Endangered archives blog

News about the projects saving vulnerable material from around the world

2 posts from October 2018

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.

Staff Entrance at the British LibraryWelcome 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’. 

Djenne display along the second floor gallery.The 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.

Private opening of the Djenne display.Sophie 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.

Portrait of Rihana Suliman 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.

Map of Argentina.

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.

Portrait of Baron Maurice de 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.

Portrait of Dr Efraim Zadoff

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 - http://web.nli.org.il/sites/NLI/English/collections/personalsites/red-lajan/Pages/default.aspx), in connection with The National Library of Israel and CAHJP.