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16 March 2021

EAP Publication translated into Arabic - مُترجَمًا إلى العربية: برنامج الأرشيفات المهددة بالاندثار يطلق أحد أهم كتبه

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In 2020, EAP received a generous grant from the Barakat Trust to translate Remote Capture: Digitising Documentary Heritage in Challenging Locations into Arabic as part of outreach within the Middle East and North Africa regions. Nouran Ibrahim Abdelraouf did all the hard work of translating the book and now that it is available online via the EAP website, we thought it would be the right time to ask her a few questions that we could share on our blog.

في عام 2020، تلقى برنامج الأرشيفات المهددة بالاندثار منحة كريمة من مؤسسة بركات لترجمة كتاب لقطات نائية: رقمنة التراث الوثائقي في المواقع ذات التحديات كجزء من جهود الانتشار في منطقتي الشرق الأوسط وشمال إفريقيا. أخذت نوران إبراهيم عبد الرؤوف على عاتقها مهمة ترجمة الكتاب الصعبة، وبما أنه قد أصبح متاحًا على الإنترنت من خلال موقع برنامج الأرشيفات المهددة بالاندثار، فإننا نعتقد أنه قد حان الوقت لطرح بعض الأسئلة على المترجمة بحيث ننشر إجاباتها على مدونتنا.
 
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حدثينا عن نفسك بعض الشيء: كيف بدأتِ العمل في مجال الترجمة؟
لطالما كنت شغوفة باللغات، وتحديدًا اللغة الإنجليزية. تخصصت والدتي في الأدب الإنجليزي في الجامعة، ولطالما كانت "دودة قراءة"، وأظن أنني قد ورثت عنها هذا الأمر! لذا، فقد نشأت في بيت مليء بالكتب العربية والإنجليزية وشغف عام باللغة والقراءة، وفي المدرسة، كانت مادتا اللغة العربية واللغة الإنجليزية مادتيّ المفضلتين. ثم التحقت بقسم اللغة الإنجليزية في كلية الألسن بجامعة عين شمس، وعُينت معيدة به، ثم تخصصت في الترجمة التحريرية والشفهية بين العربية والإنجليزية، وناقشت رسالة الماجستير وعنوانها ترجمة عبارات التلطُف: تحليل اجتماعي إدراكي نقدي للخطاب السياسي الأمريكي في ‘الحرب على الإرهاب’ وترجمته في الإعلام العربي المكتوب في عام 2015. بدأت العمل في مجال الترجمة التحريرية على الإنترنت بينما كنت طالبة في السنة الثالثة من الكلية، وبدأت العمل كمترجمة شفهية أثناء دراستي في دبلومة الترجمة التحريرية والشفهية.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, how did you get started in translation work?

Well, I've always been passionate about languages, especially English. My mother is an English literature major and has always been a bookworm, something which she's definitely passed on to me! So, growing up, I've always been surrounded by books in both Arabic and English and a general passion for language and reading, and in school, both English and Arabic languages were my favorite subjects. I then went on to join the English department in the Faculty of Al-Alsun (Languages), Ain Shams University, where I currently work as an assistant lecturer. Then I specialised in translation and interpreting between Arabic and English and defended my MA thesis titled "Euphemism in Translation: A Socio-cognitive Critical Analysis of the US War on Terror Discourse and its Translation in Arabic Media" in 2015. I started my career in translation work online while I was still a Junior and started interpreting work during studying for my translation and interpreting diploma.

لاحظت أنكِ أكثر تركيزًا على ترجمة المواد المتصلة بالثقافة والتراث، هل هذا صحيح؟ ما الذي دعاكِ للتركيز على ذلك؟
نعم، أظن أن ذلك صحيح إلى حد كبير. هناك حس بالتحقق والإنجاز يأتي من وساطتك بين الثقافات المختلفة. أنا مصرية، ولبلدي تراث هائل يتألف من طبقات عدة من الثقافات المختلفة. دائمًا ما أشعر بالفخر عند معرفة المزيد عن تراثي المصري، وتقديمي لجوانب منه لبقية العالم عن طريق الترجمة. ينطبق الأمر ذاته على كل المواد الثقافية المختلفة الأخرى التي يربطني بها العمل من خلال الترجمة سواء التحريرية أو الشفهية. ودائمًا ما تتسم هذه المواد بالتحديات، لأن الخصوصية الثقافية جزء لا يتجزأ منها، وفي الوقت ذاته يمثل إدخالها في سياق اللغة المترجم إليها تحديًا كبيرًا، ولذلك يحتاج هذا النوع من العمل إلى الكثير من البحث والشغف، وقدر كبير من الصبر والمثابرة في سبيل الوصول إلى ترجمة ملائمة. ولكن على الرغم من تلك الصعوبات والتحديات، فإن العملية كلها تمثل تجربة مجزية للغاية عند إنجاز الأمر بالتوصل إلى ترجمة مناسبة. أعمل في مجالات وموضوعات مختلفة أيضًا، ولكن تظل الثقافة والتراث من ضمن الموضوعات المفضلة بالنسبة لي قراءةً وعملًا.
 

Am I right in thinking you like to focus on translating material related to culture and heritage? What made you decide to focus on this?

