikkim with Princess Ma Lat of Limbin (Burma)

In June 1914—as per Sikkimese custom—an astrologer was consulted on whose advice the Prince set the wedding for 24th January 1915 in Rangoon. Meanwhile, the Princess Ma Lat had requested Sidkeong to send her a Sikkimese ayah in order to help familiarise herself with Sikkimese culture. (The Prince advises Ma Lat to read more books instead!)

On 10th February, 1914, Chogyal Thutob Namgyal passed away. The prince wrote to his fiancée explaining the Sikkimese custom of one year’s mourning, which was especially important given there was some disapproval of the match in Sikkim. Moreover, he notes that Britain was now at war with Germany and under such situations, officials were busy with war efforts.

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Photo: Letter from Princess Ma Lat to Prince Sidkeong Tulku (26th November, 2014)

This was likely the last letter the Prince received from his fiancée for after only nine months on the throne, in December 1914, Prince Sidkeong Tulku died in what the British call “mysterious circumstances” while ill in bed, just one month before his marriage.

 

Written by Pema Abrahams, grant holder for EAP880

18 January 2017

Mastering the manuscripts from Michoacán, Mexico

A contingent from LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections visited the capital city of Morelia in Michoacán, Mexico, last November to begin work on EAP931. The grant will fund the digitisation and online publication of 192 deed books, or libros de hijuelas—handwritten records documenting the privatisation of indigenous lands by the state in nineteenth-century Michoacán.

EAP931_Pub001Photo: Visit to Michoacán. L-R, back row: Rocío Verduzco Sandoval, Matthew Butler, Yolanda Castillo Franco, Marlen Alvarado González, Theresa Polk; front row: Cecilia Bautista García, Sujey Miranda Marín, David Bliss

The project reflects LLILAS Benson’s commitment to post-custodial archival preservation: collaborating with archival partners in Latin America in the use of digital techniques to give valuable documents a new lease of life beyond the physical confines of the archive.

During the visit, four newly hired staff members—all of whom hold degrees in history from the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás Hidalgo, aka La Nicolaita—were trained to digitise the documents and record metadata, a project that is expected to take two years. The hijuelas are in fragile condition, having been stored in an under-resourced facility, putting their survival at risk and making this project all the more timely. The digitisation will be carried out in Morelia’s Palacio de Gobierno, with collaboration by Michoacán’s Secretaría General de Gobierno (the Interior Ministry).

EAP931_Pub002Workshop in process

Professor Matthew Butler of the Department of History at The University of Texas at Austin was joined by two representatives from the university’s Benson Latin American Collection —Theresa Polk, post-custodial archivist, and David Bliss, graduate research assistant in post-custodial and digital initiatives. Butler is affiliated faculty at the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS), which is administering the grant in partnership with the Benson Collection. Polk and Bliss provided training in digitisation and the collection of metadata to the four history graduates during a week-long workshop.

The team based in Mexico is made up of two of Butler’s colleagues—Antonio Escobar Ohmstede of CIESAS and Cecilia Bautista of La Nicolaita—co-direct the project, providing scholarly partnership and oversight. The four history graduates from La Nicolaita will work for two years to digitise the archive, including preparation of metadata. Their involvement is made possible by an agreement between LLILAS Benson and its Mexican partner institution, CIESAS, the Center for the Advanced Study of Social Anthropology.

EAP931_Pub003

Butler says the contents of the deed books will be useful in studying agrarian liberalism in Mexico, as well as indigenous people’s roles as authors and actors in their own history. “For a long time, historians portrayed indigenous people as passive and hapless victims of liberal land laws, which were seen as the main historical driver of the 1910 revolution and the moral justification for the agrarian reforms carried out by the state in Mexico in the 1930s. The hijuelas books should give us a much clearer idea of how indigenous people themselves instrumentalised liberal laws in order to redefine and defend their pueblos. We should be able to see a more complex history of indigenous adaptation and survival occurring, and also to chart that history on a much bigger scale than anyone has been able to do before.”

The hijuelas books contain information relating to five different ethnic groups from the area—Purépecha, Otomí, Mazahua, Matlatzinca, and Nahua—and are unique in that they offer the only complete statewide documentation of land privatisation anywhere in Mexico. They also offer a glimpse into how their creators regarded the liberal project.

“In rescuing the libros de hijuelas, we preserve an important part of the history of the indigenous groups who created them,” says Escobar Ohmstede of CIESAS. “Yet we also show how these people went about building and reconstructing their territoriality during Mexico’s nineteenth-century agrarian reform, whether by asserting their colonial titles or by arguing that lands lost previously should now be returned to them. Because the documents contain maps as well as detailed descriptions of community landholdings, we can also reconstruct, as we would a jigsaw puzzle, the lands on which the hijuelas’ creators lived and the ways that they perceived them. For example, the documents offer a window onto how indigenous people prioritised, allocated, and used natural resources. Even as they agreed to divide and privatize their lands during the second half of the nineteenth century, we can see that they used the division to claim ownership of ecological niches with the aim of using those natural resources to the maximum extent, even as these lands became the object of competitive claims by other social actors.”

A scholarly conference and book venture are planned at the end of the digitisation project and of course the digitised material will be made available on the EAP website.

 

Written by Susanna Sharpe of LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections

05 January 2017

New Year Greetings from EAP

When the EAP team returned to work after the closure of the office for the holiday period, we realised that for some areas of the world Christmas has yet to come. So, we thought it would be fitting to post some illustrations from manuscripts that have been digitised as part of the Endangered Archives Programme.

For those of you who will be celebrating Christmas this week – we hope you have a very special time and of course we would like to wish everyone a very joyous 2017.

