Endangered archives blog

News about the projects saving vulnerable material from around the world

2 posts from September 2020

30 September 2020

New Collections Online - September 2020

As the UK transitions from summer to autumn, EAP continues to publish newly digitised content. So as autumn leaves drift by your window, why not let these digital collections keep your curiosity warm?

From religious and mathematical manuscripts in South Asia and West Africa to colonial administration in East Africa and slavery related records in the Caribbean, these recently published collections once again represent the wide breadth of material that has and continues to be digitised by EAP project teams all over the world.

EAP913 - Arabic manuscripts from the Yattara Family Library, Timbuktu, Mali

Three photos of the digitsation process

The Yattara family library is a private manuscript collection that has been developed over centuries by a prominent family from the Malian city of Timbuktu. It consists of approximately 4,000 largely uncatalogued manuscripts ranging from single folio letters and historical documents to 100+ folio texts from diverse fields of Islamic studies.

This pilot project aimed to orchestrate initial cataloguing and triage preservation for the collection and to digitise a representative sample of the library’s holdings. The project team digitised 50 manuscripts, which are now free to access on the EAP website.

Although the collection originates from Timbuktu,  the manuscripts themselves were widely traded and have likely been produced in various parts of the regions surrounding that historical centre of scholarship. Most of the works date from the late 18th to the early 20th century and show the varied nature of manufacture and preservation of manuscripts from this region.

Currently, the material is located in Bamako after the library was moved for protection when Timbuktu was occupied by jihadist insurgents in 2012.

EAP1013 - Wills, Deed Books, and Power of Attorney records from the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, St Vincent


This project sought to digitise documents relating to slavery and the immediate post-slavery era held at the Eastern Caribbean Courthouse, Kingstown, Saint Vincent. The digital collection includes:

Saint Vincent was an important sugar producing colony of the British Empire and the documents contain extensive information on land transactions, plantation ownership, testamentary practices, and slaveholding. These records are essential for investigation of slavery and plantation life on Saint Vincent and the post-slavery period from 1834 to 1865.

This pilot project was an extension of two previously completed investigations (EAP345 and EAP688) that digitised Deed Books for Saint Vincent.

EAP1063 - Mathematical Manuscripts from Pre-Modern India

Three photos of the digitsation process

This pilot project created a survey of historical Tamil and Malayalam language sources concerning mathematical practices among various occupations, communities, and institutions of teaching and learning. It digitised seven collections of manuscripts identified by the survey.

One surprising aspect of the survey was the large amount of manuscripts concerning architecture, which are often called the Manaiyadi Sastiram or Manai Alankaram and have hitherto received little attention from historians.

EAP1231 - District Administration Reports from the Colonial Territory Nyasaland (Malawi)

Image of the archive building and a digitised document
The National Archives of Malawi (left); EAP1231/1/4, Annual Report for Cholo District, 1934 (right)

This project digitised the annual reports produced by colonial administrators in the various districts of the Nyasaland [Malawi], between 1934-1935. These reports cover a wide range of topics including:

  • Agriculture
  • Cinema
  • Commerce
  • Crime
  • Education
  • Finance
  • Forestry
  • Health and Medicine
  • Industries
  • Land usage and boundaries
  • Law and legal affairs
  • Migration
  • Missionaries
  • Nature conservation
  • Weather

We will be publishing more digitised collections in the coming days, weeks, and months. To keep up-to-date, follow us on Twitter @bl_eap

03 September 2020

Apply for one of the 2021/22 Chevening British Library Fellowships and join the EAP team

Are you a citizen of Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Somaliland, or Yemen and currently living in one of these countries? Do you like the idea of living in London for a year and being one of two British Library Chevening Fellows during 2021/22? If you are, then read on…

Chevening is the UK government’s international awards programme aimed at developing global leaders. Chevening now has a well-established partnership with the British Library to offer two fellowships every year.

EAP is excited to announce that one of these fellowships will be focussing on a past project in Ethiopia that took place at the Sherif Harar City Museum and digitised Harari sound recordings.

As you will see from these pictures, the 225 cassettes and 80 reels have been lovingly and painstakingly cleaned, rehoused and digitised. The cataloguing of the content, however, is incomplete and needs someone with relevant experience and cultural understanding, to meaningfully enhance the catalogue entries. The aim of this fellowship is to open up of this important resource to researchers and Harari communities.

A slightly messy pile of cassettes and reels either loose or in cardboard boxes

Cleaning the surface of a reel to reel tape with a brush

Cutting the end of a reel to reel ribbon with a razor blade

A glass door cupboard showing the cassettes neatly arranged on shelves

The fellowship will be more than just cataloguing and the plan is for the successful candidate to carry out a small research project on the performers listed within the EAP project.

If you, or anyone you know, would be interested in applying, further information can be found on the Chevening website. The call for applications opens today (3 September 2020).

The very best of luck if you choose to apply and we look forward to meeting in person next year.