I think this is somehow true. There is a sense of accomplishment that comes from being the mediator between different cultures. Being an Egyptian myself, I come from a country that is just layer over layer over layer of different cultures and a huge heritage. I take pride in knowing more about my Egyptian heritage and helping with presenting parts of it to the rest of the world. This applies to all other different cultural materials that I've worked on through translating or interpreting. Such materials are almost always challenging, since culture specificity is inherent to their nature, meanwhile it is something that is usually very challenging to contextualise in the target language. This is why this kind of work needs lots of research and passion, not to mention a great deal of patience and persistence to reach a suitable rendition. Having said that, it is a particularly rewarding experience when you eventually get it right. I do work on different subjects as well, but topics of culture and heritage are definitely among my favorite subjects to both read and work on.

 

ما الذي خطر ببالك فور دعوتك لترجمة لقطات نائية؟
تحمست كثيرًا لدعوتي للتعاون مع أحد برامج المكتبة البريطانية، ولأول وهلة بدا الكتاب شيقًا ومليئًا بالتحديات. عندما تحدثت مع صديقة تعمل في مجال التراث، أخبرتني أن هناك الكثير من الجهات والأفراد الذين سيكونون مهتمين بمنح برنامج الأرشيفات المهددة بالاندثار في مصر، ومن ثم سيهمهم وجود ترجمة عربية لكتاب لقطات نائية، بما أنه يمثل دليلًا عمليًا على كيفية البدء في مشروعات رقمنة التراث والحصول على إحدى منح البرنامج. أعتقد أن الأمر ذاته ينطبق على سائر البلدان التي تتحدث بالعربية؛ فهذه المنطقة من العالم تمتلك طيفًا واسعًا من الثقافات والتراث، وفي غالب الأمر تحتاج إلى المزيد من الموارد لتوثيقه، لذا تحمست للغاية لأن أبدأ العمل في الترجمة العربية للقطات نائية، لأنه سيكون أحد الموارد التي ستيسر هذا الأمر.

What were your immediate thoughts when you were invited to collaborate on Remote Capture?

I was really intrigued to be collaborating with one of the British Library's programmes, and I thought the nature of the book itself was quite challenging. When I spoke to a friend working in the field, she told me that there were many entities and individuals in Egypt who would be particularly interested in the grants offered by EAP, and consequently in an Arabic translation of Remote Capture, since it serves as a practical manual on how to get started with a heritage digitisation project and how to get an EAP grant. I think the same applies to other Arabic-speaking countries; it's an area of the world that has various cultures and heritages and is probably in need for more resources to be able to document them, so I was very enthusiastic about starting to work on the Arabic translation of Remote Capture that would somehow facilitate this.

ما هو الجانب الذي استمتعتِ بالعمل عليه في الكتاب؟
أفضل الحديث عن اللحظات الممتعة والتي أشعرتني بالتحقق فيما يتصل بعملي على لقطات نائية. استمتعت بعدة لحظات من هذا النوع عند مواجهتي للتعبيرات التخصصية الصعبة؛ أحيانًا ما كنت أجد صعوبة حتى في فهم التعبير أو الكلمة باللغة الإنجليزية أصلًا، ومن ثم في الترجمة. لم يكن الأمر سهلًا دائمًا، ولكن بكل تأكيد كان مجزيًا عند خروج الترجمة إلى النور. كما سعدت بالحصول على منتج نهائي بعد العمل الشاق الذي استمر لفترة ليست بالقصيرة نظرًا لحجم المشروع، وبعد العمل مع المصمم والدخول في العديد من النقاشات بشأن المنتج النهائي وما يجب أن يبدو عليه. كما كانت لحظة إطلاق الكتاب مترجمًا على الإنترنت وإرسالي للرابط ذي الصلة إلى أسرتي وأصدقائي لحظة سعيدة بالنسبة لي، فقد جعلت كل الأرق والتوتر بشأن اللحاق بموعد التسليم كأن لم يكنا! كما أنه يجب أن أذكر أنني أستمتع الآن بالإجابة عن أسئلة هذه المقابلة!

What aspect of the book did you enjoy working on?

I would rather speak about enjoyable and fulfilling moments related to my work on Remote Capture. I had many of these whenever there was a particularly challenging, technical term that I struggled to first understand, and second translate. It wasn't always easy, but was definitely rewarding when it eventually materialised. I also enjoyed having a final product after such hard work that went on for quite some time given the volume of the project, and after working with the graphic designer and having so many discussions on how the final product should look like. Also, the moment when the translation finally went online and I could share its link with my family and friends was a big one for me; it just makes all the sleepless nights and anxiety over making the deadline worthwhile. I also have to mention that I am enjoying answering the questions of this interview!

