Endangered archives blog

News about the projects saving vulnerable material from around the world

3 posts from November 2014

17 November 2014

New online collections – November 2014 Part 2

This blog covers the remaining four new projects which are now available to view online, these are EAP285, EAP618, EAP110 and EAP211.  

EAP285 is a major project that carried on the work which the EAP067 pilot project had begun. The pilot project had surveyed collections of materials which relate to the Gypsy/Roma communities in Bulgaria.

In Bulgaria, many different materials dating from the beginning of the twentieth century can be found which reflect the life of nomadic and settled communities of Gypsies in the pre-industrial period in their first attempts for empowerment and their struggle for equality.

The project completed the collection and digitisation of material located in Bulgaria by the pilot project.

Photographs were collected from the 1940s through to the 1980s reflecting the life of Roma in Sofia Roma quarters. The Members of Roma students organisation collected from different places photographs and documents, most interesting among them is a certificate of gratitude to a Roma, who died as a soldier in the (Bulkan Wars) 1912-1913. The members of the Roma students organisation also introduced the project team to an old lady from the Gypsy quarter of Montana, who donated her family’s unique collection of oral histories, which included a description of the creation and history of the Roma quarter in the town of Montana, everyday life, customs and holidays of Roma living there as well as some short folklore genres (proverbs and humorous narratives). Nikola Ivanov, a Roma from a group of nomadic Gypsies, donated to the project his collection of old Romani fairy-tales and ballads.

One of the achievements of the project was the digitisation of Dimitar Golemanov’s collection, which included letters, written songs and fairy tales. Dimiter Golemanov was a famous Roma activist and intellectual during the time of the communist regime and these materials reflected his poetical and musical work as well as his international contacts with Roma intellectuals and activists. Documents were also found on the pioneering linguistic work of one of the most important Bulgarian Roma Romani studies scholars, Donald Kenrick. Very interesting material was collected from old nomadic Gypsies from the Kardarasha group, who remembered the time of active nomadism.

[N_48]EAP285/2/21 – Image 1

EAP618 digitised 5,564 photographs and negatives of ethnographic and historical objects, reflecting pre-industrial Bulgarian history and culture. The scholarly archive of the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum is the oldest collection of Bulgarian pre-industrial and early modern traditional culture. This rich and unique ethnographic archive consists of several collections of written documents as well as some fascinating photograph collections which illustrate elements of traditional spiritual culture: ritual masks, agricultural and horticultural activities, calendar customs, folk costumes and traditional architecture.

EAP618_Negatives_II_1354EAP618/3/2 Pt2– Image 306

EAP110 is a continuation of the EAP005 pilot project, which looked at the records held at the National Archives of Tuvalu. Tuvalu consists of nine islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean and achieved independence from Great Britain in 1978. Vital documentation of the cultural and political heritage of Tuvalu is held in an intermittently air-conditioned room. The archives are endangered through the risk of being washed away in a cyclone-prone area. There is a regular danger of archives being saturated and damaged by tidal surges, especially during the cyclone season. Some material such as Births, Deaths and Marriage registers, Lands records, records of its local colonial administration and newspapers are in particularly poor condition through heavy usage.

The pilot project surveyed the Tuvalu National Archives holdings, assessing the extent of work required to prepare important series for preservation. In addition it also discovered the existence of manuscripts, genealogies, photographs and other records of Tuvaluan society in private hands.

EAP110 carried out the digitisation of this material, producing over 70,000 images comprising of over 1,276 documents. These are now available to view online.

110PMBDoc484_Reel1_00625EAP110/1/16/1 Pt 2 - Image 206

EAP211 digitised Cirebon manuscripts. Cirebon was one of the important Islamic Sultanates in Java, together with Demak and Banten, and had been a centre for Islamic learning and the dissemination of Islamic teachings in West Java. Cirebon was also considered to be one of the cultural centres in the Indonesian archipelago, which can be seen in its manuscripts.

These Cirebon manuscripts contribute towards the understanding of Islamic intellectual and cultural heritages, and will help to reconstruct how Islam spread in West Java in the period of the 15th century to the first half of the 20th century. According to the latest survey, Cirebon manuscripts are mostly damaged because of inappropriate treatment and natural causes. Others were neglected due to a lack of knowledge about the storage and handling of manuscripts.

Up to now, these manuscripts have not been explored and studied by either local or foreign scholars and there is no published catalogue of them. They include Qur'an and religious manuscripts, the story of puppet shadow (wayang), genealogy of Cirebon sultans, traditional healings, literatures, Cirebon traditional chronicles, Javanese Islamic mysticism written as poetry (Suluk), divining manuals, and manuscripts of talismans. The majority of them are in a fragile condition. This project covered the whole area of the former Cirebon Sultanate (including Kasepuhan, Kanoman, Kacirebonan, and Kaprabon), Pengguron and Sanggar,

The project succeeded in digitising 176 manuscripts creating 17,361 images. These are now available to view online.


211_BMB040_WM01EAP211/1/1/38 – Image 50

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.

