Endangered archives blog

News about the projects saving vulnerable material from around the world

23 March 2023

New online - March 2023

This month we would like to highlight five new collections that have recently been made available online. They have come from South Africa, India, Nepal and from Georgia.

The first project we would like to showcase is EAP1190. This was a completely new type of project for EAP. The archive consists of rare astronomical material from the Boyden Observatory, which is located near Bloemfontein, some 1,000 km from Cape Town. It is where the Centre for Astronomical Heritage NPC (CfAH) and the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) are located. The collection contains log books, meteorological records and much more, but it is the photographs of the night’s sky and astronomers at work that has caused a buzz within the EAP office and the examples below, will clearly show why we are all taken by this project’s outputs.

Black and white photograph depicting a lunar eclipse

EAP1190/1/7/5 Total lunar eclipse (1946 June 14)

Photograph of a man looking through the eyepiece of a telescope. He reclining in a chair

EAP1190/1/5/2 Solon Bailey with the 24-inch Bruce Telescope

The second project, EAP1296, was a further project conducted by Dr Shanker Thapa that focussed on Buddhist manuscripts from five private Vihāras (Buddhist monastery or temple) and Guṭhīs (a religious, community-led organisation) in the Kathmandu Valley. Many of the manuscripts are unknown to outsiders. Some of the earliest existing Sanskrit manuscripts are to be found in Nepal. This growing collection, held within private collections, is helping build a better understanding of the history of Buddhism.

Two pages of a Buddhist manuscript. On the top page there is an illustration of a diety in the centre.

EAP1296/1/1 The Buddhist Perfection of Wisdom Sutra

The first of the Indian projects that we would like to highlight this month, is EAP1300. It consists of Santali periodicals published between 1890 and 1975 in eastern India. Written practices in Santali were initiated by Christian missionaries in Eastern India during early 19th century in the form of printed periodicals. The topics within these publications cover linguistics, folklore, folk songs and specific cultural forms.

Cover page of the periodical. It shows to young Indian boys, one is holding a large cross.

EAP1300/1/1 Ḍhạrwạḱ

The other project from India, comes from northern Kerala and focussed on manuscripts in Mattool (EAP1390). The manuscripts and lithographs highlight the Malabari Islamic networks that have evolved over centuries of trade and cross-cultural exchange. Such as these two pages, from two manuscripts, one that deals with medicine, the other is a collection (majmūʻ) of devotional poems and prayers (mawlid).

A page in Arabic script, using both red and black ink

EAP1390/1/1 Kitāb al-Raḥmah fī al-Ṭīb wa-al-Ḥikmah

A printed page, with the Arabic script being within oval and circular lozenges.

EAP1390/1/4 Majmūʻ al-Mawlid

And finally, another project that shows the breadth of content the Programme supports, is this project based at the State Silk Museum in Georgia (EAP1306). The museum digitised a collection of photographs relating to silk production and again, hours could be spent browsing through these captivating photographs.

Three women in traditional long dresses and head scarves are spinning silk. Two stand and one is sitting on the floor.

EAP1306/1/5/1/1 Silk thread reeling (1898-1910)

A group of women are outside, standing and squatting. They are all involved with spinning silk.

EAP1306/1/5/1/6 Silk thread reeling (1895)