To mark International Labour Day on Monday, I thought I would browse through two photographic collections where I knew there would be some great images of people at work. The first set of photographs is from Mongolia (EAP264). I could have picked so many, the themes range from working at the coalface, tanners, the clothing industry, shop assistants and perhaps my favourite which was taken inside a sausage factory. The second set was taken by Annemarie Heinrich (EAP755) and show people at work in Argentina. Here we have brick makers, greengrocers, sugar refinery workers, images of an abattoir and timber yard employees.
Both collections date roughly from the 1930s to the 1950s and are visually appealing, but it is clear that the work was physically demanding and often carried out in dangerous conditions. Do visit these collections for yourself and see what other gems you can discover.
EAP264/1/5/1 Ulaanbaatar’s power plant operation, auto mechanical shop as well as metal work
Last month we put four new collections online: EAP833, a private family archive from Serbia with many First World War records; EAP626, records relating to the Sierra Leone Government Railway; EAP609, Malay language records from Sri Lanka; EAP613, Armenian maps, periodicals and newspapers.
The Sierra Leone Government Railway was built in 1893 and changed the nature of society, enabling the transport of passengers and goods between the interior and the Freetown colony and port. At independence in 1961 the railway was well equipped and was a significant employer until its closure in 1975. Since this period much of the infrastructure and academic memory was lost, especially during the bloody civil war between 1991-2002. In 2005, shortly after the end of the civil war, the Sierra Leone government opened its National Railway Museum in Cline Town, a suburb of the capital Freetown, based around a collection of British built locomotives, carriages and wagons which had survived in the former railway workshops. A number of documents and images were found since the opening of the museum, and a significant amount of archival material was found inside some of the vehicles at the time when the museum was developed. However, the project team found that the vast majority of the railways’ records were destroyed in the 1970s following the closure of the network. Although there was less material than anticipated the significance far outweighs the quantity as this is the only material surviving in Sierra Leone that was generated by the railway itself. There are gate pass books, requisition slips for oil and two tally cards for drivers withdrawing oil, items which might be considered insignificant in a UK business archive, but these are the only source for names of railway drivers at this period and thus actually take on a greater significance in the context of the railway museum. There are also tickets, an instruction manual for the railway’s telegraphy system from 1946, and a few other forms, which show how the railway operated.
The majority of the records digitised come from the National Archives of Sierra Leone and include a series of files opened by the Colonial Secretary’s Office in 1929, and a small series of 19th century photographs. The 1929 files are particularly significant, as they suggest that a review of the railway was carried out, with renewal of track, attention paid to accommodation, some questions of pay and grading settled, and most significantly some services replaced by road bus, including the so-called ‘Mountain Railway’ which ran from Cotton Tree up to Hill Station. These experiments with bus services foreshadowed the closure of the network in the 1970s and its replacement by road transport. The records digitised will allow researchers to better understand the development of the railway and its impact on the history and development of the country.
This project aimed to digitise and preserve the valuable private archive and library collections owned by the Lazić family in Serbia who for six generations have collected important and rare material. Aleksandar Lazić (1846–1916) was the founder and the owner of the Library until 1910 when his son Luka Lazić (1876-1946) took over who enriched the collection with material documenting the Great War. He acquired much of the material in or around the battlefield and continued to purchase related material until his death in 1946. Along with his son and successor Milorad Lazić (1912–1977), he also accumulated a significant collection of law books, the majority of which were acquired between 1930-1950 and are crucial for theoretical and historical research of the Serbian state and law, and also help to document the changes in Serbian society. The collection has continued to be added to by subsequent members of the Lazić family who continue to care for this important archive.
Much of this material relating to the First World War is unique and not found in any other libraries or archives. The preservation of this material is essential as most was printed during the war and on foreign territory using low quality fragile paper and ink. The collection includes for example, Serbian newspapers printed in exile on Corfu and in Thessaloniki at the time of the First World War during the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Serbia. There are also copies of the rare confidential journal ‘Pregled Listova’, published in Geneva for members of the Serbian government in exile, and used to provide updates about the latest news from Serbs, their allies and enemies.
EAP833/1/2/1/2 - The Serbian Fatherland: a monthly magazine for Serbian youth in exile 
This project encompasses a range of materials written in the Malay language in Sri Lanka from around the mid-19th century to the late 20th century. 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 Malay Archipelago and Peninsula who were exiled to Sri Lanka by the Dutch as political exiles and convicts, or recruited as soldiers to colonial armies, both Dutch and at a later stage, British. Many of those designated as Malay were of Javanese or east Indonesian ancestry, and the early exiles included members of diverse local elites. Despite the distance from the Indonesian-Malay world the Sri Lankan community maintained a flourishing literary culture, with works that closely resemble those produced in the Malay “heartlands” as well as local creations. It includes manuscripts, printed books, prayer booklets, wedding invitations, personal letters, family records, poems and songs. These diverse materials testify to the variety of ways in which Malay was, and is used in Sri Lanka. The majority of older materials are Islamic in nature, including theological manuals, poems in praise of the Prophet, and tales and histories written in the hikayat genre. These are written in gundul (Malay-Arabic script) and/or Romanised Malay. The collection also includes modern examples of Malay written in the Tamil and Sinhala script, as well as older materials in Arabic and Arabu-Tamil owned by Malay families, testifying to the linguistic and orthographic diversity of the community's writing practices. The collection attests to the social and cultural aspects of the community’s life and allows for an expansion of the definitions of the ‘Malay World,’ and provides an insight into local forms of Islam.
This collection was first made available a year ago though it has recently had a large amount of new material added and is worth sharing again. The newer material can be found in the Fonds EAP613/2 and includes additional printed books, newspapers, journals and maps.
The project digitised maps and periodicals held in the collections of The National Library of Armenia (NLA), the largest repository of printed Armenian materials in the world. The first Armenian printed book 'Urbatagirk’ (Venice 1512), the first printed periodical 'Azdarar' (Madras 1794), the first printed Bible in Armenian (Amsterdam, 1666) and the first printed map 'Hamatarats Ashkharhatsuyts' (Amsterdam 1695) are some of the treasures preserved in the NLA. However, the storage conditions of NLA’s collections are poor and the material fragile. The fluctuation of temperature, level of humidity and the pollution level in the stacks remain uncontrolled throughout the different seasons and has resulted in paper deterioration and fungal contamination.
The project digitised over 60,000 pages, mainly of Armenian newspapers and journals, but also a small collection of maps dating from the 17th to 20th centuries. The newspapers and journals cover some important dates in Armenian and Soviet history and include interesting front page imagery on the dates of the 20th anniversary of the Russian revolution, and the death of Lenin, as just two examples.