THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Endangered archives blog

News about the projects saving vulnerable material from around the world

08 November 2018

EAP's first webinar - Completing a Successful Preliminary Application

The Endangered Archives Programme held its first webinar on 02 November 2018 where we invited potential grant applicants to join us for a brief presentation, followed by an opportunity for them to ask questions to both EAP staff members and former grant holders. This gave participants the chance to find out about all aspects of the application process to determine whether they may like to apply for a grant, either for this round (Deadline: 19th November. Still time to apply!) or the future. We were very pleased to welcome over 40 people from 24 different countries to this seminar. We are planning to hold more webinars in the future, please watch this space!

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EAP Webinar: Completing a Successful Preliminary Application

Live webinar recorded Friday 2nd November 2018. Introductory presentation by Adam Farquhar, EAP Director


Q&A Session

  1. Do endangered archives of film (i.e. motion-picture) reels qualify under EAP? These are 20th-century artefacts, and some even from second half of 20th century, but under threat of destruction and spoilage.

You should consider copyright issues - this can be quite complicated for film. Do also consider Documenting Global Voices, another Arcadia project. Their call will be announced on 1 December. You must also think how unique the material is and whether there are copies elsewhere.

  1. How small is a small digitization project to be considered for a pilot project? (e.g. we want to digitize about 10.000 lyrics = 10.000 tiff files. is that too big to be considered as a pilot project?!)

It depends on time and budget. This seems a rather large amount of material, but could fit within the Pilot project budget depending on circumstances. Pilots are generally given for projects that last under a year and cost less than £15,000 - if you think you would need more time or money, apply for a Major grant. You may also apply for a Major grant with a smaller budget.

  1. We are working with archaeological records, some of which are unpublished surveys of sites. The publication of this raises some questions, most significantly, the possibility of leading potential looters to unsecured sites. While we’d like all the material to be open, but is there a way keep these records private?"

All EAP material would need to be made available online - I recommend you contact the other Arcadia funded project based in Oxford – EAMENA â€“ as they focus on archaeology.

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  1. What is the policy/EAP recommendations for copyright of orphan works? Are there any concerns especially for non-commercial source material?

The grant holder needs to do the research into copyright of the physical material. We ask for Creative Commons, Non-Commercial licenses for all material.

For orphan works, the grant of permission form should be signed by the person who owns the material.

  1. If you’re an independent researcher what type of experience are you looking for in regards to applying?

It is possible to do a project as an independent researcher – the experience that would help towards a successful project would be digitization experience, preferably in the field, as well as project management, language ability, understanding of the material, and good budgeting skills.

There are, however, several disadvantages – working with a trusted respected partner organisation can benefit the project by providing an institutional framework for project support and administration.

  1. I am keen for technical assistance to help preserve and digitise my very large collection on the Holy Land

Do have a look at Remote Capture (https://www.openbookpublishers.com/product/747) as this is a publication to help. It is free to download from Open Book Publishers. I would also suggest that if you are applying you do not attempt to digitise the whole amount focus on one aspect. You can also budget for training within the grant application.

I'd add that the pilot project stage offers the opportunity to trial your digitisation method, perhaps making adjustments/improvements during the major grant stage. During my St Helena pilot project, I digitised a relatively small volume of material, but rather I trialled the photography on a variety of document types, to see what worked well with my camera set-up, and what didn't.

  1. What if some of the documents are considered sensitive material by the authorities in the country where the archive is located (in this case Egypt) - for example maps? Could these be exempt from being put online?

You would need to get the appropriate permissions. If these are state archives, then you would need governmental permissions. We only fund material that can go online.

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  1. Having located endangered material in private collections across a region, can one independently initiate and carry out a project without recourse to a team at an institution? (Provided all the material is indeed deposited at a relevant local institution, in addition to BL, once it is digitised?)

Please refer to question #6. In addition, you really would need to have significant experience in digitisation and metadata to be able to handle the workload by yourself.

  1. If an independent researcher is partnering with the country archive or museum, whose experience do you detail in the application?

The independent researcher’s experience is what the panel will be assessing.

  1. Do you pay for travel costs of person teaching how to digitise and can you confirm if the equipment stays with the local archive?

Yes, we will pay those costs, as long as they have been detailed in the application and approved by the panel. The equipment does remains in the country for further use.

  1. Could you please confirm if archival material on microfilm (dating from the late 1800s to 1900s) qualify?

Digitising microfilm is quite complicated (the BL outsources this) so look at the feasibility and the uniqueness of the content on the microfilm.

  1. Do EAP grants cover the undertaking of an oral history project that is focused on gathering and recording new material?

Sadly we do not pay for interviewing as the main part of a project. We have digitised oral histories that are on a format that is at risk, such as cylinders and tapes.

