Endangered archives blog

News about the projects saving vulnerable material from around the world

14 December 2017

A project from Bhutan

On 17 December 1907, Ugyen Wangchuk, the first Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King), was crowned and the Kingdom of Bhutan has marked this day ever since as its National Day.

The British Library has some photographs of Ugyen Wangchuk when he was crown prince dating from 1905, which were taken by John Claude White, the Political Officer of neighbouring Sikkim. The image of him wearing the traditional Raven Crown and the order of Knight Commander of the Indian Empire is perhaps the most reproduced photograph of the ruler, but it is the one in more relaxed dress and surrounded by his family, that has, for me, more appeal.


Photo 20/(1)

019PHO000000020U00025000[SVC2]Photo 20/(25)

To mark this anniversary, I thought I would highlight EAP039. This project was awarded in 2005, the very first round of grants  and took place at Gangtey Gonpa. The monastery was founded in 1613 by Gyalse Pema Thinley, the grandson of the saint Pema Lingpa (1450-1521) who was the most important Buddhist born in Bhutan and who discovered the hidden texts concealed by the 8th century Indian monk Padmasambhava.

The monastery underwent major renovation, beginning in 2000 and lasting for eight years. The Endangered Archives Programme project was independent to the refurbishment of the building but ensured the safety of the important Nyingma tradition manuscripts housed at the monastery. Below are some photographs of the village, the manuscripts beautifully wrapped and stored and the monks concentrating on the digitisation project. As the location lacked a reliable electricity supply, the team worked outside when photographing these precious texts, which were a funerary tribute to the founder of Gangtey.

We wish everyone in Bhutan a very happy National Day.

EAP039_Pub001On the road to Gantey.

EAP039_Pub011An example of one of the manuscripts.

EAP039_Pub006Monks at work.

GangteystudioBundles of manuscripts waiting to be digitised.


Further Reading:

Aris, M (1994) The Raven Crown Chicago: Serindia Publications

13 November 2017

An Abundance of Bulgarian Bagpipes

I am sure that I am not the only one who, every-so-often, talks about work over the dinner table. The reason for my excitement was because of the new EAP website that, for the first time, allows for keyword searches and also offers the ability to zoom into the images to really capture the finer details that were lost before. To illustrate what the new platform can offer, I chose the word ‘bagpipe’, to see what could be unearthed. My husband, who plays several types, suddenly lost all interest in his meal, which became colder and colder as he scrolled through the 1940s photographs of Bulgarian bagpipes (gaida) that had appeared on the computer screen.


What I hadn’t expected was my own newly found interest in Bulgarian pipes and desire to learn more.

The gaida is made from goatskin that is placed in salt for several days and then reversed so that the fur is on the inside, which apparently helps prevent the build-up of moisture as the musician blows into the instrument. The hindquarters are removed and sewn up, the two front leg holes are used for the blow pipe (duhalo) - to inflate the bag, and for the drone (ruchilo), which is the longest pipe made of three sections providing a continuous and harmonious note to accompany the melody, played on the chanter (gaidanitsa). This has seven holes and is connected to the neck opening. Both drone and chanter contain single cane reeds.


EAP103/1/3/9/28 Parts of a bagpipe (l-r) chanter with bead decoration, drone pipe, blow pipe

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the bagpipes were traditionally played by men to while away the time in the rural countryside taking care of their herds. Boys were expected to learn by ear and then go off and practise during the long working day. However, Maria Stoyanova, who fell in love with the gaida, was the first professional female player and has become one of the country’s most gifted instrumentalists. She started by sneakily playing her father’s pipes while no one was around to hear.

To be a good player you need to have gaidarski prŭsti or ‘bagpiper’s fingers’. This refers to the ornamentation that flourishes the melody and provides individuality to a folk tune.

Although the bagpipe has its roots in rural life, the website word search also brought up studio photographs of people in traditional dress and holding a bagpipe. I am not convinced that either of these two sitters can actually play the instrument. In the first example the sitter does not know where to place his hands and the second sitter, may have just been nervous of the camera but, to me, he seems to be holding the instrument with quite a bit of trepidation.


