THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Endangered archives blog

59 posts categorized "Africa"

17 September 2019

Preserving pious print - the Maalim Muhammad Idris Collection, Zanzibar.

Add comment

EAP1114 digitised a collection of print and manuscript Islamic material deriving from the collection of the late imam and teacher, Maalim Muhammad Idris – known locally as Maalim Idris. As a collector, Maalim  Idris himself was concerned that the Muslim intellectual and scriptural heritage of Zanzibar – and the wider Swahili coast – was deteriorating to the point of being lost. The result would be, according to him, new generations unable to access their heritage, whether from the point of view of historical interest or for religious learning. Maalim Idris was also very aware of the irony that while Zanzibar as a world heritage site was being lauded for its outstanding architecture, its actual history in the form of books, manuscripts and papers were of less concern to international conservation efforts.

The team around the digitisation studio
The end of EAP1114 was marked with a workshop held in Zanzibar on July 2-3rd. Here, scholars and stakeholders shared their experiences from very similar situations in Harar (Ethiopia), Lamu (Kenya), and northern Mozambique (Cabo Delgado and Nampula provinces.) Some of the collections presented at the workshop were previously part of EAP projects, including EAP466 (Riyadha Manuscript Collection, Lamu) and EAP602 (Audio Recordings, Sherif Harar City Museum). These collections have very different biographies, being both organic results of a particular mosque, or the results of deliberate efforts to preserve textual material. Some are still part of functional institutions, while others are today mainly kept as heritage. The EAP PowerPoint presentation at the workshop
Over the two days, participants discussed the challenges to, and possibilities for, a more integrated view of heritage that also includes the Muslim traditions of the region. Here, we would like to share some of the insights from our discussions, and point to a number of recommendations garnered from our deliberations. The audience sitting and listening to the presentation.

A regional tradition – a regional approach

The traditional Islamic scholarly centres – from Harar in the north to Ilha de Mozambique in the south – are very much part of the same tradition. The collections hold numerous copies of the same texts, including legal, linguistic and devotional materials. There are, of course, also notable differences, which indicate the evolution of specific, local traditions, often formulated in ajami (local languages in Arabic writing). But texts are also tied to practice. Teaching styles, ritual performance and localized understandings of the faith, can all be discerned from the texts a given community collected or produced. Any conservation effort – physical or digital – should take this into account. These collections, as a whole, are testimony to the Eastern African style of collection, conservation, teaching and knowledge production. However, they are also how people live and practice their religion.

The collections also face much of the same challenges. Climatic challenges include high humidity, fungus and insects, dust and flooding. In some areas, notably Lamu, there have been security concerns, with raids by the Somali al-Shabab on more than one occasion. In others, notably northern Mozambique but also elsewhere, there is a significant ideological challenge, due to the rise of Wahhabi-oriented groups that see little or no value in the “superstitions” of the past. A challenge common to all the collections is the inability of traditional custodians (mosques, individuals or community groups) to provide adequate security for the collections – let alone proper conservation. In some instances, collaboration with national institutions (archives, museums) is well-established and functioning–such as Lamu; in other cases–Zanzibar–less so. Even in the best of scenarios, the capacity of national institutions is limited, and often dependent on donor projects to preserve their own collections. Several workshop participants noted that inheritance issues; lack of institutional plans for transmission from one generation to the next and; the lack of resources makes the situation even more perilous. The rise of new teaching methods (online academies, modern PDF format textbooks) have also proved a challenge to the conservation of paper material). Finally, the illegal purchasing of manuscripts erodes the material.

What can be done on a regional level?

While we readily find commonalities among collections and the challenges they face, a regional approach to addressing these is harder to achieve. National institutions work within their own domestic strategies, and local custodians within their own resource- or sociopolitical limitations. However, below are some steps that may ensure a better prospect for this rich heritage:

The creation of an archival map

Even in historical centres like the Lamu and Zanzibar archipelagoes, there is to date no integrated overview of Islamic scriptural heritage under private ownership (i.e. mosques, families or with individuals). So, our knowledge of what actually exists, is fragmentary at best. The Zanzibar Institute of Archives and Records are currently starting an “archival mapping” process in the archipelago.