هل واجهتك أية تحديات؟ إذا كانت الإجابة بنعم، فماذا كانت هذه التحديات؟
لقد واجهتني تحديات مهنية وشخصية. بالنسبة للتحديات المهنية، فقد تضمنت ترجمة مواد شديدة التخصص من الإنجليزية إلى العربية. كان الفصل المتعلق بطرز الكاميرات وإعداداتها تحديدًا شديد الصعوبة. كان علي أن أقرأ مطولًا بشأن الكاميرات وإعداداتها وكيفية عملها حتى أتأكد من أنني أعبر عن المعلومة بصورة صحيحة. كما تحتم علي اتخاذ عدة قرارات فيما يتعلق باختيار اللغة المستخدمة للتعبير عن الكلمات الأكثر تخصصًا، هل أحتفظ باللغة الإنجليزية كما هي لأنها الأكثر استخدامًا في هذا المجال؟ أم أستخدم اللغة العربية والتي قد لا يكون التعبير فيها مطروقًا بنفس القدر؟ استغرق هذا الأمر مني وقتًا وتفكيرًا من أجل الوصول إلى حل وسط لا أضحي فيه بالمعنى المقصود في النص الأصلي، ولا بمدى مقبوليته في النص المترجم. وعندما أشير إلى "الكلمات التخصصية"، فإنني أقصد الأجزاء المتعلقة بالمعدات الحديثة وأيضًا بمجال توثيق التراث. هناك ندرة في الموارد العربية، على الأقل على الإنترنت، التي تتناول كلا الموضوعين، ولذا كان علي أقضي وقتًا طويلًا في عملية البحث قبل التوصل إلى بضعة موارد ساعدتني على إنجاز الأمر. أما بالنسبة للتحديات الشخصية، فهي تتعلق بشكل رئيسي بإدارة الوقت. خلال الفصل الدراسي الماضي، كنت أدرس 6 مواد في برنامج التأهيل للدكتوراه، وكان لمعظم هذه المواد 3 اختبارات منذ بداية الفصل الدراسي وحتى نهايته، بالإضافة إلى الفروض الأسبوعية وتدريس 3 مواد مختلفة. لذا كان علي الموازنة بين العديد من الأشياء خلال فترة العمل على لقطات نائية، وأنا للأسف لا أتقن عملية إدارة الوقت على الإطلاق، ولكن العبرة بالخواتيم! شعرت بالإنجاز والتحقق عندما رأيت كل العمل الشاق في الكتاب متجسدًا في صورته النهائية على موقع البرنامج.

Were there any challenges, if so, what were they?

Well, there were both technical and personal challenges. As for the technical challenges, they involved the translation of highly technical and specialised terms from English into Arabic. The chapter on cameras and their settings was a particularly difficult one. I had to go on reading and reading and reading on cameras, their settings and how they work, to make sure I am conveying the correct information. I also had to make a lot of decisions in regards to whether to use the more technical terms in English (more in use) or Arabic (less in use). This took some time and thinking to reach a successful compromise that wouldn't sacrifice either the intended meaning in the original text or its acceptability in the translated text. When I say: "technical terms", I am referring to both the parts that have to do with modern equipment as well as with the field of documenting heritage. There is a scarcity in Arabic resources, online at least, that discuss both subjects, and so I had to spend a long time researching before reaching a few resources that were helpful. As for the personal challenges, they mainly had to do with time management. This past semester I was studying 6 PhD subjects with three exams in each throughout the term, not to mention the weekly assignments, in addition to teaching 3 different classes. So I had many things to juggle throughout the project's time, and I am definitely not the best at time management, but I guess all's well that ends well! It was very rewarding to see all the hard work manifested in the book in its final form online.

أنت أيضًا تدرسين مواد الترجمة التحريرية والشفهية بصفتك مدرسًا مساعدًا بجامعة عين شمس. لابد من أنكِ شديدة الانشغال. ما الذي تفعلينه للاسترخاء؟
الاسترخاء.. كم أفتقده! بشكل عام، أحب القراءة ومشاهدة الأفلام والمسلسلات والسفر (على الرغم من أنني لم أسافر منذ أكثر من عام في ظل الظروف الحالية)، وأكتب من وقت لآخر. عندما يتوفر لدي الوقت والمواد اللازمة، أحب أن أمارس بعض الأعمال الفنية مثل الموازييك والديكوباج. كما أحب أشغال الإبرة مثل الكروشيه وتعلمت التطريز مؤخرًا. بشكل عام، تساعدك الأعمال اليدوية على الاسترخاء، وهي الشكل المفضل للتأمل بالنسبة لي، وأتمنى لو كان لدي المزيد من الوقت لممارستها بشكل أكبر. أيضًا، في العام الماضي، انشقت الأرض فجأة عن قطة سوداء قررت أن تسكن في شرفتنا، وعلى الرغم من جميع محاولاتنا لطردها، أصرت على البقاء، فلم نجد خيارًا أمامنا سوى أن نحبها ونتبناها! سرعان ما اكتشفنا حملها، وفي أغسطس الماضي ولدت 6 قطط، بقي 3 منهم معنا، لذا فنحن الآن نعتني بالأم والأب وأبنائهم الثلاثة. الوقت الذي أقضيه معهم هو من أوقاتي المفضلة في اليوم كله!

You also lecture on translation and interpreting studies at Ain Shams University. You must be incredibly busy, what do you do to relax and unwind?

Ah, the good old unwinding! I haven't done much of it lately. But generally speaking, I like reading, watching movies and series, travelling (though I haven't travelled in over a year now with all what's going on) and I write occasionally. When I have the time and materials, I like to do mosaic work and decoupage. I also love crocheting and I've just learned how to embroider. Generally, handcrafts help you unwind and relax, and they are my favorite form of meditation, I wish I had more time on my hands to do more of them. Also, last year, a tortoiseshell cat appeared mysteriously on our porch, DEMANDING to be fed as well as loved, we adopted her and soon enough she got pregnant and in August gave birth to 6 kittens, 3 of which are still with us, so we now care for the mum and dad as well as their three baby boys. Being around them is definitely one of my favorite pastimes!

ما هو مشروعك المقبل؟
من المفترض أن أبدأ العمل على ترجمة العدد الجديد من راوي: مجلة التراث المصري قريبًا. لا يمكنني الكشف عن موضوع العدد بعد، ولكنني متأكدة أنه سيكون عددًا شيقًا وثريًا كسابقه. كما آمل أن أركز بشكل أكبر على رسالة الدكتوراه وأن أحرز بعض التقدم فيها.

What is your next project?

