Endangered archives blog

News about the projects saving vulnerable material from around the world

3 posts from May 2013

29 May 2013

Digitised Ahom manuscripts arrive at the British Library


This week I received the first hard drive from project EAP373 which is currently halfway through the digitisation of Tai Ahom manuscripts from Assam.

The Ahom language stopped being spoken about two centuries ago. Similar to Chinese and Thai languages, Ahom was tonal but the tones were rarely indicated in the writing system. Although linguistically Ahom is linked to the Thai language, the content of these manuscripts differ quite dramatically from Sukhothai Thai inscriptions because the Ahoms living in Assam kept their pagan beliefs rather than adopting Buddhism. Their language does not contain Sanskrit or Pali words. The script, which is a unique alphabet related to Burmese, can only be read by a very few. Some Ahom priests are able to read these precious manuscripts but it is unclear as to how the language should be pronounced.

The Ahom culture had an extensive body of literature. Most of the manuscripts that have been digitised for EAP373 have been written on Sasi tree bark (Aquillaria Agallocha) and date from the 17th and 18th centuries, though many of them discuss and copy earlier texts relating to  Ahom life and customs. Traditionally, Ahom priests and nobles wrote histories known as bia-ran jis ‘stores of instruction for the ignorant’ and understandably these still play an important role within the community.

Below are some images of the team in Assam digitising the material and a page from an illustrated manuscript.

Photograph of the team
The digitisation team

Photograph of a team member perched on an upper ledge of a bamboo building. He is taking a photograph of a manuscript that is on the ground below.
The team at work.

Two people hold up a large page from a manuscript against the backdrop of a building

illustrated page of a bark manuscript. A man prostrates in front of a ruler.
'Gileshwar Bailung Nemi Mang' Manuscript written on Sasi bark.


07 May 2013

New online collections – May 2013

This is the first of a new series of monthly blog posts which will highlight the collections that have become available to view online on the EAP website over the past month. 

 Four collections went up last month, the first of which was EAP375, this project digitised over 25,000 images of archives from the Haynes Publishing Company of Argentina.

EAP375/1/1/1 – Image 25

The Haynes publishing company was created by Albert M. Haynes, a British citizen who went to Argentina to work for the Buenos Aires Western Railway. After his retirement he founded the Haynes Publishing Company in 1904, it remained active until its closure in 1968. The company produced several publications including the magazine El Hogar and the daily newspaper El Mundo. The company was active during some important periods of Argentine history. In particular it covers the period of the presidencies of José Félix Uriburu, Agustín Pedro Justo, Roberto María Ortiz and Ramón Castillo during the Infamous Decade (1930-1943) as well as the first presidency of Juan Perón (1946-1955)

EAP375/1/1/59 – Image 82

Another collection now available is EAP368, this contains some fascinating images depicting the indigenous peoples of Western Siberia.

EAP368/1/1/1 – Image 9

The project identified glass plate negatives and photographic material depicting Western Siberian life during the early 20th century. These were then catalogued and digitised. The images present a fascinating window into this society before it was affected by modernisation.

EAP368/1/1/1 Image 155

EAP368/1/1/1 – Image 319

The final two collections are EAP340 and EAP365. EAP340 digitised a selection of manuscript collections in the monastic church of Ewostatewos at Däbrä Särabi in Tigray, Ethopia.

EAP340/1/2 – Image 4

EAP365 was a pilot project which aimed to discover collections of lontara’ manuscripts in the Makassarese language of South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Lontara’ manuscripts consist largely of chronicles or histories of local kingdoms, collections of rules relating to customary law, or court diaries/daybooks. The project was successful in collecting representative images from several lontara' in Makassar, and in a number of villages in Kecamatan Galesong south of the city.

EAP365/1/2 – Image 7

 Check back next month to see what else has been added!

 You can also keep up to date with any new collections by joining our Facebook group.


03 May 2013

Out with the old and in with the new

The British Library is rolling out a new look for its blogs. The design has changed, but the content will stay the same. The Endangered archives blog will continue to update you with all our news. We hope you will enjoy the new look blog and that you’ll find it easier to read and use! You can also now subscribe to the blog so you won't miss any of our posts.