Improved partnerships between private custodians and branches of state institutions

Given that mosques and traditional teaching institutions remain custodians of much of this material, they are also subject to the challenges of poor funding, generational transitions and the rise of “new Ulama”. This can be mitigated through collaboration with local branches of national heritage institutions, whereby material may be deposited for conservation and safekeeping when needed. This may in itself also raise awareness of the value of the material qua heritage, and as such mitigate the ideological issues.

Material having arrived and is in piles waiting to be sorted.

Conservation efforts – digital and physical

The benefits of digitizing local endangered collections are numerous. In addition, to saving–at least in some format–materials that would otherwise be lost, digitization projects like the EAP raise the profile of such collections especially amongst local stakeholders. Ideally, they also improve access not only for the international scholarly community but for those living in the locales where they reside.  However, there are also downsides. Digitising is an option that provides access and raises awareness, but it does not solve the longer-term questions of the lives of collections. Digitising should not be confused with conservation, as digital images are really only proxies that do nothing to preserve the original material. Furthermore, while the digital format theoretically provides greater access by members of the local community, internet access and bandwidth continue to be issues. The latter may be solved by providing low-res solutions such as apps for smartphones that can allow easy access via local wifi. The former, however as many participants pointed out, continues to be an issue that cannot be addressed by digitization alone. They thus advocated for the need to begin to couple conservation efforts with digital preservation.

Two team members wearing Team EAP1114 Zanzibar T Shirts  looking at a laptop

Awareness-raising – suggestions

The link between text and performance is one potential avenue for awareness-raising. Texts like the Mawlid Barzanji or the Qasidat al-Burda are found in all locations, but are performed with slight variations. Placing these variations on display is one way of raising awareness also on the performative aspect. This could be both live and on platforms like YouTube etc. Workshops should be held that include relevant regional heritage institutions (archives and museums) and custodians. Such short courses might focus on the training of local custodians (religious leaders, family members) in some of the most basic and low cost elements of textual conservation such as cleaning and pest remediation.

EAP1114 team

Salum Suleiman, Director, Zanzibar Institute of Archives and Records; Omar Shehe Khamis, Head of Oral History Unit,  Zanzibar Institute of Archives and Records; Saleh Muhammed Idris, Comorian Association, Zanzibar; Hassan Muhammad Kawo, PhD Candidate, Addis Abeba University/University of Cape Town; Chapane Mutiua, PhD Candidate; Eduardo Mondlane University/Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, Hamburg University; Aydaroos Muhsin Jamal al-Layl, Former participant on EAP466 and MA Candidate, Nairobi University; Ahmed Yaqoub Almaazmi, PhD Candidate, Princeton University; Hemed Ali Al Ruwehy, Chief Engineer, Bergen University Library; Scott Reese, Professor, Northern Arizona University; Anne K. Bang, Professor, University of Bergen

19 June 2019

New collections online - June 2019

Add comment

Over the past few months we have made six new projects available to view online through our website. These new collections demonstrate the diverse variety of archives the EAP digitises, and includes eighteenth-century Brazilian royal orders, artwork and photography by Lalit Mohan Sen, colonial archives, Coptic manuscripts and prayer scrolls, war photography, and historic newspapers.

EAP627 - Digitising endangered seventeenth to nineteenth century secular and ecclesiastical sources in São João do Carirí e João Pessoa, Paraíba, Brazil

Open page of a fragile manuscript with parts of the page corroded awayEAP627/1/1/1 - Book 1: Baptisms, Marriages, and Deaths (1752-1808) / Livro 1 Batizados, casamengtos e óbitos anos de 1752 a 1808

The aim of EAP627 was to digitise the oldest historical documents in the state of Paraíba, Brazil (located in the semi-arid hinterlands and on the humid coastline). The project team successfully digitised 266 historical documents, ranging from 1660 to 1931 and their digitisation resulted in c. 83,000 TIFF images being created. It includes the entire collection of ecclesiastical documents at Paróquia de Nossa Senhora dos Milagres do São João do Cariri (comprised of 54 volumes produced between 1752 and 1931). During digitisation, the team uncovered the original, signed Constitution of Paraíba of 1891 – the first constitution of this state after Brazil was declared a republic in 1889. To the best of their knowledge and research, the project team believes this is the only existing copy of the document. The digital preservation of these documents have already contributed to shifting the historical narrative of the state’s back lands, and will ensure the ongoing possibility of study in the history of Paraíba’s Afro-Brazilian, indigenous, and mestiço populations.