EAP103/1/2/1/55 A studio photograph


EAP103/1/3/2/137 A studio photograph

It is the sequence of photographs in a maker’s workshop that I fell in love with. You see the interior of the room, with piles of wood blanks waiting to be made into dones, finished bagpipes waiting to be sold, and the maker at his bench. A row of notched wooden sticks seem to indicate where the seven finger holes should be placed. But it is the last photograph in the series, which is just so wonderful – the maker just having played his newly finished instrument. The face is somewhat blurred and I would like to believe this is because the photographer has a slightly shaky hand after hearing the beautiful sound, but what hasn’t been lost is the pride on the maker’s face.


EAP103/1/3/5/92 Inside a maker's workshop


EAP103/1/3/5/90 Working at his hand-driven lathe


EAP103/1/3/5/96 (detail) Finger hole marking templates


EAP103/1/3/5/95 The finished instrument

There are two types of gaida. The smaller, slightly higher pitched instrument (djura) performs a slow melancholic song, without an obvious beat, known as bavna pesen, often played at a wedding, when the bride’s family hands over their daughter to the groom. In complete contrast it can also play upbeat dance tunes called horo for weddings and other festivals. The second type of instrument is larger (known as a kaba) and originates from the Rhodope mountains. There is even an orchestra made up of 100 kaba gaida, and when I listened to them on the internet, it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I have a feeling that I know where we will be spending our next summer holiday...

But do have a play on the new website for yourself and see what the keyword search will uncover for you.


Further reading:

Rice, T. (2004) Music in Bulgaria: Experiencing music, expressing culture Oxford; New York, Oxford University Press

Rice T. (2011) "Evaluating Artistry on the Bulgarian Bagpipe" in Ethnomusicological encounters with music and musicians: essays in honor of Robert Garfias Surrey, England: Burlington VT Ashgate Publishing

Video of a televised concert of 333 bagpipe players - old and young, boys and girls




31 October 2017

EAP Call for Applications - The Clock is Ticking

It’s that time of year again. In London the nights are getting longer, the weather is more unpredictable, and we have a new office on the fifth floor of the Library with a stunning view of the ribbed rook of St Pancras station and the clock– as well as more sky than we’ve been used to in our previous home.

Photo of St Pancras roof

The other annual milestone is that the next call for applications for grants under the EAP is now open! This will be the 14th round for the BL and Arcadia (and my first). Each year we seem to get a bigger post bag as the word gets round. The International Panel considers all the applications and they will be looking for material that fits the eight criteria as listed in the Guidelines for Applicants (see page 3): urgency, vulnerability, significance, feasibility, age of material, expertise and experience of the team, professional development and capacity building, and access. The Panel will also be looking for applications where they can understand what it is that the end user – be they researcher or casual user – will see on the screen.

The applicants shouldn’t assume that the Panel are experts in archives in all formats and from every corner of the world. They need to be helped to make sense of the applications at speed – in terms of what they might fund and why. In short, the application needs to tell a concise but compelling story about the material and the need for the project. You can send one indicative photo, but don’t run the risk of your application not getting through because the file is too big.

We know that it is hard to apply for any kind of funding. But institutions often have teams dedicated to helping employees navigate the application process; they can help colleagues to understand how to create a budget, how to sort out rights and permissions and how to express their idea in a few concise sentences. Applicants must make clear from the outset that they – and the owners of the archives they are wanting to digitise – understand the implications of putting content on the internet.

The working language of the Endangered Archives Programme is English, and application forms must be written in English but, in an attempt to increase the geographical coverage and improve the quality of the applications we are providing supporting notes in a number of other languages. If you still need advice, we are available to respond to queries, but chances are that we’ll encourage you to re-read the guidance and apply it to your own situation; you’re much better placed to write about your project than we are.

Ruth Hansford, Grants Portfolio Manager

24 October 2017

Training at Jaffna Protestant Archives

Today I received a post from Henria Aton and the team working on the Jaffna Protestant digital archive project (EAP835). This is the first time we have had a bilingual blog post and we think it is a really super idea.

Training Program 1 - resizeTraining Programme students with Dr. T. Sanathanan, Chair of the University of Jaffna Fine Arts department.