  1. Does a photographic archive deriving from film reels (especially damaged or partially spoiled ones) qualify for deposit in digital form? i.e. Does it have to be full reels/films for digitisation or parts/excerpts are admissible?

We have not had experience with this to date. If you are applying, you would need to detail the percentage of recoverable material in the application.

  1. When does "pre-modern" period end?

This doesn’t have a single global answer! It will vary with the history and context of different regions. There are two good rules of thumb: The year of independence for countries that were formerly colonies; material that is out of copyright. However, as in the case of photographs, the format can be considered modern but the images refer to a pre-modern period.

If you have an questions, please contact the EAP team with information about the collection that you have in mind.

  1. Is a music collection produced in the 20th century qualify, if it’s endangered?

If it is unique and on a problematic format. Think of the other criteria when applying. I suggest that you have a look at the Indian recording labels and Syliphone archive that we have funded.

Young india

  1. Do you have suggestions for other funds which might work with endangered 20th century materials?

Yes, a new programme is being set up at UCLA also funded by Arcadia. It is called Documenting Global Voices. Their call will go out on 1 December 2018.

  1. At the preliminary stage, what kind of evidence of permissions from collection owners/curators should be included? There is a box for that on the application, but what precisely should appear there?

I would say that submitting formal documentation would only be required at the detailed application stage, but in the preliminary application we want applicants to be aware that the material will go online and it is their responsibility to seek the appropriate permissions.

  1. Is making materials available to scholars the same as making them available to the public? Some archives depend on search fees for funding.

The goal of the EAP is to save endangered archival material and make them open available for research. This focus means that some projects, while otherwise excellent, may not be a good fit for the programme. The British Library will make the outputs of projects openly available for research by scholars and others. This is a key requirement. It does not, however, mean that the local archive cannot provide a priced service that includes access to the content or is driven by its metadata. Such services exist in many domains.

  1. On the project team: Should we be concerned if the largest part of our budget turns out to be salaries for a team (in my case, around 10 people, for example)?

I can certainly say that for my EAP project based on Nevis, which used two local staff, that salaries formed the largest single element of the grant.

In the past, the panel have asked applicants to re-budget if they felt that the costs were prohibitive. Also, we should make you aware that if the archive is housed at the host institution, we expect some contribution in-kind. Often this means the salaries of existing permanent staff employed by the host institution.

  1. It says in the application instructions that you do not allow costs for conservation. What if you have documents that require conservation before digitization?

We cover preservation (archival boxing, Melinex sleeves, dehumidifiers, etc.) to prevent further deterioration, but sadly not conservation. I think if the material needs work of this sort, I suggest you look for other funding before applying to EAP.

 

  1. When you say that detailed cataloguing should not be part of the project, does this also include database recording for the documents?

You must submit metadata as part of your project outputs. There is a template of the spreadsheet that we use available on the website. The level of description depends on the type of material being digitised, for example, with manuscripts we would expect a description at volume level (file level) and not at page level, but for photographs we would expect a description for each photograph (item level). We plan on introducing webinars for current grant holders regarding cataloguing standards.

  1. Could you please elucidate what differentiates an Area from a Major grant in terms of the amount of material that needs to be digitised? (Reference to paper-based archival material)

There is a considerable range of the amount of material that is digitised in Major grants. We have seen successful Major grants that have produced a few tens of thousands up through nearly a million. In recent years, the average amount of content is about 60K images per project year with 50% of projects delivering between 20K and 120K images per project year (i.e., a 2-year project might deliver between 40K and 240K images). The variation partly due to the difficult of local conditions, access, and nature of materials. For example, good quality bound ledgers can be processed quickly and efficiently. Crumbling damaged manuscripts must be handled with great care. That being said, we would expect an Area grant to produce material roughly in proportion to a Major grant, and perhaps derive some economies of scale. So perhaps 60K – 360K images per project year would be likely.

  1. Is it typically in the range of a pilot project to create a project website that serves the local community (in the local language, mobile-first, designed to be accessible with patchy internet connections)?

Typically not for a pilot project. In cases that it is considered particularly important, a modest contribution could be made toward it. We look to the local archival partner to do much of this though.

  1. Is any training support offered to applicants as a part of this grant?

Look at our website to see if there has been a recent project near to where your proposal is based. The EAP office may be able to put you in touch with someone with local experience which may be useful.

We also plan on having future webinars covering various topics.

The handbook Remote Capture is also a good resource.

  1. Is EAP giving any legal support against illicit traffic of archival materials? Is there any guidance?

Sadly, this is not within the scope of EAP. Our ethos is that the material stays in the country of origin and that is why the digitisation is done in situ.