EAP781 - Santipur and its neighbourhood: text and image production history from early modern Bengal through public and private collections

Drawing of a woman wearing a sariEAP781/1/7/1 - Photographs and artwork by Lalitmohan Sen

This was a continuation of EAP643, an earlier pilot project. The project team were able to digitise almost all the records discovered in the pilot. The collection includes 1265 manuscripts from Santipur Bangiya Puran Parishad, 78 bound volumes from Santipur Municipality, and 510 images of Lalit Mohan Sen’s artwork and photography.  Some of Sen’s work can be seen in this previous EAP blog post.

EAP820 - Documenting Slavery and Emancipation in Kita, Western Mali

Single page with the upper left corner torn and missingEAP820/1/1/3/1 - Compte-rendu d’une tournée de recensement dans le Birgo 1899 (Report of a census tour)

Kita is an important site in the history of rural slave emancipation in Western Mali (occurring at the turn of the twentieth century). It hosted the highest number of ‘Liberty villages’ (17 in total) following the French conquest (Western Mali was the first region of today’s Mali to be colonised by the French from the 1890s). Liberty villages hosted the slaves of the defeated enemies of the French army. The project team captured this specific history of slavery and emancipation in Kita through digitised reports, correspondence and court registers held in the Cercle archives of Kita. The collection is extensive, ancient and rare in its content, and is of great scholarly significance.

EAP823 - Digitisation and preservation of the manuscript collection at the Monastery of St Saviour in Old Jerusalem

Page of an illustrated manuscript with Arabic writingEAP823/1/2/25 - Risālat al-ḣajj min Al-Ḣasan al-Baṡrī - Trakt on the pilgrimage and its benefits by Ḣasan al-Baṡrī

Page of a manuscript written in GreekEAP823/1/3/1 - Šarakan

The objective of this project was to digitise and make widely available the manuscripts at the Franciscan monastery of St Saviour in the Old City of Jerusalem. The collection dates from the 12th to the 20th century, and is written in seventeen languages: Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Classical Ethiopic, Coptic (Bohairic & Sahidic), English, French, Old German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Samaritan, Spanish, Syriac and Turkish. The digitised material is remarkably diverse and is a valuable resource for scholars interested in Christian, Islamic and Jewish traditions, as well as to linguists and philologists, art historians, and musicologists. The texts contain theological and philosophical treatises, biblical and liturgical books, dictionaries, profane and religious poetry, collections of sermons, pilgrim accounts, and also cooking recipes and magic prayers. Among the books are also rare items, for instance texts written in Armenian and Arabic scripts but in Turkish language, and the fragments of Byzantine manuscripts used for the flyleaves in bindings. A special group is made up by large size liturgical books with musical notations, produced for monastic choirs, as well as precious volumes lavishly decorated and illuminated with miniatures, initials and aniconic ornamentation. Research material of particular value consists of a variety of book covers (leather, textile, metal, decorative cardboards etc.) representing diverse binding methods.

Narrow Ethiopic manuscript with illustrationEAP823/1/1/11 - Prayer scroll

EAP894 - Endangered photographic collections about the participation of pre-industrial Bulgaria in three wars in the beginning of the 20th century

Photograph of womenEAP894/1/24 - Single and group photographs of Rada Bozhinova (Box 24)

Photograph of an interior, possibly a dining roomEAP894/1/15 - Scenes from urban and rural life (Box 15)

The EAP894 project team digitised two collections of photographs (and other records) from the pre-industrial development era of Bulgaria, covering the period 1880-1930. Colonel Petar Darvingov, the Chief of Staff of the Bulgarian Army and a commander of the occupation corps in Moravia (now the Czech Republic and Serbia) created the first collection. He captured moments of military action in the Balkans and Central Europe across three wars: the Balkan War, the Second Balkan War, and World War I. Within the collection are a large volume of photos from different fronts – positional photos of infantry and artillery units, fighting marches, frontline parades and prayers, aviation and motorized units, moments from tactical exercises, building of trenches, laying of roads and telephone wires, views of settlements, etc. Preserved are also the portraits, both group and individual, of the entire command staff of the Bulgarian army during the wars. The photographs record not only the military life at the front, but also at the rear – the camps and bivouacs, clothing, supplies, military equipment and everyday life of the Bulgarian soldier. Many of the backs of the photos have explanatory notes about specific events and characters. They include initiations, names and occasionally short biographical data on individual persons etc. The collection also includes military business cards with author´s notes, operational sketches of battlefields, sketches of the Bulgarian headquarters where the Serbian and Bulgarian troops were positioned during the Balkan Wars, stories of warfare during World War I, and sketches of military sites.