We asked our five EAP835 Jaffna Protestant Digital Archive interns to reflect on their experiences with the digitisation training program held in May 2017, and on their work as digitisation interns from June to July 2017. During the training programme, they and fourteen other students and professionals from Jaffna received theoretical and practical training in historiography, preservation, and digitisation. The internship programme consisted of 50 hours of digitisation, participation in the development of a preservation pamphlet based on locally-available resources, and a visit to local churches to talk about the project and disseminate our call for materials to Protestant families. As of the end of pilot project EAP835 (now major grant EAP971), all five have successfully finished their internships. Below are the interns' blog entries in their original Tamil, followed by English translations produced by our team.

Digitization - resizeProgramme Coordinator Kirubalini Packiyanathan teaching interns Thiviya and Mirusha.

Kamalanathan Thiviya

ஆசியாவிலேயே மிகப்பெரியதும் சிறந்ததுமான பல பழைய ஆவணங்களினைப் பேணி வைத்திருந்த நூலகத்திற்க்கு சொந்தமானவர்கள் இலங்கைத்தமிழர். போரின் இன்னல்களின் மத்தியிலும் பழமையான ஆவணங்களை அரிய பொக்கிஷமாக தமது வீடுகளில் பாதுகாத்து வருகின்றனர். இதனை கண்டறிந்து அவற்றினை தொகுத்து எண்ணியமாக்கலின் மூலம் நீண்ட ஆயுளுடன் அனைவரது பாவனைக்கு கொண்டு செல்ல முயலும் புரட்டஸ்தாந்து எண்ணிம ஆவணத்தின் பயிற்சி திட்டத்தில் பங்கெடுக்க கிடைத்த வாய்ப்பு பெரும் மகிழ்வை தருகின்றது. இதனை அறிமுகப்படுத்தி வாய்ப்பளித்த இறையியல் கல்லூரிக்கு எனது நன்றிகள்.

 எம் மத்தியில் இன்றளவும் எங்களில் பலரால் பாரம்பரிய ஆவணங்களுக்கான முக்கியத்துவமும் உணரப்படாமலேயே உள்ளமை வருத்தம் அளிக்கிறது. சமூகத்தின் இன் நிலைக்கு நாமும் பொறுப்பாளிகள் எனும் விழிப்புணர்வை  இச்செயற் திட்டம் உணர்த்தி உள்ளது. சமூகத்தின் மன ஓட்டத்தினையும் அறியும் வாய்ப்பும் கிடைத்தது. ஆவணங்களை பாதுகாப்பது தொடர்பான விழிப்புணர்வு எம் சமூகத்திற்கு அவசியமான ஒன்றாகும். இனிவரும் காலங்களிலேனும் புரட்டஸ்தாந்து சமூக ஆவணங்களைப் போல் எமது ஏனைய சமூகத்தினது ஆவணங்களுக்குமான தேடலும் அவசியம் எனும் எண்ணம் விதைக்கபட்டுள்ளது. வாய்பளித்து வழிகாட்டிய அனைவருக்கும் நன்றிகள்.

Sri Lankan Tamils once had the largest and best library in South Asia, which contained many ancient documents. Throughout the many hardships of wartime, Jaffna Tamils preserved their old documents in their homes like rare treasures. Identifying these materials and digitising them enables public access and ensures their longevity.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Jaffna Protestant Digital Library’s valuable Training Programme. I would like to thank the Christian Theological Seminary for introducing me to EAP835 and giving me the opportunity to attend the programme. 

I worry that today, many of us do not realize the significance of historical documents. Through EAP835, I realized how our society thinks about historical materials and how we are all responsible for this tragic lack of awareness. Knowledge about document preservation is essential for the community. Now, the idea of identifying and preserving other community’s materials, like the Protestant documents, has been sown.

Thiviya is librarian of the Christian Theological Seminary Library in Maruthanamadam, Jaffna.

Neetha certificate - resizeNeetha receiving her training program completion certificate.

U.L. Iffath Neetha

EAP835 குறிப்பிட்ட ஒரு பகுதியை ஆவண முயற்சியாக கொண்டுள்ள அதே வேளை இலங்கையில் ஆவணப்படுத்த வேண்டிய பகுதிகளுக்கு முதற் களமாக இவ் நிகழ்ச்சித்திட்டம் அமையப்பெற்றுள்ளது. ஆவணங்களைப் பாதுகாத்தல் என்பது ஒரு வகையில் வரலாறுகளை, வரலாற்று ஆதாரங்களைப் பாதுகாத்தலாகவும் காணப்படுகின்றது. இவற்றினை பாதுகாத்தல் என்பது தற்கால தேவையாக உள்ளதுடன் அதனை செயற்படுத்தும் செயற்திட்டமாகவே காணப்படுகின்றது.

