Endangered archives blog

News about the projects saving vulnerable material from around the world

2 posts from April 2014

14 April 2014

New online collections - April 2014 - Part 2

This is the second part of this month’s blog updating you on the new EAP collections which are now available online. This edition covers four projects, EAP408, EAP450, EAP570 and EAP596.
Two of these collections come from Caribbean Islands the Turks and Caicos Islands and Anguilla. The other two collections come from Sri Lanka and Bhutan.

EAP408 was a pilot project which carried out a survey of archives of the Turks and Caicos Islands. These islands do not have a formal national archive, which has left the islands archives vulnerable to loss. Only the Turks and Caicos National Museum has a mandate to collect and care for historical records and before this project its archival collection, which spans around 50 linear feet, represented the islands only known archival records.

The project searched to find collections of archives; it located the major repository of Government Archive records and investigated any other reported or potential storage areas on the inhabited islands of Grand Turk, Providenciales, North Caicos, Middle Caicos, South Caicos and Salt Cay. A sample of the records was digitised and this is now available to view on our website.

EAP408/1/1/78 – Image 3

The second project, EAP596,  is from the Caribbean as well, aiming to survey the endangered records of Anguilla. Anguilla also has no formal archive for the collection of records relating to the island. Most archival work has been undertaken on a voluntary basis. Most notably, the Anguilla Archaeological & Historical Society (AAHS), although lacking in resources, has intervened on an ad hoc basis in order to prevent the destruction of historical records wherever possible.
The survey yielded somewhat more pre-1900 material than expected. It represents a valuable resource for research into the island’s history. The material offers a portrait of social and economic conditions, distilled from the King’s Bench records of the 18th century as well as from the Deed series that begin in 1824 and continue through into the later 20th century.

There is abundant documentary material that relates to the Revolutionary period, although much of it has been destroyed by natural disaster and human neglect. The Revolutionary documents have stimulated the most local interest and also detail the extraordinary transformation of Anguilla from an island in 1970 without telephones or electricity to the complex tourist-based economy and society of the present day.

The project’s secondary focus was on creating a digital sample of some of the material. Four document series, comprising six bound volumes, one newspaper and one group of unbound documents were digitised, resulting in the creation of 2,491 digital images. These are now available to view via our website.

EAP596/1/3/1 – Image 56

EAP450 undertook a survey of manuscripts in Sri Lanka that had been written in the Malay language. The history of the ‘Malay’ community in Sri Lanka goes back to the middle of the seventeenth century, following the foundation of Dutch rule in the island in 1640. The designation ‘Malay’ has been commonly used to refer to people from the Indonesian Archipelago who were exiled to Sri Lanka by the Dutch as political exiles and convicts, sent there in various capacities to serve the Dutch, or recruited as soldiers to colonial armies, both Dutch and, at a later stage, British.

The Malays of Sri Lanka produced a diverse range of manuscripts in the eighteenth to early twentieth centuries. These included Islamic theological treatises, poetry, biographies of the prophets, mystical writings and more.

This pilot project documented approximately 50 Malay manuscripts, books, letters and notes. It provided a digital sample of 5 of these manuscripts. These are now available to view via our website.

EAP450/1/2 – Image 129

EAP570 is our largest collection to date, containing over two hundred and ninety thousand images.  It digitised the archives of several Buddhist temples in Bhutan. With a long history and undisturbed continuity, Bhutan’s far flung temples and monastic archives represent a literary trove which is still largely unexplored. The project went to the temples of Dongkala, Chizhing, Dodedra and Phojoding; they all have significant manuscript collections dating from the 16th century and later, covering a wide range of subjects from canonical writings to local biographical and ritual literature.

The books are housed in the temple halls, and were generally wrapped in cloth or sometimes bound with a rope and stacked on shelves. They are vulnerable to damage and even possible destruction. For instance, the earthquake on 19 September 2011 has affected 339 temples in western Bhutan including those mentioned here, and destroyed 17 beyond repair. Despite the spiritual, academic and artistic significance of these collections to the local communities, scholars and wider audience, they remain in precarious conditions.

Making digital copies has proven to be the most effective and economical method of preservation, also allowing these fantastic resources to reach a much wider audience. The project was exceptionally successful, even managing to digitise some manuscripts from four additional temples Phurdogkha, Menrikha, Thujedra and Pumola. The project digitised nearly 800 manuscripts. During the process they also cleaned bookshelves, changed book covers and helped to improve the conditions in which the original books were stored.