The second collection contains photos, cartoons and caricatures created by the renowned artist and photographer Aleksandar Bozhinov. He was one of the first significant cartoonists of the 20th century and a war correspondent. He documented military positions and the social life in the Balkan villages and towns in the time of war – daily life, work, calendar and festive rituals. The sketches and caricatures in the collection are both the originals and those published in albums and newspapers from the early 20th century. Copies of the Bulgarian comic newspaper (authored by Aleksandar Bozhinov) are also preserved in this collection.

EAP1086 - Preserving and digitising the historic newspaper, The Barbados Mercury Gazette

Front page of the Barbados Mercury dated Saturday, April 5, 1783EAP1086/1/1/1/1 - The Barbados Mercury. 5 April 1783

This project digitised the Barbados Mercury and Bridgetown Gazette, a newspaper printed in Barbados from 1783 to 1839. The Gazette was printed biweekly and each issue was four pages long. It is the most complete set of the Gazette and the only copies known to exist. The newspaper is crucial for understanding Barbados’ 18th and 19th century history, particularly because these were formative years for the island. The newspaper sheds light on the everyday life of a slaveholding society; Bussa’s 1816 rebellion; and the events that led to the abolition of the slavery on the island (1834). Digitisation of the newspaper offers the opportunity to unearth an untold history of the enslaved people of the island and their resistance in the early nineteenth century. EAP1086 was a collaborative effort between a team of practitioners and scholars, based both in Barbados and abroad. At the end of the project around 2,331 issues were digitised with around 9,000 digital images in total.

 

Written by Alyssa Ali, EAP Apprentice

07 June 2019

United National Independence Party of Zambia Archive Online

Add comment

International Archives Day is celebrated annually on the 9 June – and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to give an update on the archives of the United National Independence Party of Zambia (EAP121), a project that was funded in 2007.

The front of the bungalow where the archives are housed

The original records are still housed at the archives of UNIP

I think it is safe to say, that not a single month goes by without a request for access to this collection. It is a vital political archive and a key to understanding the struggle for self-governance in Zambia and its ruling party after independence in 1964. However, it is more broadly a primary source for all historians working on modern Zambia and neighbouring countries.

Unfortunately, because we did not know whether the material contained information about living individuals, we had taken the precautionary step of saying the archive could only be made available on site within one of the British Library’s reading rooms.

Inside the bungalow with boxes of archives on metal shelving

Inside the archive, with a bust of Dr Kenneth Kaunda, the first President of Zambia (from 1964 to 1991) and the nationalist leader Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula

We consulted researchers who had viewed the material as well as the Library’s Compliance Manager to get current advice on the Data Protection Act 2018. It became obvious that there was no sensitive material held within the files and that none of the material would be ‘likely to cause substantial damage or substantial distress to a data subject’ (section 19 of the Data Protection Act 2018). We therefore made the decision to make the entire United National Independence Party of Zambia collection available online. This now means that you can browse the 3,000 plus files from the comfort of your home or office rather than having to travel to London or Lusaka to visit the archives in person.

A page from the archive

To browse the collection, please visit the EAP webite.

 

08 January 2019

In Celebration of Djenné

Add comment

During the last part of 2018 two identical photographic exhibitions celebrating the involvement of the Endangered Archives Programme with the manuscripts of Djenné, Mali have been mounted. The first of these, named : ‘Beyond Timbuktu, the manuscripts of Djenné’ had its opening on the 27th of September with a glittering private view at the British Library with addresses by Lisbet Rausing, the Trustee and Founder of Arcadia, which funds the Endangered Archives Programme, as well as by H.E. Cat Evans, the British Ambassador to Mali ; Roly Keating, the Chief Executive of the British Library and Sophie Sarin, who has co-ordinated the Djenné Library’s four consecutive EAP projects since 2009. These projects have resulted in a treasure trove of around 400,000 images of the Arabic manuscripts of Djenné, which are now available on-line.