நான் ஒரு முஸ்லிம் பெண்ணாக இருக்கும் நிலையில் இப்பயிற்சித்திட்டத்தில் கலந்து கொண்ட போது, முஸ்லிம்கள் தொடர்பாக வரலாற்று எழுத்தாதாரங்கள், மரபுரிமைசார் விடயங்கள் காணப்படுகின்ற நிலையில் இவ்வாறான எண்ணிமைப்படுத்தல் செயற்திட்டம் மூலம் எண்ணிமைப்படுத்த வேண்டும் என்று எனது ஆர்வத்தினை தூண்டலாயின. விரிவுரைகளிற்;கூடாக ஆவணங்கள், இவற்றினைப் பாதகாத்தல் பற்றி பயிற்சித்திட்டத்தினூடாக  அறிந்து கொள்ளமுடிந்ததுடன், புதியவகைமையான பாதுகாத்தல் செயற்பாடான எண்ணிமைப்படுத்துதல் பற்றி அறிந்து கொள்ள முடிந்தது.  உள்ளீர்ப்பு வேலைத்திட்டத்தினூடாக அவற்றினை செயற்படுத்திப் பார்க்கவும் முடிந்தது. இதன் போது வழங்கப்பட்ட கையேடுகள் நிகழ்ச்சித்திட்டத்திற்குத் தேவையான விடயங்களினை உள்ளடக்கி இருப்பதுடன் அனைவரும் இலகுவில் விளங்கிக் கொள்ளும் வகையில் அமையப் பெற்றுள்ளமை குறிப்பிடத்தக்கது.

While EAP835 covers only a particular area, the programme is a first step for future digitisation on different subjects in Sri Lanka. The preservation of documents safeguards history and historical evidence. It is essential especially today, and this programme is implementing this necessity.

As a Muslim woman, the training programme inspired me because Muslim communities have many historical documents and legacies that would benefit from a similar digitisation programme. Through the training lectures, I learned about important documents, general preservation methods, and a new method of preservation: digitisation. The internship program then allowed me to practice what I learned. The digitisation manual provided for the training and internship programmes included all the necessary instructions for digitisation and was easy to follow.

Neetha was a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Jaffna before joining EAP835. She currently lives in Batticaloa, in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province.

Nallur 1 - resizeLuxsana explaining how to use our preservation sachets at St. John’s Church in Nallur

Balakumaran Luxsana

EAP835 செயற்திட்டம் அரிதான ஆவணங்களை பாதுகாப்பதனை நோக்கமாக கொண்ட  அரிய ஒரு செயற்திட்டம். இச்செயற்றிட்டம் எனது நூலகம்சார் தொழில்வாண்மைக்கு மிகவும் பயனுள்ளது.  இந்தச் செயற்திட்டம் மூலமாக

அறிவு சார் தகவல்கள், புதிய அனுபவங்கள், ஆக்கப்பூர்வமான  ஆர்வமிக்க செயற்பாடுகள்  போன்ற பல விடயங்களினைப் பெற்றுக்கொண்டேன். விளக்கங்கள் மற்றும் பயிற்சிகள் மூலம் எண்ணிமப்படுத்தல் பற்றி கற்றுக்கொண்டேன். உள்ளீர்ப்பு வேலைத்திட்டத்தில் பங்குபற்றியதோடு 50மணித்தியாலங்கள் எண்ணிமப்படுத்தல் வேலையிலும் ஈடுபட்டுள்ளேன். இது எனது தொழில்வாண்மைசார் விருத்திக்கு பங்களிக்கத்தக்கது.

 சமூகத்துக்குச் செயற்றிட்டம் பற்றிய தகவல்களினை வழங்குதல் எனக்கு விருப்பமானதே  இருப்பினும் பாடசாலை, தேவாலயங்கள் போன்ற பொதுமக்கள் கூடுமிடங்களில் இவ்வாறான நடவடிக்கைகளினைச் செய்வதற்க்கே நான் விரும்புகிறேன்.