I am supposed to start working on the translation of the new issue of Rawi Magazine, Egypt's Heritage Review soon. I can't disclose its subject quite yet, but I am sure it will be as interesting and enriching as the previous issue. I am also hoping to focus more on my PhD and to get some work done on my dissertation.

هل هناك من تودين توجيه الشكر إليه فيما يتعلق بعملك على لقطات نائية؟
لابد وأن أشكر والدتي إيناس يحيى لطفي التي أدين لها بكل شيء، والتي لطالما ساندتني بالتشجيع والدعم، خاصة عندما اقترب موعد التسليم وازداد توتري (كالعادة!). كما أود أن أتوجه بالشكر لأصدقائي على دعمهم اللامتناهي ومناقشاتنا التي ساعدتني على تخطي بعض الجوانب الصعبة في الترجمة. وبالطبع لابد وأن أذكر المهندس رجائي عبد الله الذي اضطلع بمهمة تصميم النسخة العربية من لقطات نائية. أسعدني العمل معه ولابد أن أشكره على مرونته وعلى صبره قبل كل شيء، على الرغم من كل التعديلات والتغييرات التي طلبتها منه. أخيرًا، أود أن أشكر جودي باتروورذ، وهي إحدى المحررين الرئيسيين للقطات نائية وحلقة الوصل بيني وبين برنامج الأرشيفات المهددة بالاندثار على دعمها الدائم ومرونتها في التعامل. كان العمل معها هو أحد أكثر الجوانب إشراقًا من المشروع بالنسبة لي.

Is there someone you would like to acknowledge or thank in relation to your work on Remote Capture?

I would definitely like to acknowledge my mother, Enas Yehia Lotfy, to whom I owe everything, and who has always been there with encouragement and support, especially whenever I was freaking out about the deadline! I would also like to thank my friends for their incessant support as well our discussions that definitely helped me with several challenging aspects of the translation. I can't forget to mention Ragaee Abdallah, who did all the hard work of Remote Capture's Arabic version graphics. It's been very pleasant to work with him, and I have to thank him for his flexibility and most of all for his patience in spite of all the changes and edits I kept asking him to make. Finally, I would like to thank Jody Butterworth, who is one of Remote Capture's editors and my point of contact with EAP for her constant support and flexibility. Working with her is definitely one of the highlights of the project for me.

                                                                                                                       

EAP is extremely grateful to the Barakat Trust for supporting the idea of an Arabic version of Remote Capture and to Nouran Ibrahim Abdelraouf for doing such a wonderful job of translating it.

26 February 2021

New online - February 2021

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February may be the shortest month of the year, but it is another month packed with newly digitised collections being added to the EAP website. The three latest projects to go online include:

EAP791 - Manuscripts of the Lanten community in northern Laos

The digitisation process and digitised manuscript pages

Led by Professor Dr Josephus Platenkamp and Joseba Estevez, the EAP791 project team digitised 768 manuscripts owned by private collectors within the Lanten community in northern Laos.

Members of the Lanten community migrated from the Guizhou, Guangxi and Yunnan Provinces of China into Laos and Vietnam following the social, political and economic upheavals during the last century of the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1912).

Lanten (also known as Lao Huay and Yao Mun) are classified as one of the 39 ‘ethnic minorities’ of northern Laos that are officially acknowledged by the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos.

Written in Classical Chinese supplemented with lexemes from Lanten language, these manuscripts mediate the transfer across the generations of the religious knowledge and verbal and non-verbal expertise enabling ritual experts to communicate with the Deities of the Lanten pantheon. To that end the manuscripts contain instructions for rituals of healing, marriage, death, ordination, and exorcism, specifying the sacrificial procedures and the Deities involved.

EAP981 - Documents at the Jaffna Bishop's House, Sri Lanka

EAP981_Panorama600ppi

This major project followed on from pilot project EAP700. Led by Dr Appasamy Murugaiyan, the EAP981 team digitised the remaining rare documents kept under the guardianship of the Jaffna Bishop House in Sri Lanka.

The digitised material covers the period between 1775 and 1948.

The range of material digitised includes handwritten bound registers, personal memoirs, chronicles, account books, correspondence, registers of marriage, baptism, birth and death, newspaper clippings, pastoral letters, biographies of the local bishops, and some religious books.

The material also covers a wide range of languages, including French, English, Tamil, Latin, Portuguese, Sinhalese, and Dutch.

EAP1145 - Documentary heritage of traditional Protestant communities in Bulgaria

The digitisation process and digitised manuscript pages

This pilot project, led by Dr Magdalena Slavkova, produced a survey of 52 collections of material relating to Protestant communities in Bulgaria.

These collections contain a wide variety of content types including photographs, notebooks, correspondence, books, wedding and baptism certificates, religious booklets, newspaper clippings, and postcards.

In addition to the survey, the EAP1145 project team, which also included Dr Mila Maeva, Dr Yelis Erolova, and Dr Plamena Stoyanova, digitised a sample of 69 files from these collections.

 

05 February 2021

New online - December 2020 and January 2021

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We have a bumper blog this month, covering new projects that went online at the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021. While access to physical archives is currently restricted in many parts of the world, digital archives are increasingly important. Here are five recently digitised collections that are now freely available to access online:

EAP782 - Nineteenth-century records in the Sierra Leone Public Archives

Digitsation sample

The EAP782 project team led by Professor Suzanne Schwarz digitised police, court, and colonial records housed at the Sierra Leone Public Archives.

The documents span a period from the formation of the British Crown colony of Sierra Leone to the formation of the Sierra Leone Protectorate. These records offer significant insights into the lives of inhabitants of the region.