10 November 2014

New online collections – November 2014 Part 1

This month we have had eight new collections go up online, with over five hundred thousand new images now available to view on our website. This blog will focus on four of the new projects, EAP148, EAP128, EAP180 and EAP183. Part 2 will be published next week and will cover the remaining four projects EAP285, EAP618, EAP110 and EAP211

The first collection is EAP148, this project carried out an inventory of archival holdings in Jamaica. This targeted libraries and archives which contain valuable historical collections that focus on the lives of enslaved Africans and free blacks in Jamaica during the period 1655-1800. The documents are important to scholars studying the Caribbean, especially Jamaica, and supplement the extensive records that are held in Britain on the forced migration of Africans to Jamaica.

The project compiled inventories of original documentation published before 1800, which are in the possession of four institutions, the Jamaica Archives, Roman Catholic Chancery’s Archive, University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Mona and the National Library of Jamaica (NLJ). At the Jamaica Archives, the Manumission of Slaves, volumes 5 through 12 were digitised, which cover the period 1747-1778. At UWI the team compiled an inventory of approximately 150 items and 10 primary sources were digitised, these documents cover the historical period 1493-1800. At the Chancery, Several burial, baptismal and marriage records were digitised. At the NLJ, the team compiled an inventory of approximately 90 items and 12 primary sources were digitised. 

EAP148_NLJ_MS1647_40EAP148/1/10 – Image 40

EAP128 digitised publications related to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities in Thailand. Bangkok is home to some of Asia's earliest and largest GLBT communities.

Since the 1970s, Thailand's GLBT communities have produced large quantities of Thai language publications including multi-issue periodicals and magazines and community organisation newsletters. This large volume of material, totalling several thousand items, documents the history of one of the world's most important non-Western homosexual/transgender cultures and is a largely untouched research resource. These materials are in danger of being destroyed and disappearing completely. Since no Thai or western library or archive has collected these materials, the only remaining copies are in the hands of private collectors.

A total of 648 issues of Thai gay, lesbian and transgender community organisations and commercial magazines from 32 different series were collected and digitised. These are now available to view online.

Anu-trp7662_cherngchai_1982_1_1_1_masterEAP128/1/14/1 – Image 1

EAP180 digitised one of the largest collections of early printed books and periodicals in the Republic of Armenia, located in the Fundamental Scientific Library (FSL).

After the establishment of the communist regime in Armenia in 1920 and the ideological cleansings of 1937, substantial numbers of manuscripts and books were destroyed and the remaining material was confined to the archives. A huge number of Armenian periodicals published during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were placed in closed archives, as they represented views which the Soviet regime did not want circulated. The FSL was selected by the authorities to house this material and a very limited number of researchers had access to these materials. Since 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet regime and the emergence of Armenia as an independent republic, all spheres of Armenian society have experienced a tremendous and fundamental change. This category of material previously closed is now open to all users. Periodical literature is a vital and unique source of information for the study of the history of the Armenian diaspora, literature, culture, institutions, church life and politics. The condition of the material is in danger because of its storage conditions and the quality of the paper they were printed on. The fluctuation of temperatures and level of humidity in the stacks during the autumn and spring seasons remains uncontrolled. This has caused the physical condition of the materials to deteriorate and many of the rare books have been lost already. 

This project digitised over 4200 volumes and has ensured that the information contained in these volumes will be preserved for research.

If you would like to know more about this project and gain insight into the digitisation procedures of an EAP project you can read an article by the project leaders Alan Hopkinson and Tigran Zargaryan, “Peculiarities of digitising materials from the collections of the National Academy of Sciences, Armenia”.

Eap180patmutyun hajoc-149EAP180/1/1/116 Image 149

EAP183 preserved early print literature on the history of Tamilnadu. The aim of the project was to preserve and provide access to a very important segment of cultural material that reflects the history of Tamilnadu. The project preserved over 150,000 images on microfilm reels and then digitised them for better access. The materials were identified through library surveys and were borrowed and shipped to the Roja Muthiah Research Library (RMRL) for microfilming and digitisation. The subject material is important for scholars to reconstruct the history of Tamilnadu, covering areas such as the Self-Respect Movement, Dravidian movement, Bhakti movement and other social and cultural histories of the 19th and early 20th century Tamilnadu.

183_RMR6154_1044EAP183/1/1/261 – Image 11

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

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


04 November 2014

A Chief and his Wheelbarrow: Digitisation and history in India’s Northeast

Historical Christian missionaries have long drawn the spotlight in modern Mizoram, a hill state in the borderlands of India’s northeast.  Stone memorials of missionaries’ late-nineteenth-century visits rise up along roadsides, their hair clippings are preserved behind glass, and their names christen Mizo schoolchildren’s sports teams and populate history books.

In late 2011, our EAP454 digitisation team arrived in Mizoram no less star-struck.  We trained our cameras on the earliest missionary documents and photographs in hopes of preserving digitally the exceptionally rapid transition of a Mizo hill people fundamentally transformed, from an oral society following localised religious practices to an overwhelmingly Christian and literate society.  In many ways, the plan was both sound and successful. 