EAP526_1_7-025_L  EAP526/1/7

EAP526_1_41-010_L  EAP526/1/41

  EAP704_1_43-EAP704_DA043_058_L  EAP704/1/43

EAP704_1_43-EAP704_DA043_002_L  EAP704/1/43

EAP704_2_1-EAP704_MK001_004_L  EAP704/2/1

The images have come from two projects: EAP526, which digitised the monastic archive at May Wäyni and EAP704, which digitised the monastic archives of Marawe Krestos and Däbrä Abbay, Ethiopia

26 October 2016

Fragments of Sikkim

Pema Abrahams' blog describes her recently awarded project (EAP880) that seeks to preserve, document, digitise, and make accessible a collection of approximately 100,000 documents from the Sikkim Palace Archives, 1875 – 1975.

Sikkim is a landlocked state of India, hidden amongst the deep folds of the Himalaya, tucked between Nepal, Tibet, West Bengal, and Bhutan.

Sikkim_area_map_svgSikkim area map: Wikimedia Foundation (www.wikimedia.org)  CC BY 4.0  via Wikimedia Commons

A former Buddhist kingdom ruled for over 300 years by the Namgyal dynasty of ‘Chogyals’ (or dharma rajas – spiritual and temporal monarchs). Sikkim was often called the ‘Switzerland of the East’ and has been best known for its unique Buddhist traditions, its agricultural produce, for providing the British Empire with an access route to Tibet, and for the magnificent beauty of its natural landscape, including Mt. Khangchendzonga, the world’s third highest peak.

Khanchendzonga sunrise (2)Khanchendzonga at sunrise: copyright Pema Abrahams

In fact, just earlier this year we took much pride in 25% of the state being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, representing India’s first mixed category site—for the area’s natural significance which includes a vertical sweep of over seven kilometers within an area of only 178,400 hectares, as well as its cultural significance for the mythological stories and the indigenous practices that have been, and continue to be, integrated with these mountains, caves, lakes, and rivers, many of which we consider sacred.

Dzongri west Sikkim (2)Dzongri west Sikkim: copyright Pema Abrahams

However, nowadays discussions, whether academic or popular, concerning historical aspects of Sikkim suffer from a paucity of sources, exacerbated by the sensitive political situation of Sikkim after its annexation by India in 1975. As a result its in-depth study is restricted, a balanced understanding of the history of this region is impossible, no Sikkim history is taught in any local school, and not a single museum exists in the state.

For a population of over 600,000 Sikkimese who speak over 10 distinct languages amongst them, the consequences that this historical vacuum leaves - which denies our communities a sense of historical identity and access to their roots, as well as the facility of cultural preservation in a rapidly homogenising India - can often be painful to acknowledge, and does our current generation an immense disservice.

Photo No 3 StorageStorage of part of the collection

This collection which numbers approximately 100,000 documents will provide an overview of, and a rare insight into, late 19th and 20th century Sikkim, introducing the characters and events that shaped the development of the kingdom and its eventual integration into India. Its contents are powerful, never-before-seen documents, which breathe life into a series of engaging stories about the people, the land, and its complex history at the crosswords of British India and Tibetan Buddhism. They contain a unique and priceless record of the region that will be of interest to scholars of both this Himalayan state and the wider region of South and Central Asia, and they harbour the potential to guide Sikkimese, visitors, and scholars alike in discovering the richness of this forgotten kingdom, and in giving voice to the untold histories of one of India's youngest states. 

Hoping to contribute to the growing archive of historical research and cultural revitalization in India, this project was born out of a thirst for knowledge and exists as an exercise of scholarship and archive, of discourse and development. Our goal is to make this information accessible and engaging to audiences both international and domestic. But at the heart of this project is our aspiration that the information unearthed in this collection will be of benefit to our Sikkimese youth who will bear the responsibility for the direction of our collective relationships with our communities and our cultures, who have precious few historical references on which to fall back on.

_DSC1376The EAP880 team with Dr Alex McKay, Prakash Ram and Sundar Ganesan (R-L)

At our core are a team of five, young Sikkimese who have a genuine interest in the material, and a strong commitment to the values of the project. In the five weeks since the start of our twelve-month project, we’ve created a database with rough details of the 800+ folders in our collection and have labelled, for ease of our own sorting and finding the filing cabinets in which the collection has been held, untouched, for much of the past 40 years. We’ve enjoyed a visit by our Academic Advisor, Dr Alex McKay, who in addition to creating an exhaustive list of categories and sub-categories for the collection, gave a series of talks sharing some of his expertise with our young team to help us put the collection into historical context and understand its full value.

2016-10-04 16.24.25 copyDr Alex McKay overseeing work on the archive

We’ve also hosted Sundar Ganesan (Director) and Prakash Ram (Assistant Director) from The Roja Muthiah Research Library (Chennai) to train our team in archival methodology, documentation of collections, and digitisation techniques. It was an enlightening week for us all; an experience for which we are all very grateful, and a relationship we feel very fortunate to have forged and hope to continue throughout our own development process.

_DSC1358Pema Abrahams with Sundar Ganesan (R) and Prakash Ram (C)

_DSC1356Discussing the project with Prakash Ram

13 October 2016

New collections online - September 2016

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).

Eap347

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

  EAP704_1_1-EAP704_DA001_022_L

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.

EAP704_1_5-EAP704_DA005_071_L

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.

  EAP636_5_43-EAP636_XCHMG_0001_L

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.

EAP636_4_39-EAP636_GUHAAM_0114_L

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

EAP675_23_1-675_Kardzhali_Turks_AkhmedYusmenov_014_L

 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.

EAP675_10_1-675_Haskovo_Armenci_Derandonyan_001_L

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.


EAP675_22_1-675_Karakachans_012_L

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.

EAP683_1_1_81-rlms8063_0419_L

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