These provide rare insight into the life experiences of formerly enslaved people and their descendants. By the mid-nineteenth century, the population was comprised mainly of liberated Africans (and their descendants) drawn from across West Africa. The digitised records reveal the practices used by successive colonial governors to re-settle tens of thousands of liberated Africans in Freetown and surrounding colonial villages, including Regent and Wilberforce.

The police and court records include the depositions of witnesses, as well as those brought before the court for different offences. Testimony from formerly enslaved people is particularly rare, and provides a basis for reconstructing biographical information on individuals uprooted and displaced by the Atlantic slave trade.

 

EAP886 - Sanskrit Manuscripts and Books in the State of Jammu and Kashmir

Digitisation examples
The EAP886 team digitising; EAP886/1/26; EAP886/2/14.

Led by Mr Chetan Pandey, the EAP886 project team digitised 46 books and manuscripts located in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, in India. In particular, they focussed on material relating to:

  • Sanskritism
  • Hinduism
  • Kashmir Shaivism (a Tantric school of Mysticism indigenous to Kashmir)
  • Tantra
  • Mysticism.

 

EAP1017 - Manuscripts and Archival Documents of Russian Old Believers Escapists (Skrytniks)

Digitisation examples
The EAP1017 team cataloguing; EAP1017/1/66; EAP1017/1/140.

The EAP1017 project team, led by Dr Irina Belayeva, digitised manuscripts and documents of the Skrytniks (Old Believers Escapists) - a social group that was in opposition to the Russian state, first to the Russian Empire and then to the Soviet Union.

The digitised material shows the structure of Skrytniks, their traditions, faith and intercommunication with other social groups.

 

EAP1077 - Tibetan Bonpo Manuscripts

Project location and digitisation example

Dr Valentina Punzi and the EAP1077 team digitised 6 collection of Tibetan manuscripts belonging to private households in the Qinghai Province of China. These include rare and unique ritual texts from the late 19th and early 20 centuries.

 

EAP1123 - Thai-Mon palm-leaf manuscripts

Digitisation example

The Mons of Thailand and Burma were regional, cultural, and religious intermediaries and supported a palm leaf manuscript tradition into the 1920s. The EAP1123 project team, led by Dr Patrick McCormick, conducted a survey of 28 temples in and around Bangkok.

They also digitised a sample of manuscripts from six collections. Many of these texts are unknown in Burma, but they are key to understanding recent history in the region and the Mon role in intellectual history.

Combined, the survey and digitisation sample provide important insights into the history of the Mons in Thailand and Burma.

 

We will be continuing to publish more digital collections in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out for those!

01 February 2021

The Endangered Archives Programme in a time of change - looking back on 2020

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Wall painting of a woman climbing the steps of a temple. She is running away from someone holding a bow and arrow Bodinayakkanur Zamin Palace wall

EAP896/1/8 Bodinayakkanur Zamin Palace mural

We're now fully embarked on 2021, with changes and new challenges happening all the time, and yet every day feeling much like the last. With a little distance from 2020, it seems the right time to step back and look at the year that has just been, and what it meant for EAP in particular. 

When I have time to read, I try to keep track of interesting passages that I might want to revisit later. Several years ago, I copied these words from John Gray's Straw Dogs into my notes, and I just came across them again this week:

 "As a side effect of climate change, new patterns of disease could trim the human population. Our bodies are bacterial communities, linked indissolubly with a largely bacterial biosphere. Epidemiology and microbiology are better guides to our future than any of our hopes or plans."

In this book, written in 2002, Gray is pretty pessimistic about humanity's prospects, too much so for me, but it is striking to see how right he was. In 2020 we had to rethink almost all of our hopes and plans, due to a pandemic that is indeed inextricably linked to the climate crisis (see this article in The Lancet).

For EAP, this meant completely rethinking our way of operating. In February, we began to question whether our international panel would be able to come to London to review the year's applications, and by early March it was clear that it wouldn't be possible. We decided to postpone the whole round of funding, giving us and our project applicants the space to wait and reassess what would be possible and what might not. And for the projects EAP is currently funding, we offered extensions and advice, reaching out to them over the course of the year to see where they were, and what adjustments they needed to make to ensure they stayed safe through the pandemic.

In the meantime, as the EAP team adjusted to working from home, we found it was still possible to put new digital collections from completed projects online. Over the course of 2020 over a million images went up on the EAP website, representing a vast range of materials, geographic regions and time periods. To pick five of these almost at random:

  • EAP813 Preservation of the disappearing book heritage of Siberian Buddhists
  • EAP816 Selective digitisation and preservation of the photographic archive of the ‘Vasile Parvan’ Institute of Archaeology, Bucharest, Romania
  • EAP820 Documenting Slavery and Emancipation in Kita, Western Mali
  • EAP880 Fragments of Sikkim: Preserving and presenting the palace archives of a Himalayan Kingdom, 1875-1975
  • EAP896 Documentation of Endangered Temple Art of Tamil Nadu

Global lockdowns meant more people visiting us online as well. When we looked at our website statistics at the end of the year, one thing was especially good to see: people were coming to the site from the countries where new projects had just been completed and put online. For example, we saw a big increase in users from Peru after a collection of Peruvian newspapers (EAP498) went online. This was helped by many Peruvian and other Spanish-speaking users of social media enthusiastically posting about the new collection being made available.