Roly Keating giving his speech, Lisbet Rausing and Sophie Sarin stand nearby

Speeches at the opening in London

The reception at the opening of the Djenne display

The private view in London

Since it was unfortunately not possible to bring the Djenné team to London, it was decided that the exhibition should be duplicated and shown in Bamako. Djenné itself is now considered too dangerous because of the deteriorating security situation. A hard drive containing the digitised Djenné manuscript images of the first project EAP488 had already been delivered to the Archives Nationales in Bamako in a ceremony in 2013, attended by the then British Ambassador Philip Boyle. The last hard drives containing the EAP projects EAP690 and EAP879 needed to be delivered and at the same time a final ceremony /celebration for the projects seemed a suitable way to end a long and fruitful collaboration . It was therefore decided that the handing over ceremony of these last hard drives should take place at the same time as the opening of the concurrent Djenné photographic exhibition. This took place on the 7th of December.

The photographs are a mixture of images from the manuscripts in the EAP digitised collection and pictures taken by different photographers of the island city of Djenné, which enjoys UNESCO World Heritage status celebrating its monumental mud architecture with its crowning glory the Great Mosque. The pictures were expertly printed and mounted by La Maison Africaine de la Photographie, an institution connected to the Ministry of Culture which has plenty of experience in mounting exhibitions in this country, which is rightly proud of its star-studded photographic heritage featuring names such as Malick Sidibe and Seydou Keita.

An additional attraction to the exhibition display on the morning of the ceremony in Bamako was a 3-D display called a ‘Google experience’, which showed images of Djenné and the library with the aid of cardboard 3-D viewers in combination with smart phones. This feature was supplied courtesy of http://www.4dheritage.com

Someone clearly thrilled at experiencing 3-D

Captivated by a virtual tour of Djenné

The 7th of December was a Friday- this is always a half-day in Bamako as everyone is intent on going to Friday Prayers at the Mosque. The ceremony was therefore scheduled to start early enough with the guests being seated by 9.30, since Malian official events are always very tied to protocol and the longer the list of illustrous guests, the longer the introductions to each of the speeches must become, since protocol demands that every VIP is greeted individually by every person giving a speech. The list of VIPs who would be present kept changing in the 24 hours before the event and at one point it included one ex- President ; the First Lady of Mali ; three ministers as well as four ambassadors. Therefore the Archives Nationales underwent a hasty and much- needed clean-up and face-lift.

Cleaning windows

Preparations for the National Archives ceremony in Bamako

Preparing for the VIPs

However, the list of VIP’s had eventually shrunk to a more manageable size comprising one minister (Madame Sanogo, Secretaire Generale du Gouvernement) who presided ; 3 ambassadors (South Africa, Sweden and UK) and the Honorary Malian consul to the UK Mark Saade who had flown out especially for the event.

A short film in French had been produced on the evening of the British Library’s private view, which included a greeting to the people of Djenné and Library team by Sophie Sarin and Kolado Landoure, from a well known Djenné family greeting his townsmen in Saurai ; addresses by Mark Saade and by Dr Marion Wallace, Lead Curator of African collections at the British Library. This film was shown during Sophie Sarin’s short address.

Showing a video of Sophie's speech in London

Showing the film at the ceremony, Bamako

The British ambassador Cat Evans once more graced the proceedings and addressed the assembly as did Hasseye Traore, the President of the Djenné Manuscript Library who raised the important matter of the future funding of the Library since the projects have now come to an end. He spoke in Bambara with interpretation from the MC Mamadou Samake, who worked for many years on the Djenné Projects. Finally the Minister Madame Sanogo brought things to a close, and people were about to go for refreshments and to view the exhibition when one last dramatic incident threatened to derail the entire ceremony.

The Djenné projects have, from the very beginning, had a small but powerful group of detractors in Djenné, at first led by the late Imam Korobara, and lately by the new traditional village chief of Djenné. The latter has done all in his power to get the EAP projects closed and with them the library itself, including going to see the Minister of Culture and UNESCO to complain and to insinuate that the British Library’s EAP projects are illegal. Having investigated the situation, the Minister of Culture then sent a letter to the village chief, which was leaked to anyone who was somehow concerned in the affair. This letter stated that the digitisation of manuscripts was a legal act as long as the manuscript owners agreed to it and that the Ministry of Culture warmly encouraged the digitisation of the Djenné manuscript. Everyone now thought this problem had finally disappeared.