  1. On the preliminary application under ‘Project People and Organisations’, if applying through a host institution, there is no space to describe the experience and past achievements of the principal applicant or team? How do you gauge if the principal investigators have the experience to carry out the project? Is it okay for the principal applicant to complete Q10c and Q10d even if applying through the applicants host institution?

This is dealt with in more depth at the detailed application stage. In the preliminary application, if you are employed by the Host Institution, you only have to answer Question 9.

  1. I thought to apply for a pilot project for
  2. getting permissions from three archives I am in touch with
  3. evaluating the volume and character (hand-written/lithographs/etc.) of the manuscripts applicable for the major project
  4. locating more archives - public and private - that I know are there
  5. putting up the team of technicians and scholars to work for a major project

Does that make sense? Should I include portable scanner to digitize sample texts?

This is a classic pilot project. Since you mentioned you are looking at manuscripts, a portable scanner would not be appropriate, you would need a camera and portable tripod.

Look at the Digital Appendices for Remote Capture, which suggests model types.

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  1. Is there any limitation as to the country of main applicant?

No, the important thing is where the material is located.

  1. What is the required form of indicating consent/ permission from foreign partners? A written and signed letter of consent in their language and then a translation? Will you honour informal translations or does it have to be a legally binding translation?

As part of the detailed application, we have Grant of Permission forms which you are most welcome to translate when showing them to foreign partners, but the English version would need to be signed and returned to the EAP office.

  1. What type of organisations/archival partners do not qualify as local institutions? For example: does a local non-profit with a collection of relevant material qualify?

It must be a non-commercial institution, it sounds as if the organization you have in mind would qualify.

  1. I am interested about how to discern what kind of project for which to apply. We have a website partially constructed. We are a local archive in Serowe, but our internet access is tenuous. We would probably need help make the archival material available from Serowe.

Please refer to Question 23.

  1. Thank you for your helpful advice.... Unfortunately I don't think my archive is eligible for the EAP. Does the British library have a service or a contact I can approach for advice on rehoming a modern archive?

Feel free to contact me at Jody.butterworth@bl.uk, also take a look at the Documenting Global Voices programme.

  1. Can we email individual panellists? We are working in Antigua and would love to talk to Andy.

I'm sure that Andy would be glad to provide help. Please email endangeredarchives@bl.uk and we'll pass your request on to him.

  1. Among the accepted applications, is there a typical ratio - are the grants equally distributed among pilot, major and area, or is there a typical distribution in the rate of success?

This is the first time we are offering the area grant. The distribution varies year to year. To date we have had 220 major projects and 130 pilot projects.

  1. I have a question relating specifically to a collection of amateur films (travelogues and documentaries). This is the only surviving collection in the country of origin, so it will be quite valuable to researchers because it will dispel myths about pre-industrial filmmaking in this country. The owner transferred the rights to a team of filmmakers before passing away, but they do not have a way to properly store and digitize them. My question, more specifically, is whether I can submit an application to rescue these films, even though I don’t reside in the country of origin? I should add that this country doesn’t have the institutional framework or infrastructure to pursue this. The team has tried to find a way forward unsuccessfully, but I am able to bring this to fruition from Canada.

We have had several projects where the applicant is outside the country of origin, but it would be important for at least one of the rights owners to be a co-applicant. If you are invited to the detailed application, you would be strongly advised to include the grant of permission forms signed by all of the team members (copyright owners).

  1. In the country of origin there is no institutional framework that can administer the type of collection that needs to be rescued/digitized (all options have been exhausted). Can it be administered from a different country, and then share the digitized archives with the country of origin?

Please refer to question 35.

08 October 2018

The British Library: the Place where Vastness and Warmth Meet

We are extremely excited to have Rihana Suliman join the EAP team for a year. Rihana is a Chevening Fellow  and will be promoting the Programme in the Middle East and North Africa. During the coming months, Rihana will share her experiences by writing regular blog posts. Below are her impressions of a very busy first week at the British Library.

Welcome knowledge. Welcome curiosity. Welcome imagination. These are some of the words any passer-by would find at the gates of the British Library. However, it is by stepping inside the Library that one is able to taste and enjoy the truth such phrases hold.

Image 1 resizedWelcome billboard along Midland Road

Talking about the highlight of my first week at the British Library would be a difficult task indeed, as every encounter could be considered so whether it was interacting with people and staff or in terms of discovering spaces, reading rooms, facilities, collections and all that the Library offers.  

My first day started with a tour in the largest public building constructed in the UK in the 20th century. I was introduced to the Library’s various floors and also to its basements which extend to the depth of 24.5 metres. There I got to see the process of sending a book from the storage to the reader, the Sound Archive which preserves sound recordings from 19th-century cylinders to CDs and DVDs, the British Library’s partnership with Google which aims to digitise up to 40 million pages of printed books, pamphlets and periodical from 1700 to 1870, and thousands of other books, maps and magazines.