The first months of lockdown turned out to be a good opportunity to trial a crowdsourcing project we had been thinking about. The EAP team chose EAP016, a collection of Siberian photographs and used the free platform Zooniverse. Among our contributors were the British Library’s own Russian language curators who also translated Zooniverse site terms into Russian. We also had help from the amazing Steppe Sisters Network, a group of more than 100 female archaeologists who study and/or live in the region.

As debates and action on colonialism and racism intensified, we looked at ways to address this in EAP's practices. For instance, our cataloguing guidelines meant that we recorded colonial-era names such as Rhodesia and Dutch East Indies if these were in use at the time of the archive; yet this meant these names appeared as key terms on the EAP website, without comment or context. We decided to change our cataloguing practice and use modern place names in the field that appears as index terms on the website, and keep historical place names in free-text fields where they can be discussed in context. We tried to highlight the resources for Black Studies in the EAP collections, created by so many great projects in Africa and the Caribbean (see this earlier blog post for example.)

As we moved towards the autumn and some of our grant applicants decided they weren't going ahead with their applications, we decided to make a limited call for another round. In the midst of a period of great uncertainty, and as the second wave of the pandemic loomed in many places, we weren't sure what response we would see. It was both surprising and heartening to receive so many applications planning new projects across the world. This above everything has made me realise that we humans will not give up on our hopes and plans. We may need new hopes, and we definitely need to be creative about coming up with different, more flexible plans, but we continue to strive to make things better. And in a time when we are separated from each other, our thoughts turn to new ways of connecting. 

Having started this post with a rather pessimistic quote, I'll end with a hopeful one, by one of my favourite poets, Langston Hughes:

Hope

Sometimes when I'm lonely,

Don't know why,

Keep thinking I won't be lonely

By and by.

 

Post written by Sam van Schaik, Head of EAP

01 December 2020

New Collections Online - November 2020

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Again it's the time of month to round-up which EAP funded projects are newly available online to view over the past few weeks. This month we have made available the following four projects:

Continue reading for summaries of these projects, and to find out what we've made available previously, take a look at our other recent monthly posts.

EAP816 - Photographic archive of the ‘Vasile Parvan’ Institute of Archaeology, Bucharest, Romania

816-combined

This project was previously on an old version of the EAP website. Due to some technical issues it has only just been made available to view again.


The ‘Vasile Parvan’ Institute of Archaeology’s photography archive provides a unique source of information for archaeological research in Romania, especially of the Black Sea region. Over 2000 photographs have been digitised showing a wide range of activities covering the period 1875-1925. A large number of archaeological sites and monuments, then surviving across Romania, are represented in a vast array of excavation, exploration and restoration photographs. Many of the archaeological sites and landscapes represented in the photographs, along with a host of medieval churches and many villages, were totally destroyed during and after the two World Wars.


The majority of the earliest material focuses on the Romanian Black Sea area, a region called Dobrogea, the richest region of Romania in terms of its archaeological heritage. It also used to be the most ethnically diverse region of Romania and until the end of World War I was one of the most rural and arid. In the 1960s and 1970s huge agricultural programmes resulted in the loss of entire villages along with archaeological remains.


Archaeological artefacts – pottery, sculptures, metal objects – are also represented, along with other items of major historical importance: objects of religious art, paintings, sculptures and fabrics, many of them subsequently destroyed or lost, sometimes plundered by German, Russian or other troops during the wars that have affected Romania in the past 150 years. The on-site images include extremely beautiful local ethnographic photographs and rural landscape images depicting a world long gone.

EAP890 - The Last National Newspapers in Mongolia Printed in Traditional Script

Front page of newspaper (EAP890/1/1/2/5)

This project digitised over 900 editions of two newspapers held at the Sukhbaatar District Library, Mongolia. These newspapers were the last printed in the traditional Mongolian script before the change to using Cyrillic in 1945. The editions cover a period of major national and international change: 1936-1945.

  The two newspaper titles are available to view here:

You may also be interested in this recently published blog post which looks into some of the issues surrounding the change from traditional Mongolian script to Cyrillic:

EAP920 - District Administration Books for Regions in the Former British Colonial Territory of Nyasaland (Malawi)

Cover page of a District Notebook

This project digitised District Notebooks created by officers during the British colonial rule of Nyasaland, now Malawi. These notebooks were used to record detailed information regarding local institutions, people, and customs. It was deemed important to record in order to serve the interests of government, as well as for anthropologists and other potential users of this information. All British officers who served as District Commissioners were required to maintain such notebooks, which were then handed over to succeeding officers.

Common subjects dealt with in the district notebooks included 'handing in' and 'taking over' notes, tribal history, notes on population and statistics, succession and inheritance, native social beliefs and customs, health and sanitation, economics, labour, natural history, military medals, metrology etc.

These books were originally located in the respective districts of Dedza, Dowa, Fort Manning, (Mchinji), Karonga, Kasunga, Kota-kota (Nkhota-kota), Lilongwe, Mzimba, and Nkhatabay. As part of this project these books were relocated for preservation at the National Archive of Malawi.

EAP1119 - Documents from the Archives of Land Registration Division and Lands Commission of Ghana

Eap1119

This pilot project digitised a small selection of deed and mortgage registers, as well as some additional related records. The records were all created in the period 1843-1909 when Ghana was part of the British colony known as the Gold Coast. These records are an important source for research into land ownership and the registration and acquisition of land for public purposes. Other potential avenues of research identified include the commercial and industrial activities of named persons, and history of residential settlement in the region.

Please check back again next month for another round-up of collections made available. You may also want to follow us on Twitter for earlier updates about which collections are newly available, as well as other related news. 