However, on the morning of the ceremony, one of the first guests to arrive was the Djenné village chief. He took his seat and bided his time. After Madame Sanogo’s final speech wrapping up the procedings he stood up and indicated that he wanted to say something. Of course he was given the opportunity to speak. Mamadou Samake the MC went over with the microphone and the village chief started to voice his by now well-known discontent in Bambara. After a short while, and before Samake had time to interpret, Madame Sanogo whispered something in the ear of her assistant who went over to Samake and passed on the message. What followed was a remarkably graceful manoevre when Samake politely said thank you to the village chief, removed the microphone and ‘interpreted’ the following "For Your Excellences the ambassadors who may not speak Bambara, The village chief is expressing how very thrilled he is to be here at this ceremony and he is congratualting the Djenné Manuscript Library on the wonderful work they have done !"

The assembled guest then went to look at the exhibition and enjoy their refreshments, and the ceremony and celebration of Djenné came to a happy conclusion.

Guests touring the display in Bamako

Looking at the images on display in Bamako

Image 9 resize

Blog written by Sophie Sarin, grant holder for the projects in Djenné 

Photographs of Bamako opening: © Souleyman Bathieno

 

 

14 November 2018

Mandinka Ajami and Arabic Manuscripts of Casamance, Senegal

Add comment

This a wonderful blog written by Eleni Castro, OpenBU & ETD Program Librarian at Boston University as well as Project Technical Lead for EAP1042.

This October we presented a poster entitled, “Digital Preservation of Mandinka Ajami Materials of Senegal” at FORCE2018 (Montreal, Canada), which is an annual conference on making research and scholarship more broadly and openly available. This poster provided a project overview and update on the work we have been doing for EAP 1042 - an international research collaboration between Boston University, the West African Research Center, and local experts in Senegal, which involves visiting manuscript owners in the Casamance region of Senegal to work with them to digitally preserve and make more broadly available manuscripts written in Arabic and Mandinka Ajami (Mandinka using Arabic script) from their personal libraries.

In January 2018, we gave a three day digital preservation workshop at the West African Research Center (WARC) in Dakar, and shortly thereafter went to Ziguinchor to begin our digitisation field work. Overall, the team is spending 15 months 1) interviewing manuscript owners and digitising rare manuscripts from Ziguinchor, Kolda, and Sédhiou, 2) curating and post-processing over 14,000 digital images, and 3) depositing three independent copies at: WARC in Dakar, the British Library, and Boston University’s African Ajami Library on OpenBU. At the time of writing, we have digitised over 10,000 Arabic and Mandinka Ajami manuscript pages (some bilingual).

Group photograph in front of the West African Research Center in Dakar

Digitisation Workshop team at the West African Research Center in Dakar, Senegal (Jan. 2018)

Dr. Fallou Ngom, looking over manuscripts with manuscript owner, El-hadji Lamine Bayo

Project PI, Dr. Fallou Ngom, looking over manuscripts with manuscript owner, El-hadji Lamine Bayo

Photographing manuscripts from the Abdou Khadre Cisse collection

Ibrahima Ngom (photographer) and Ablaye Diakité (local project manager) photographing manuscripts from the Abdou Khadre Cisse collection (Jan. 2018)

Interviewing manuscript owner Abdou Khadre Cisse

Ibrahima Yaffa interviewing manuscript owner Abdou Khadre Cisse and his brother Cherif Cisse. Filmed by project photographer, Ibrahima Ngom

As we began our digitisation, we noticed that there was a large number of bilingual manuscripts written in both Arabic and Mandinka Ajami, which is very different from the mostly unilingual Wolof Ajami manuscripts digitised in EAP 334. The genres and subject matter found in these works varied widely, from religious to secular topics, such as: astrology, poetry, divination, Islamic education, jurisprudence, Sufism, code of ethics, translations & commentaries of the Quran and Islamic texts from Arabic into Mandinka, stories about Mandinka leaders and important historical figures (including women), records of important local events such as the founding of villages, ancestral traditions, and Mandinka social institutions.

Manuscript page.

Manuscript of a long form poem praising the Prophet Muhammad, written in Arabic with marginalia in Arabic and some Mandinka Ajami (Abdou Khadre Cisse Collection)

Manuscript page.

Mandinka healing document (Abdou Karim Thiam Collection)

Manuscript page held up to the sunlight to reveal the watermarks.