The real privilege for me was arriving to the UK in time for the opening of the Library’s photographic exhibition entitled: ‘Beyond Timbuktu: Preserving the Manuscripts of Djenné, Mali’. This is the first EAP display to be held at the British Library and it is a celebration of the four projects the EAP had conducted in Djenné. These projects in the town of Djenné have preserved over 150,000 images and a collection of 8,300 manuscripts making a copy of them available online. Understanding the importance of Djenné, the richness of its collection of manuscripts and the complexity of its socio-political culture in the past and present was provided through a panel discussion held on 1 October that shed light on the ‘Masterpieces of Mali: Djenné and its Manuscripts’. 

Image 3 resizedThe Djenné that runs along the second floor gallery until 6 January 2019

It was fascinating to see how thought provoking the talks were and how people responded with eagerness, wanting to know more by asking questions about this project and other future projects to be carried out by the Endangered Archives Programme.

Mali2 resizeSophie Sarin, grant holder for the Djenné projects, giving her speech at the private opening

The EAP is one of these programmes which has a magnetic charm – one can’t help but fall in love with it at first sight. I have to admit that this was exactly the case with me. It would be no exaggeration to add that the more I get to know EAP and its future plans, the more I fall in love with it. I am very proud to be part of a programme that has so far supported more than 350 projects in 90 countries worldwide. I can’t help but wonder how this year will unfold especially when the first week with the Digital Scholarship Team has been this exciting and enlightening.

Rihana 3 resized Rihana Suliman

03 October 2018

A survey of archival material in small Jewish communities in rural areas of Argentina

We are very pleased to have a guest blog written by Dr Efraim Zadoff describing the importance of project he is about to start in Argentina. (EAP1100)

In the last decade of the 19th century and in the first decades of the 20th century, waves of Jewish immigration to the Americas brought around 200,000 Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean basin to Argentina. Most of them crossed the Atlantic for personal reasons, running from antisemitism, poverty and social instability, and settled in Buenos Aires and other large cities in the country.

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Tens of thousands of settlers, as a part of a project of agricultural colonisation organised by the Jewish Colonisation Association (JCA) founded by Maurice de Hirsch, set up home in the Argentinean Pampas. Other groups followed similar routes as individual and independent entrepreneurs and settled in existing small cities and villages or established new ones. Many of them built their homes far from urban centres.

Baron_hirsch

Maurice de Hirsch (1831-1896) 

The Jews organised communities and organisations, which served them in their cultural, social, economic, religious and educational needs.

As part of their activities, their institutions produced written material, which included protocols, correspondence, reports and bulletins. This material reflects a chapter of the Argentinean and the Jewish past, in which a wide sector of immigrants managed to survive in an unknown, and sometimes, hostile environment, and succeeded in their labour and professional integration in their new country.

Many Jews left the small villages and concentrated in larger towns or cities, motivated by their children's educational needs, and by economic, professional and social growth.

These archival collections should contain important sources, not only of this period of Argentinean and Jewish history, but also for the history of migrations of cultural minorities from Europe to the Americas at the end of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century.

My pilot project will make a systematic survey of the existing archival material that reflects the past of the Jewish communities and organisations in the southern areas of the Buenos Aires province (600-700 km south of the capital). This survey will provide the needed information about the existing material, will instruct the people holding the material how to keep it and avoid its loss, and will offer the opportunity to produce digitised security copies of the material and enable its accessibility for the research.

I am expecting to find material produced since the end of the 19th century, which may include: minutes of board meetings, correspondence, publications, original photos, etc., of synagogues, community organisations, schools and other educational institutions, financial and production cooperatives of the agricultural settlements; maps of colonisation, etc.

I anticipate finding material in small and medium Jewish communities in southern areas of Buenos Aires province, in cities such as: Bahía Blanca, Tandil, Mar del Plata, Tres Arroyos; and also in towns and villages perhaps in Rivera, Médanos, Coronel Suárez.

The actual situation of the archival material in these places is unknown and some of it may have been lost.

Efraim Zadoff cropped

Dr Efraim Zadoff is an independent scholar and consultant for the Latin America at the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People (CAHJP), Jerusalem, Israel. Promoter of the establishment of the Documentation and Archive Institutions Net of the Jewish Communities in Latin America (RED – Red de Entidades de Documentación de las Comunidades Judías de América Latina - https://web.nli.org.il/sites/NLI/English/collections/personalsites/red-lajan/Pages/default.aspx), in connection with The National Library of Israel and CAHJP.