18 November 2020

What’s in a name? The Sovietisation of the Mongolian language and the Challenges of Reversal

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One of the newest EAP projects to go online is EAP890, which contains two collections of Mongolian newspapers, covering the period 1936-1945.

Written in traditional Mongolian script, these newspapers offer a fascinating insight into the history of Mongolian politics and society. They also provide a Mongolian perspective on international affairs, including the dominant global event of the period: the Second World War.

What's in a name?

But beyond the content, even to the untrained eye, this collection shines a light on a key period in Mongolia’s history, as the influence of the Soviet Union intensified eastwards after the 1917 Russian revolution.

Even if you cannot read the traditional Mongolian script these newspapers are written in, a quick glance at different editions of the Ardyn Undesnii Erkh collection prompts a simple question: why did the name of this newspaper keep changing? The answer lies not in typographical errors and careless editing; it is much more profound.

The newspaper title when printed in traditional Mongolian script was always consistent (see yellow boxes below). But alongside this was a variant title written in an alternative script (see red boxes).

In the following examples from four different months in 1941, the variant titles were written differently in each edition. In February 1941, the variant title is very similar to the current Romanised transliteration. But month by month this gradually changed to something that closely resembles the modern Cyrillic spelling.

Part of newspaper title front cover
13 February 1941 (EAP890/1/1/54/3)

 

Part of newspaper title front cover
12 March 1941 (EAP890/1/1/55/4)

 

Part of newspaper title front cover
12 May 1941 (EAP890/1/1/57/2)

 

Part of newspaper title front cover
23 June 1941 (EAP890/1/1/58/6)

What is going on?

These changing titles are indicative of a pivotal period in Mongolian history.  They reveal a process of linguistic revolution, which act as an important indicator of the broader social and political changes that Mongolia experienced during the mid-20th century.

The Sovietisation of Mongolia

Situated in the heart of central Asia, Mongolia is surrounded by two global superpowers: Russia to the north and China to the south. Between the late 17th  and early 20th centuries, Mongolia was controlled by the Chinese Qing dynasty. Throughout this period, local dialects predominantly used the vertical Mongolian script, which was adapted from the Old Uyghur alphabet after Genghis Khan captured an Uyghur scribe at the beginning of the 13th century, during the formative years of the Mongol Empire.

After the fall of the Chinese Manchu dynasty in 1911, Mongolia swayed between independence and continued control by the new Republic of China, until Russian troops entered Mongolia in 1920 and defeated the Chinese army a few months later.

In 1924, the Mongolian People's Republic was established and during subsequent decades Mongolia became increasingly aligned with the recently formed Soviet Union. 

During the 1930s, Mongolia was subject to a series of brutal purges. Buddhist monasteries were destroyed and tens of thousands of people were killed. This process intensified as the world drifted towards war. Notable politicians, including Mongolian prime ministers Peljidiin Genden and Anandyn Amar were arrested and shot in the Soviet Union, accused of counterrevolutionary activity and spying for Japan.

These purges were ordered by the Soviets, but largely overseen by Khorloogiin Choibalsan - sometimes referred to as the 'Stalin of Mongolia'. Choibalsan was in Russia as a student when the 1917 Bolshevik revolution took place. He returned to Mongolia inspired by the Bolshevik cause and after Stalin came to power in Moscow, Choibalsan gradually emerged as the principal conduit for Soviet influence in Mongolia. By 1939, after the arrest of Amar, Choibalsan had become Mongolia's dominant political leader.

Extract from a newspaper including images of Joseph Stalin and Khorloogiin Choibalsan
12 March 1941 (EAP890/1/1/55/4). Pictured: Joseph Stalin (top); Khorloogiin Choibalsan (bottom right)
 
Khorloogiin Choibalsan with Soviet officials
Khorloogiin Choibalsan with Soviet military officers, 1940 (EAP264/1/2/1/10)

During the next few years, the Sovietisation of Mongolia continued unabated and part of this effort included Russifying the Mongolian language. 

Linguistic revolution

While violent purges provide stark evidence of political change, alterations to the national language were also a significant part of the Sovietisation process.

Initial attempts to unify languages within the communist sphere centred on the Latin script. A 1932 Soviet report explained that a unified script would create a system for use by the working masses, as opposed to multiple narrow systems designed for use by the ruling classes. During the late 1930s this objective continued, but Cyrillic became the preferred, unifying writing system.

The first two extracts above, from early 1941 editions of Ardyn Undesnii Erkh, represent a hangover from those initial aborted efforts to Latinise languages within the Soviet Union during the 1920s-30s and replica efforts in Mongolia. In the early 1930s, a Latin alphabet containing 24 dominant characters emerged in Mongolia. This shift was subsequently aborted and in 1937 the former Minster of Education  was prosecuted for crimes which included trying to destroy the Mongolian national script. But in early 1941, after the rise of Choibalsan, Latinisation re-emerged. And on 21 February 1941, a resolution was passed in Mongolia to approve a 42-letter Latin script. This decree was short-lived, though, as a month a later, on 25 March, Cyrillic was adopted as the preferred alternative to the traditional Mongolian script. Five years later, this change was enforced

The processes of both Latinising and Russifying the Mongolian language were neither straightforward nor definitive. The subtle and gradual alterations to both the Latin and the Cyrillic versions of the titles evident in these newspaper demonstrate this.  The task of using new alphabets to represent an existing language was subject to intense linguistic debate.