EAP570_Dongkarla_kanjur_brgyad_stong_001_ka (427)
EAP570/1/1/1 Part 2 – Image 213

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.


07 April 2014

New online collections - April 2014 - Part 1

This month has been a bumper one with nine collections going up online, adding over three hundred and fifty thousand images. To avoid an overload of projects April’s blog has been split into two parts. This blog is part one and describes the first five projects which are available; these are EAP207, EAP234, EAP284, EAP314 and EAP401. Two of these collections are South American, coming from Argentina and Peru.  Another two come from Africa, originating from Sierra Leone and Ethiopia. The final collection comes from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

EAP207 digitised various collections of items stored at Museo de La Plata; these had been identified in a previous pilot project, EAP095. Museo de La Plata was established in Argentina in 1888. It was the first institution of its kind in South America, resulting from the donation of several anthropological and archaeological collections gathered during the 1870s. These  collections provide a picture of pre-industrial societies across a wide area of South America during the late 19th - early 20th centuries.

The albums Boggiani, Bonaparte (Old and New World), and the Bolivian Collection represent objects used by ethnologists as visual data of indigenous peoples. The Moreno Album contains images from F. P. Moreno's collections at the Anthropology and Ethnography Museum of Buenos Aires, founded in 1878. This album along with the Calchaquí Album was presented at the Paris World Exhibition of 1878 and both contain very rare images.

EAP207/2/1 – Image 1

The second project EAP234 identified and catalogued colonial documents (1535-1929) held at the Lima Metropolitan Welfare Society, Peru.  The archive holds documents about benefactors, foundations, brotherhoods, chaplaincies, rural and urban properties, slaves, wills, payments letters and accounts records which provide information on the daily operations of many charitable institutions. These documents are especially valuable as sources of economic, social, religious, art and medicinal history. As well as listing and organizing the material the project also produced a digital sample of the records, this is now available to view on our website.

 EAP234/1/2/14/1 – Image 2

EAP284 is a pilot project which surveyed the records held at the Sierra Leone Public Archives. Sierra Leone was settled in 1787 by the 'black poor', who were mostly former slaves from London. Sierra Leone received successive waves of immigration, African American ex-slaves who had fled to Nova Scotia, Jamaican Maroons who had been removed from Jamaica and initially settled in Nova Scotia, but after facing cold winters and racism came to Freetown. There were also thousands of people who had been liberated from slave ships by the Royal Navy after 1815 and settled in Freetown. As well as these there were migrants from the hinterland, including Muslims from the north and north east, and local ethnic groups - Mende, Temne, Vai, Sherbro. Sierra Leone became home to a unique polyglot Atlantic community. The records provide an insight into slavery, abolition, race, meanings of freedom and political sovereignty throughout the region.

The project was successful in surveying these archives and supplied a digital sample of some of the records; this is now available on our website.

EAP284/2/1 – Image 9

EAP401 was based in Ethiopia and looked at digitising records relating to Ethiopia’s Islamic Heritage. Islam was introduced to Ethiopia nearly 1500 years ago. The project undertook a survey to identify the most endangered Islamic manuscripts and archives in functioning and abandoned mosques, as well as looking at private holdings in North Shewa (Goze, Husiso), South Wello (Gedo Toleha, and Dodota) and Gacheni.

The project identified six abandoned mosques in the towns of Cheno, Dera and in South Wallo, 21 manuscripts were listed. Some manuscripts in poor conditions were relocated to the Gaceni District Culture and Tourism Bureau. Ten manuscripts were digitised and these are now available on our website.

EAP401/1/3 - Image 94

EAP314 located handwritten documents of village judicial assemblies, or traditional courts of customary law, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Though these assemblies never acquired legal sanctity the practice of recording the nature of the dispute and the judgment handed down by village elders became a standard procedure in this region of India. The records will enable researchers to acquire new insight into Tamil rural social life.

The project identified 45 individuals holding documents related to Tamil customary law and rural social history. The collections of 10 individuals were digitised, comprising 619 paper documents, 24 notebooks and 9 copperplates, these are now available to view on our website.

EAP314/10/2 – Image 19

Check back next week to see the final four projects!

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

1. Pham, John-Peter (2005). Child soldiers, adult interests: the global dimensions of the Sierra Leonean tragedy. Nova Publishers. pp. 4–8. ISBN 978-1-59454-671-6.