 அனைவரும் வாசித்து இலகுவாகப் புரியத்தக்க எளிமையான மொழிநடையுடன் வடிவமைக்கப்பட்டுள்ளதால் எல்லா மக்களும் வாசித்து பயன் பெறக்கூடிய கையேடாக ஆவணங்களினைப் பாதுகாத்தல் தொடர்பான கையேடு அமைந்துள்ளதாக நான் நினைக்கிறேன்

EAP835 is a rare project in Jaffna. Its purpose is preserving unique documents, which is very useful to me as a library professional. I obtained information on many matters through the project, such as: knowledge of information practices, new experiences, and creative work. In particular, I learned about digitisation through theory and practice. I participated in the internship programme and completed 50 hours of digitisation work that contributed to my professional development.

I also enjoyed disseminating information about the project to the community, and I wish to do more work in schools, churches, community centres, etc. I think the preservation pamphlet is especially useful because it is designed simply and the language is accessible, so people are able to understand the message very quickly.

Luxsana was recently appointed Temporary Lecturer at the University of Jaffna’s political science department.

Tharmapalan Tilaxan

வரலாறுகளைப் பாதுகாத்தல் மற்றும் அது தொடர்பாக தெளிவுபடுத்துதல் என்பது ஒரு சமூகத்திற்கு மிக முக்கியமான ஒன்று. இச் செயற்திட்டம்அந்தப் பங்கினைச் செய்கின்றது என்னும் பொழுது நிச்சயம் இன்றைய சமூகத்திற்குத் தேவையான ஒரு செயற்திட்டம் தான்.  

 பயிற்சித்திட்டம் மிகவும் பயனுள்ள ஒன்றாகக் காணப்பட்டது. திறமையான விரிவுரைகள், சரியான நெறிப்படுத்தல் என்பவற்றுடன எண்ணிம ஆவணகாப்பகம் தொடர்பான முழுமையான தகவல்களைப் பெற்றுக்கொள்ளக்கூடியாதகக் காணப்பட்டது. பயிற்சிக் காலத்தில்  பெற்றுக்கொண்ட தகவல்கள் மற்றும் அனுபவங்களைக்  கொண்டு உள்ளீர்ப்பு வேலையில் இலகுவாகச் செயற்படக்கூடியதாக இருந்தது. இதனூடாக நிறையப் பழமையான ஆவணங்களைத் தொட்டு உணரக்கூடிய வாய்ப்பும் கிடைத்தது.

 பிரச்சாரம் செய்தல் மிகவும் பிடிக்கும் ஆனால் வீடுவீடாக சென்று பிரச்சாரம் செய்வதில் உடன்பாடு கிடையாது. காரணம் இன்றைய சமுகம் வீடுவீடாக சென்று செய்யும் நிறைய எதிர்மறையான மற்றும் தவறான பிரச்சாரங்களால் பாதிக்கப்பட்டிருக்கிறார்கள். அதன் தாக்கம் எங்களிடம் திருப்பி காட்டப்படுகின்றது. மற்றும் பிராச்சாரம் செய்ய சரியான இடத்தினையும் அடையாளம் கண்டுகொண்டு செய்தால் எமது செயற்திட்டத்திற்கு வெற்றியாக அமையும்.    

 பாதுகாப்பு கையேடு மிகவும் தேவைப்பாடான ஒன்று. ஆவணங்களைப் பாதுகாத்தல் தொடர்பான விளக்கங்களைத் தெளிவுபடுத்த இலகுவாகக் காணப்படுகின்றது.

 Preserving history and conveying its importance to the next generation is one of the most important things a society can do. The EAP835 project is undertaking work that is necessary for today’s society. I felt the training programme was very useful. I gained knowledge of digital archives through excellent lectures and effective coaching during the training. Thanks to this, working for the project during  the internship  was very easy. I also had the rare opportunity to be in contact with old documents through EAP835.

I enjoyed the dissemination parts of the project but the door-to-door campaign less so, as Jaffna society isn’t receptive to this method. Our project will be more successful with a different strategy for disseminating information. Finally, the preservation pamphlet is critical for explaining to the community how documents should be kept.

 Tilaxan regularly contributes to the Jaffna Protestant Digital Archive both as a digitizer and photographer.          