As the last national newspapers printed in traditional Mongolian script before the forceful switch to the Cyrillic script on 1 January 1946, these two newspaper collections offer an important insight into the nature of those debates and provide a potentially useful dataset to help better understand the mechanics and subtleties of this linguistic revolution.

By the time of this enforced change, Unen had already transitioned. When the final edition available in this collection was published on 31 December 1945, the only remnant of the traditional Mongolian script was the title; the rest of the newspaper was printed in Cyrillic.

Two front covers of Unen newspaper
Unen, 1 January 1942 (EAP890/1/2/1/1), left; Unen, 31 December 1945 (EAP890/1/2/45/11), right

When the Sovietisation process began, the titles were the first parts of these newspapers to change. When the process was complete, they were the last thing to remain.

Beyond communism and 21st century challenges

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the end of communism in Mongolia, efforts have been made to resurrect the traditional script, which is still used in the autonomous Inner Mongolian region of China. This was initially scheduled for 1994, but Cyrillic was re-confirmed as the national script by the Mongolian parliament in 1995.

Twenty years later, in February 2015, the Mongolian government passed a new law which asserted that the traditional Mongolian script, found in these two newspapers, should once again be the national script by 2025. But it may not be that simple.

As I discovered when cataloguing this project, implementing this policy requires technical change as well as political will. It had been our intention to catalogue the collection using the traditional Mongolian script that the newspapers were predominantly written in. However, while the traditional Mongolian script was added to the unicode standard in 1999, there are several design issues that remain unfixed and a lack of support for fonts required to display the script correctly. The 2025 target has provided renewed motivation to address these  issues. But it remains to be seen if and when the existing technical problems will be resolved.

For now, therefore, the titles for these collections appear in the EAP catalogue only in the modern Mongolian Cyrillic script and transliterated Latin script.

But once you get beyond the name, the digitised content is there to be explored in the traditional Mongolian script - providing a window into the past and possibly the very near future of Mongolia and the significance of its national script.

By Graham Jevon

With thanks to the EAP890 project team led by Bayasgalan Bayanbat for digitising this content, and to Eleanor Cooper with whom discussions about the language and scripts inspired this post.

Further reading

Charles Bawden, The Modern History of Mongolia, (2002).

Henry S Badsher, 'The Sovietization of Mongolia', Foreign Affairs (April 1972), pp. 545-553.

Uradyn E Bulag, Nationalism and Hybridity in Mongolia (1998).

Stephane Grivelet, 'The Latinization Attempt in Mongolia', http://acta.bibl.u-szeged.hu/16597/1/altaica_039_115-120.pdf

Stephane Grivelet, 'Reintroducing the Uighur-Mongolian Script in  Mongolia Today', Mongolian Studies, Vol. 18 (1995), pp. 49-60.

04 November 2020

New Collections Online - October 2020

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The latest set of projects to go online are truly global, spanning Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. Here's a brief summary:

EAP880 - The Palace Archives of the Buddhist Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim

The project team and two document extracts

Located near the Himilayas, where India meets China, Sikkim is one of the newest Indian states, merging with India in 1975. This project digitised the hitherto neglected royal archives of the former Himalayan Buddhist kingdom of Sikkim. It contains a wealth of invaluable documents that date between 1807 and 1998. As such, this collection offers crucial insights into crucial historical events including the merger with India in 1975 and military border clashes between India and China.

This collection covers the entire spectrum of political activities, from domestic and religious issues to foreign affairs. This archive therefore offers unique and important insights into the history of this kingdom and its geopolitical significance.

While it is an archive that represents elite perspectives, the Sikkim Palace Archives is also the first collection of local origin to be made freely and universally accessible for international scholarship, presenting a perspective of events and characters as experienced from within looking out. This provides a valuable contrast to the earlier need to rely very largely on colonial sources for the history of Sikkim. The collection adds considerably to the available sources on the history and culture of Sikkim, with very little duplication of material with that available elsewhere, namely in the British Library's India Office collection, and to a lesser extent in the National Archives of India and the Sikkim State Archives.

EAP914 - Government and Church Records from the Turks and Caicos Islands

An image of the digitisation process and two digitised manuscript pages

This project digitised some of the most vulnerable and important collections located at the Turks and Caicos National Museum. It contains two sub-collections:

The government records include documents and correspondence involving the colonial secretary and despatches to the governor-in-chief. It also includes legislative and executive council records. This collection thus offers important insights into the colonial governance of the islands, which is still a British Overseas Territory.

Meanwhile, both the government and church collections contain registers of births, baptisms, marriages, burials, and wills. The church collection includes both Methodist and Anglican church records, spanning 1799-1922. These registers provide an invaluable resource for genealogists researching their family history.

EAP989 - 19th Century Bulgarian Manuscripts

Pages from three digitised manuscripts

This pilot project focused on three collections of 19th century and early 20th century manuscripts located at the Institute for Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum, within the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. It produced a detailed survey of the collections and digitised a sample of manuscripts.

These manuscripts reflect the cultural and folklore heritage of Bulgarian and Balkan areas and include hand painted texts, images, and notated songs.

EAP1144 - The Ghana Railway Corporation Archive

Three images of the project team surveying the site

The EAP1144 project team encountered an archive that was in a significant state of disrepair. One of their first tasks was to erect plastic sheets to provide immediate protection to the documents from rain water leaking through the roof.  

This pilot project resulted in a survey of the archive and the digitisation of a sample of documents. These include 68 personnel files for railway employees and two files containing correspondence.

 

30 September 2020

New Collections Online - September 2020

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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

EAP1013_1_4_SEGMENT

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