19th Century watermark found in Biniiboo manuscript (Abdou Khadre Cisse Collection)

Since we are working in remote areas, with non-studio conditions, we encountered some technical issues early on. Finding the right lighting has been an ongoing challenge, since our time in the homes of manuscript owners is precious and limited, and so we have had to work with available light and the help of a macro ring flash. Our camera overheats after +1h of continuous use, but we found that by replacing an extra hot battery with a cooler one, helps us resume digitisation much faster. Since we have a geographically dispersed team, we have setup a communication channel via WhatsApp, and upload files on Google Drive for backup and review as soon as a new collection is being worked on. Internet speeds can be quite slow when sending these large raw image files, but a mobile hotspot modem has helped with internet access while working in the field.

While we will be wrapping up digitisation and curation of these manuscripts by April 2019, there is still more work to be done to help researchers more effectively study and explore these materials. We will be looking into using a IIIF image viewer for scholars to better be able to compare various manuscripts and annotate them. Transcription is a longer term goal, since more unicode work is needed to extend Arabic script characters for African Ajami manuscripts to be full-text searchable in their actual languages.

24 September 2018

Call for applications now open

Add comment

Do you know of any collections that are currently at risk and need preserving? The Endangered Archives Programme is now accepting preliminary applications for the next annual funding round – the deadline for submission of preliminary applications is 12 noon 19 November 2018 and full details of the application procedures and documentation are available on the EAP website.

David LaFevor standing next to a tripod and digitising while in Cuba,Digitising in Cuba

The Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) has been running at the British Library since 2004 through funding by Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, with the aim of preserving rare vulnerable archival material around the world. The Programme awards grants to relocate the material to a safe local archival home where possible, to digitise it, and to deposit copies with local archival partners and with the British Library. These digital collections are then available for researchers to access freely through the British Library website or by visiting the local archives. The Programme has funded over 350 projects in 90 countries world-wide and has helped to preserve manuscripts, rare printed books, newspapers and periodicals, audio and audio-visual materials, photographs and temple murals.

There three main types of grant:

  • Pilot projects investigate the potential for and/or feasibility of a major grant. A pilot can also be a small digitisation project. They should last for no more than 12 months and have a budget limit of £15,000.
  • Major projects gather and copy material. This type of grant may also relocate the material to a more secure location/institution within the country. These projects usually last 12 months, or up to 24 months and have a budget limit of £60,000.
  • Area grants will be awarded for larger scale projects. They are similar to a major grant, but larger in scale and ambition. Applicants must demonstrate an outstanding track record of archival preservation work and be associated with an institution that has the capacity to facilitate a large-scale project. The EAP will only award a maximum of two area grants in each funding round. They can last for up to 24 months and have a budget limit of £150,000.

A further type of grant will be introduced in 2019:

  • Rapid-response grants can be used to safeguard an archive which is in immediate and severe danger. These grants are intended for the most urgent situations where a delay in the decision process could result in extensive damage to the material. These grants are not subject to the time restrictions of the yearly EAP funding cycle and can be applied for at any time. They must last for less than 12 months and have a budget limit of £15,000.

If you know of an archive in a region of the world were resources are limited, we really hope you will apply. If you have any questions regarding the conditions of award or the application process, do email us at endangeredarchives@bl.uk

13 August 2018

Football in the Endangered Archives

Add comment

As the English football season has just begun, I thought I would have a look to see what we have in the collections that was football related. When you have a collection of over 6.5 million images it's hard to keep track of what's actually in the archive. With the old EAP online platform, it would have been quite a frustrating experience. You would have had to search the Library’s Archives and Manuscripts catalogue first and then try to find the relevant image on our website, sometimes having to scroll through hundreds of other images first before finding the desired one. With the ability to now search directly from our website, you can easily find related images, however it does highlight the need for good quality metadata. These images are only discoverable if someone has been able to describe them properly, adding keywords and other relevant information that researchers may look for.

With this in mind, I searched for football, soccer, futbol etc., and was pleasantly surprised to find many great photographs I thought were worth sharing. Most of the images come from the Haynes Publishing Company Archive in Argentina, with others from Bulgaria, Cameroon, Guatemala, India, and Mali, truly showing the global appeal of the sport. The Argentinian ones in particular are quite spectacular and give an idea of the popularity of the game in the country! There are images of spectators crammed into stadiums, and others show fans being dangerously hoisted up the outer wall of the stadium in a desperate attempt to watch the game. As always, follow the links to see the full size versions and discover what else is in the archive.