  Mirusha Manipay - resizeMirusha with a church-goer at the church in Manipay. 

Kumarakulasingham Mirusha

பன்னிரண்டு நாட்கள் கொண்டதாக ஒழுங்கமைக்கப்பட்ட இப்பயிற்சித்திட்டத்தில் இணைந்து கொண்டதன் ஊடாக எண்ணிமப்படுத்தல் பயிற்சியாளராக இணைந்து கொள்ளும் சந்தர்ப்பம் எனக்கு ஏற்பட்டது.

காலத்தின் தேவையில் இலங்கையில் மட்டுமன்றி அசாதாரணமான சூழ்நிலை கொண்ட நாடுகளுக்கும் இது அவசியமான செயற்பாடு ஆகும். இதில் இணைந்ததன் ஊடாக சிதைவுநிலையிலிருக்கும் முக்கியமான ஆவணங்களை எண்ணிமப்படுத்துவதன் அவசியம், அவ்வாறான ஆவணங்களை எவ்வாறு கையாளுதல் மற்றும் பாதுகாத்தல், மிசனரிகளின் வருகை, புராதன யாழ்ப்பாண வரலாறு போன்ற விடயங்களை அறியமுடிந்தது. எண்ணிம உபகரணங்களைக் கையாள்வதற்கான சந்தர்ப்பமும் கிடைத்ததோடு எண்ணிம ஆவணகச் செயன்முறையையும் கற்றுக்கொண்டேன்

 எண்ணிமப்படுத்தல் மிகவும் முக்கியமானதும், தேவையானதுமான செயற்பாடு ஆகும் ஏனெனில் எமது ஆவணங்களினை எதிர்காலச் சந்ததியுடன் பகிர்ந்துகொள்வதற்கான வாயிலாகும். ஆவணங்களை எண்ணிமப்படுத்துவதன் அவசியம் அனைவருக்கும் தெரிந்திருக்க வேண்டிய ஒன்று.  இதனை மற்றவர்களுக்கும் தெரிவிப்பதற்க்கும் என் அனுபவங்களினை சமூகத்துடன் பகிர்ந்துகொள்வதற்க்கும் ஆர்வமாக உள்ளேன்.

ஆவணங்களினைத் தேடி வீடு வீடாகச் சென்று மக்களினைச் சந்தித்தல் மூலம் சமூகத்தின் பொதுவான சிந்தனைமுறையினால் ஆவணங்களினைச் சேகரித்தலில் உள்ள சவால்களினைப்


Through the twelve-day Training Programme, I received the opportunity to work with EAP835 as a digitisation intern. Digitization is an essential activity not only in Sri Lanka, but in any country that has lived through unusual situations.

By working with EAP835, I have realized the importance of digitising fragile documents and learned how to handle and preserve them. Additionally, I have learned about missionary history, Jaffna history, and I have had the opportunity to handle digitization equipment and learn the digital archive process.

Digitisation is an important and essential activity because it is a window to share our documents with future generations. Everyone should be aware of its significance, and I am eager to talk about digitization with others and share my experience with the community. Through our church visits and door-to-door campaign, I have already learned the challenges of collecting materials due to the community’s general thinking.

Mirusha now works as a full-time  for EAP971.

Tilaxan Nallur - resizeTilaxan and Kirubalini distributing preservation pamphlets to church-goers at St. John’s Church.

Luxsana door-to-door - resizeLuxsana collecting contact information from community members during the door-to-door campaign.

19 October 2017

Rescuing Records on the Remotest Island in the World

We are thrilled to be sharing an update from Dawn Repetto, who is leading on the project to preserve the records relating to life on the island of Tristan da Cunha (EAP951). We would like to wish the team every success.


The Government and Community of Tristan were very pleased to be awarded this Endangered Archives Project. With the island progressing in modern times it is very important that we capture our history and conserve, to the best of our ability, documents in a harsh climate which is often against us.