But while snapping away at what we thought was the main historical vista, we started hearing other voices from the past whispering on our panorama’s fringes, beckoning us out to an overgrown, more vernacular trail.  With the help of various custodians of historical material, we started bushwhacking.

The trail took us away from the familiar paths and historical narratives, reversing their direction from a Victorian Aberystwyth and London inwards to a Mizo Aijal and Lungleh outwards.  Among many colourful characters, it led us to Khamliana Sailo, a Mizo lal, or ‘chief’. 

  A group photograph
[Fig. 1, Khamliana seated second from right, n.d., http://eap.bl.uk/database/large_image.a4d?digrec=2113522;catid=183611;r=27529]

Khamliana grew up around fire and sword.  By age twelve he had witnessed atrocities by both British and Mizo forces, including the utter destruction of his chiefly grandfather’s village and livelihood.[1] 

The next time the heir Khamliana came face-to-face with invading British forces, he and his father joined up as guides and interpreters, assisting a British captain who was known in the vernacular ominously as Lalmantua—the capturer of Mizo chiefs.  Khamliana was helping the very forces that had burnt his familial village.  Why?

At first blush, many of the EAP454 documents paint Khamliana as a full-blooded British ally.  A wealthy Khamliana makes various donations to the British Raj, principal among these a massive gift to the Imperial Indian Relief Fund in 1915.  Here, Khamliana’s largesse earns him nation-wide press in the journal The Feudatory and the Zemindari,as well as recognition from the Chief Commissioner of Assam and the regional Superintendent. 

  Khamliana poses outside his colonial-style bungalow at Lungleng village
[Fig. 2,  Khamliana poses outside his colonial-style bungalow at Lungleng village, n.d.,             http://eap.bl.uk/database/large_image.a4d?digrec=2113837;catid=183484;r=11478]

This idyllic ally Khamliana is also evident in the vernacular letter he wrote in 1897 to Kumpinu [‘Company Mother’ or Queen Victoria], a letter heralded as the first ever written by a Mizo. In it, Khamliana proudly informs the Empress of his intent to light patriotic bonfires all around his village on her birthday.  His tone is petitioning and deferential: ‘We will live on your kindness and take heed of your orders,’ he writes, ‘as for us we are less significant and smaller than even the ants to you.’[2] 

  Part of the letter
 [Fig. 3, Letter from Khamliana to Queen Victoria, 16 June 1897,                                        http://eap.bl.uk/database/large_image.a4d?digrec=2113528;catid=183611;r=29358]          

But pliable to the colonial authorities as he might have appeared, Khamliana was still playing a much older chiefly game.  Colonialism might have made some new rules, but he still strove to carve out and maintain familial status and honour.

Quick to learn and to exploit the potentials of the writing technology introduced more widely in the 1890s, Khamliana requests and keeps written character references from colonial officials, using these to secure positions for his sons. He fights for land rights. He invokes his father’s assistance to the Raj for special permission to keep guns.  He pens his own bonds of allegiance with Mizos, conscious of the potential for permanency inherent in the new technology (‘This agreement is a real one,’ records his pact with one Ralduha, and ‘must be kept as record for ever’).  He also maintains scrupulous (and apparently carefully concealed) financial records of vast wealth; in popular historical memory today, Khamliana drops off his first bank deposit via wheelbarrow, colonial officials’ mouths agape.

  Khamliana’s bungalow as it looks today.
[Fig. 4, Khamliana’s bungalow preserved in Lungleng, Mizoram; photographed by author in 2008, CC-BY.]

Indeed, Khamliana inherited his chieftainship from his father in a time when waves of chaos, war, and political upheaval were crashing over the hills.  In his attempt to stay afloat amidst such a turbulent political sea-change, he grasped the new technology of writing, deftly managed wealth, chose his own allegiances, wrung material benefits out of colonial authorities, and dispatched calculated messages of diplomacy even to the highest British Chieftainess. 

As Khamliana’s case shows, the EAP454 collection provides an opportunity to see the people of this upland region of India as complex, three-dimensional participants in their own histories rather than as the flat, supporting characters to colonial missionaries and officials.  There is a whole host ready to ride into the scene.  And at least one of them is pushing a cash-stuffed wheelbarrow.


Written by Kyle Jackson co-director of the 2011 EAP pilot project ‘Locating and surveying early religious and related records in Mizoram, India’.  He is a PhD candidate at the University of Warwick’s Centre for the History of Medicine where he is exploring histories of health, religion, and Christianization in colonial northeast India.


[1]      Lalhmingliani, ‘Khamliana’, Historical Journal Mizoram 12 (2011): 1-11.

[2]              Translated in P. Thirumal and C. Lalrozami, ‘On the discursive and material context of the first handwritten Lushai newspaper “Mizo Chanchin Laishuih”, 1898’,  Indian Economic & Social History Review 47.3 (2010), 377-403 (pp. 399).