THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Endangered archives blog

2 posts from February 2019

15 February 2019

Introducing Sam van Schaik, the new head of the Endangered Archives Programme

With EAP entering its second phase last year, a new role was created for a head of the Programme. I began in this exciting new role earlier this month, and I thought it was about time to introduce myself here on the EAP website!

Portrait of Sam van Schaik

I have moved to the Endangered Archives Programme from a different, but not entirely dissimilar project at the British Library: the International Dunhuang Project (IDP). I started here in 1999, when I was in the final year of my doctorate on Tibetan Buddhism, working on a cataloguing and digitising over two thousand Tibetan wooden slips from the Silk Road at the same time as finishing my dissertation. A couple of years later, with that done and the dissertation finally finished, I embarked on a series of research projects, on Tibetan tantric Buddhism, the palaeography of Tibetan manuscripts, and the lost tradition of Tibetan Zen. Most recently before I moved to EAP, I was a principal investigator on a major synergy project funded by the European Research Council, 'Beyond Boundaries: Religion, Region, Language and the State', tracing the impacts of Indic culture on Southeast Asia, Central Asia and China in the first millennium CE.

In IDP we worked towards digitally reuniting the Silk Road collections of the British Library with those in other museums and libraries across the world. The challenge was for institutions in Europe, Russia, China and Japan to work together, harmonising their digitisation and cataloguing work so that these dispersed collections could be accessed from a single website. And thanks to dedicated curators, researchers and technicians in all of these places, it worked. The website (idp.bl.uk) gives access to manuscripts, paintings and other artefacts from across the world. This global partnership, one of the most successful and long running international digital collaborations, continues today.

These projects have given me fantastic opportunities to work with the manuscript collections at the British Library as a curator and researcher, to travel to other museums and libraries in Europe, Asia and Russia, and to write and publish on Buddhism, the history of the Silk Road and the study of manuscripts. Being able to work with these incredible collections and their dedicated curators has always been a privilege. In recent years I've also written some books for a wider audience, including Tibet: A History (2012) and The Spirit of Tibetan Buddhism (2016).

Moving to the Endangered Archives Programme, some things are familiar, most of all the commitment to preserving and making available global sources of culture and learning. Both Arcadia and the British Library are committed to open access and the widest possible dissemination of the results of EAP projects. This means making everything not only available, but easily discoverable in a variety of ways, for different kinds of of people with different needs and interests. With over 350 projects in 90 countries, EAP is a vast network, which is complemented by the work of other Arcadia-funded programmes, including the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (SOAS), the Endangered Material Knowledge Programme (British Museum), and Documenting Global Voices (UCLA).

Over the years I've heard from recipients of EAP grants about how valuable the support of EAP had been, and how pleasant they found working with the Programme. Now, as the detailed applications for round 15 of EAP are arriving, I am seeing the process from the other side, and I am even more impressed by the EAP team at the British Library and looking forward to working with them as the adventure continues.

Blog written by Sam van Schaik

08 February 2019

Let's rescue and disseminate the Chilean public education archives

The School Archives Programme at the Institute of History of the Pontificia Universidad Cat√≥lica de Chile is convinced of the value of historical documents created by Chilean public educational institutions. 

Founded during the nineteenth century as key institutions throughout the country, these secondary schools contain valuable and unpublished information concerning the local communities of the former Chilean provinces. Enrolment Records, Director's Correspondence, Subjects Taught, Teacher Council Minutes, Exam Proceedings, Punishment Books, Inventories, and other records will be digitised during 2019. Eight lyc√©es of national importance in five regions have agreed to take part in EAP1065. The educational institutions - known as 'liceos' that are taking part are: Gabriela Mistral (La Serena), Alejandro √Ālvarez (Ovalle), Technological Alfredo Nazar Feres (Valpara√≠so), √ďscar Castro (Rancagua), Luis Urbina F. (Rengo), Neandro Schilling (SanFernando), Abate Molina (Talca) and Enrique Molina G. (Concepci√≥n).

Meanwhile, we hope to encourage other institutions to get on board. Archives are often forgotten and neglected, sometimes at risk because of fire, earthquakes or floods. When these documents are valued, they take on new life and meaning thanks to rescue initiatives, organisation and dissemination activities proposed by the school communities themselves. These communities have taken into account the potential that these documents are fundamental resources for education, memory, identity and citizenship.

Browsing through the shelves of a school library

In this way, and together with the School Archives Programme, numerous workshops, seminars, training courses and various projects that bring together university academics, school teachers and students with professionals from various disciplines working collaboratively have taken place between 2010 and 2018.

This material is not just for the study of the history of education, we also appreciate the importance they have for understanding of cultural and social history of the localities that keep them. Likewise, they are a source of great interest for diverse and innovative didactic applications that contribute to forming methodological competences among students.

Peering into a glass cabinet that contains archival material. School trophies line the top of the cabinet

The goal is to develop and constitute a national network to which institutions and initiatives can be added in the three lines of work proposed by the School Archives Programme:
1. Archives and Heritage; 2. Pedagogical mediation; 3. Impact assessment on literacy and historical awareness.

Setting up the digitisation studio

 

Blog written by Rodrigo Sandoval grant holder for EAP1065