CrowdsEAP375 - Crowds watching games in Argentina

  Crowds2

  EAP375_1_1_110-375_F00007_0110_0124_L

EAP375 - Supporters trying to get a better view

Sneaking inEAP375/1/1/110 - Sneaking in to watch Argentina play Uruguay. Argentina won 3-0. 15 August 1935

  EAP054_1_89-dvd132_069_LEAP054/1/89 - Mid-action shot. Jacques Touselle photographs. Cameroon

EAP054_1_138-dvd109_074_LEAP054/1/138. Jacques Touselle photographs. Cameroon

EAP165_1_9-165_YASNORIE_P09_027_LEAP165/1/9. Guatemala

  EAP165_1_9-165_YASNORIE_P09_002_LEAP165/1/9. Guatemala

EAP166_2_1_11-EAP166_MPP_1921-22_346_LEAP166/2/1/11 - HMS Renown football team, 1921-1922. Visit to India, Nepal and the far east of HRH the Prince of Wales

EAP449_2_22_Pt_1-EAP449_Jan-60_16129_LEAP449/2/22 - Photographic Archives of Abdourahmane Sakaly. Mali.

EAP737_4_3_1-EAP_737_Coll4_E_GP_B01_281_LEAP737/4/3/1 - Alagappa College of Physical Education football team, 1958. Karaikudi

EAP675-4-1-108EAP675/4/1 - Football team from Vlach (Romanian speaking) community in the town of Belene, North Bulgaria

UltraEAP375/1/1/110 - No description provided. Possibly an Argentinian ultra leader rallying the crowds

Posted by Rob Miles

14 June 2018

A Football Team from Lesotho

Add comment

I cannot say that I am much of a football fan. When the World Cup takes place I find my favourite television programmes postponed. Also, my local London pub, which is usually a haven for a quiet evening out with family and friends, is taken over by crowds of supporters watching a match in the corner of the bar and shouting words of encouragement to their much-loved teams.

So, with an initial heavy heart, I started searching the EAP website for material connected to soccer that would be appropriate for a blog post. As always, I got swept away with the archives and for the first time, I feel I may have found my own team to support. I came across a file of correspondence concerning Mabeoana Football Club that was digitised as part of the Matsieng Royal Archives in Lesotho (EAP279). Some of the letters are written in Sotho and so I am unable to read them, but others are in English and they have given me a wonderful impression.

Map of Lesotho and South Africa 

Map indicating locations of Lesotho and South Africa (Wikimedia Commons CC BY SA 3.0)

The Club was founded in 1932 but the letters that have been digitised date from 1952-1954. I am assuming the Mabeoana team were made up of talented non-professionals, as indicated by this wonderful letter from the Club Secretary asking for Mr S.C. Pholo to be released from his driving duties so that he could take part in the Sir Sturuk Cup Finals.

Letter dating 24 September 1954.

It looks as if the Daamboos Choir had been booked to entertain the spectators during this important match but were unable to perform and had to return their fee. What I desperately wanted to know was whether Mabeoana won the Finals but sadly there is nothing within the archive to indicate whether they became the champions.

Letter dating 28 September 1954.

There seem to be a mixture of official matches and friendly games. I love this letter to an unknown team again from the Secretary, saying they wish to have a ‘Hot’ Match – I do hope the challenge was taken up and that it was a close and exciting game, certainly the results for 1954 imply that Mabeoana were a talented group of players and at the top of their game.

Letter dating 13 September 1954.

1954 football results

1954 match results

Sadly, having warmed to this team, a quick search on the internet told me that in 2011 they were relegated from the Lesotho Premier League, and I have been unable to find out anything further about them. So, if there is anyone reading this blog who can tell me more about Mabeoana F.C. – I would love to hear from you. 

----

Update: 24 Jul 2018

Thanks to one of our blog readers and the power of Twitter we were provided with some further information about this team. The team still play in Matsieng and are currently in the second division in Lesotho. Mabeoana is the name given to the people from Matsieng. The custodian of the team is the Principle Chief of Matsieng, who is currently Seeiso Bereng Seeiso. 

We wish them luck for the next season and hope to get news of their promotion in the not too distant future!