1280px-Tristan_da_Cunha _British_overseas_territory-20March2012 - resize View from the ocean of Tristan da Cunha CC-BY-SA-2.0 Photograph by Brian Gratwicke

Living on the Remotest Inhabited Island comes with many challenges. Elsewhere one can just pop down to the local ironmongers (hardware store) if they wanted to do some DIY or order online equipment and such, which takes a matter of a day or two.  However, here on Tristan everything has to be ordered via a supplier in Cape Town or the UK and then the items sit in the warehouses until a ship departs for Tristan (only 9 times a year).  There is another 7 days before the items reaches the island and a wait for calm weather so everything can be unloaded.  I do not even want to tell you the process if the wrong item is received as the procedure starts all over again!

800px-Edinburgh_of_the_Seven_Seas_01 - resizeView of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, Tristan da Cunha CC-BY-SA-2.0  Photograph by Michael Clarke 

Having said this, on Tristan we have a ‘can do’ attitude which takes lots of patience.  A project which may take 6 months for some places can take up to 2 years on Tristan, but we are not deterred and know we will get there in the end.

Insulation to keep the room warmThe shipment of insulation materials for keeping the archival room warm has arrived.

The island has 265 permanent inhabitants and we are all excited about starting this project and get a lot of reward knowing we will help preserve documents for generations to come.

One of my colleagues doing trial photographs The EAP951 practising with the newly arrived equipment.

Zooming out from the island really gives a sense of just how remote it is.

22 September 2017

2018 Call for Preliminary Applications for EAP grants


The call for preliminary applications for the next round of EAP awards is now open. All the documentation is on our website here and the deadline is midnight on Friday 17th November.

If you are thinking of applying, or if you know of archives that are in danger and would fit the criteria for an award, do read carefully – and share the information with colleagues in your region. Explore the website for examples of the kind of material that has been digitised by the Programme in the past – and read the descriptions of the projects to get a flavour of the challenges faced by the teams carrying out the projects.

Watch out for another blog on the subject soon!


Ruth Hansford, EAP Grants Portfolio Manager

15 September 2017

Document to Digital: How does Digitisation Aid African Research?

This September, SCOLMA (UK Libraries and Archives Group on Africa) held its annual conference at the fabulous location of the National Library of Scotland. The theme for the day was ‘Document to Digital: How does Digitisation Aid African Research?’ This was a follow-up session to the 50th anniversary discussions, which focussed on ‘African studies in the Digital Age’ in 2012.


There was an EAP presence with Jody Butterworth reflecting on some of the projects that have been funded in Africa. It was a wonderful way of showcasing the work that many of the EAP project holders have been carrying out (and who were unable to go to Edinburgh to present in person). Much of her talk included recent initiatives that are using the digitised material in innovative ways.

Jody was then followed by Tom Cunningham who talked in more detail about the pilot project that has focussed on the archive of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa based in Nairobi, Kenya (EAP847).


From an EAP perspective, it was also wonderful to hear about other projects being carried out both within the UK and in Africa. The presentations will be published in a future edition of African Research and Documentation. There were many fruitful discussions during the day (particularly during the coffee breaks) many focussed on ideas for future applications to EAP - and we look forward to receiving them.

03 July 2017

New collections online - June 2017

 We have three new collections available to view on the Endangered Archives Programme website: a collection of Newārī medieval manuscripts from the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal; an archaeological photographic archive from Romania; and finally the archive of the Dominican Monastery of Santa Rosa, Santiago, Chile.

EAP790: The Melvin Seiden Award: Digital documentation of endangered medieval manuscripts in individual and Vihāra collections from various Newār settlements in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal

The main focus of this project was to digitise rare medieval Sanskrit manuscripts as well as rescue those threatened by the earthquake of 2015. Nepal is home to significant collections of Sanskrit as well as Hindu manuscripts, with the Newār people having contributed enormously to the development of literary culture in the country. In vernacular Newārī the manuscripts are called ‘Thyasaphu’ and are not merely handwritten texts, but an object of veneration and part of their religious lives. The Buddhist Vajracharyas and Shakyas, and Hindu Karmacharyas from the Newār communities, were directly concerned with manuscript writing, recitation and performing rituals. In spite of the manuscripts’ importance, few are aware of their literary heritage and little attention has been paid to preserve and disseminate the manuscripts despite their religious and historical significance. Newar families still own manuscripts but unfortunately, most of the precious manuscripts are left to decay and are often now in poor condition. An inability to read the scripts and/or language, or little knowledge of the subject matter, has restricted people from reading these medieval manuscripts.

The project team were able to digitise 21 separate collections consisting of 687 manuscripts. In total over 28,000 images were produced. These included religious manuscripts related to Buddhism and Hinduism, literary works, medical texts, records of events, and other secular texts. These are important records for Buddhist and Hindu Newārs to perform religious duties and also for scholars of Newār Buddhism, Vajrayana rituals, Hinduism, the Vajracharya priests and practitioners and others. Throughout the project, workshops and programmes were organised to train staff and local stakeholders, including those from the Newār community, to search, catalogue and digitise the manuscripts.

EAP790_1_1-_024_LEAP790/1/1 - Puja Vidhi [17th century]

EAP790_1_82-002_LEAP790/1/82 - Mahalakshmi, Bagalamukhi and Sarva Sambhagyesvari Yantra [18th century]

EAP790_17_1-002_LEAP790/17/1 - Svasthani Vrata Katha [19th century]

EAP816: Selective digitisation and preservation of the photographic archive of the ‘Vasile Parvan’ Institute of Archaeology, Bucharest, Romania

The ‘Vasile Parvan’ Institute of Archaeology’s photography archive provides a unique source of information for archaeological research and monument recording and restoration between 1880 and 1925 in Romania. Large numbers of archaeological sites and monuments, then surviving across Romania, are represented in a vast array of excavation, exploration and restoration photographs, covering all periods from the earliest farming communities to the pre-industrial centuries of the last millennium. Many of the archaeological sites and landscapes represented in the photographs, along with a host of medieval churches and many villages, were totally destroyed during and after the two World Wars. The majority of the earliest material focuses on the Romanian Black Sea area, a region called Dobrogea, the richest region of Romania in terms of its archaeological heritage. It also used to be the most ethnically diverse region of Romania and until the end of World War I was one of the most rural and arid. Many of the photographs shed light on the ethnic diversity of the region, nowadays hugely different, and on the unaltered landscape of the area, much changed due to the huge communist agricultural programmes of the sixties and seventies, which included erasing to the ground entire villages along with their churches and traditional field systems. Archaeological artefacts – pottery, sculptures, metal objects – are also represented, along with other items of major historical importance: objects of religious art, paintings, sculptures and fabrics, many of them subsequently destroyed or lost, sometimes plundered by German, Russian or other troops during the wars that have affected Romania in the past 150 years. The on-site images include extremely beautiful local ethnographic photographs and rural landscape images depicting a world long gone, especially in the Black Sea area, populated by a wide mix of differing nationalities in the period before WWII.

EAP816_1_6-EAP816_C6F_00125_LEAP816/1/6 - Adamclisi 2

EAP816_1_4-EAP816_C4S_00052_LEAp816/1/4 - Tropaeum Traiani

EAP816_1_2-EAP816_C2S_00029_LEAP816/1/2 - Pietroasa treasure

EAP821: Documentary heritage at risk: digitisation and enhancement of the archive of the Monastery of Dominican nuns of Santa Rosa, Santiago, Chile

This project catalogued and digitised the archive of the Dominican Monastery of Santa Rosa, one of the four oldest and most important archives of female writing of Chile. Founded in 1680 as a Beguine convent, it later became a monastery in 1754. The Dominican sisters of the monastery were characterised by their cultural and intellectual life which is reflected in the documents digitised as part of the archive. This is a unique set of documents as the testimonies of women from this period have been preserved in few other places in Chile. Among the files are valuable diaries and autobiographies such as that of Dolores Peña y Lillo, which highlights the features of regional and local female idiosyncrasies. These documents are a great resource for scholars and contribute to research, study and dissemination of the model of female education at that time, based on the intellectual culture, crafts and arts. The project team digitised 107 volumes in total consisting of over 27,000 images.

EAP821_1_1_1-EAP821_DSR0001_07_LEAP821/1/1/1 - Life and Virtues of the Servant of God Father Ignacio García of the Society of Jesus, by Fr Francisco Javier Zevallos [17th century-19th century]

EAP821_1_1_71-EAP821_DSR00071_25_LEAP821/1/1/71 - Prayers for the Rosary of the Holy Mass [19th century]


EAP821/1/1/87 - Maps and drawings related to the cloister and Church of the monastery Dominicans of Santa Rosa in Santiago [18th century]