THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Endangered archives blog

23 posts categorized "Islam"

11 August 2015

New online collections - August 2015

Add comment Comments (0)

This month two projects have gone online, EAP352 and EAP764.

The first of these projects is EAP352. The project digitised Arabic and Jawi (Arabic Malay) manuscripts that come from two regions in Indonesia - Western Sumatra (Minangkabau region) and Jambi. The 11 collections held in private hands contain manuscripts from two Sufi brotherhoods: Shattariyah and Naqshbandiyah.

The texts include treatises on the peculiarities of regional Islam such as the history of local religious traditions, hagiographical works and documents on the Naqshbandiyah and Shattariyah mystical conceptions written by local Shaikh’s. They also contain unique examples of calligraphy, illumination and bookbinding. The manuscripts describing Suluk mystical ritual are particularly noteworthy, as the ritual is practiced only in the remote corners of Sumatra and is considered to be unpopular among younger generations of Muslims. They contain interesting examples of al-Qur’an and works on traditional medicine in Jambi.

Study of such written heritage can contribute greatly to the history of Sumatra as well as the history of Islam and Sufism. 

EAP352_ EMWSPJCSB_SSSB _06_ EMWSPJCSB_039EAP352/1/6: Dalail al-Khairat [19th century copy of the famous work of Shadziliyah Sheikh of the 15th cent. Muhammad al-Jazuli from Northern Africa] – Image 39

The second project is EAP764, a pilot project which surveyed documentary material located in the archive of the Prefecture of Bandiagara (Mali). This was undertaken in order to preserve collections of historical and anthropological relevance from the early decades of French colonialism. The archival material falls within the wide area of the Cercle, an administrative unit introduced in 1903 by the French, which came to encompass a territory reaching up to Burkina Faso. Bandiagara is still the capital of the Dogon country, an area of extraordinary cultural interest and is included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Since the region is rich with oral traditions and has few written records, such documents, written in French by the colonial administrators, represent valuable and unique evidence of a historical period which has been little investigated. The collections identified will be of great interest for researchers looking at the history, law, religion, anthropology, politics, demography and economy of the region.

The project was successful in identifying the most endangered and precious collections dating back to the early decades of the 20th century. A sample of these collections was digitised and is now available to view online.

EAP764_JR_1912_1914_006EAP764/1/1/1: Tribunal de Province du premier janvier 1912 au 28 avril 1914 Court of Province from Jan 1, 1912 to April 28, 1914 – Image 6

Check back next month to see what else has been added!

You can also keep up to date with any new collections by joining our Facebook group.

09 April 2015

New online collections - April 2015

Add comment Comments (0)

This month three projects have gone up online. EAP031, EAP039 and EAP286. EAP031 and EAP039 both digitised Buddhist manuscripts, the first from Mongolia and the latter from Bhutan. EAP286 digitised a collection of manuscripts from Ethiopia.

EAP031 digitised the private collection of Danzan Ravjaa. Ravjaa was the 5th incarnation in the lineage of the Gobi Noyons, whose monastery was at the centre of a political and artistic renaissance located at the crossroads of Tibet, Mongolia and China during the 19th century. These Buddhist manuscripts have recently been unearthed from caves in the Outer Mongolian province of Dorngobi. During the communist regime Buddhism was suppressed and in 1938 the manuscripts were hidden for their protection. The location of these records, as well as other records from the local monastery, was passed down through the generations of monastery gatekeepers.

The project created over 40,000 images. This includes all of the manuscripts found in the collection that were authored by Ravjaa himself. These constituted the heart of the collection and consisted of manuscripts in both classic Mongolian and Tibetan. Subject matter ranged from poetry, astrology, medicine, plays (original manuscripts of the Moon Cuckoo operetta) and sadhanas (including some of Ravjaa’s ‘pure visions’ centring on the figure of Guru Rinpoche and his two consorts Yeshe Tsogyal and Lady Mandarava). This material will help scholars and researchers open up new areas in the field of Tibetan and Mongol studies.

EAP031-0558-0002EAP031/1/532: Tibetan title: slob dpon chen po pad+ma kA ra'i zhabs kyis … – Image 2

EAP039 successfully digitised the entire collection of manuscripts at Gangtey monastery in Bhutan. Gangtey Gonpa, founded by Gyalse Pema Thinley (the grandson of the famous Bhutanese saint Pema Lingpa), houses an enormous manuscript collection. This includes a set of the 100-volume bKa’ ’gyur, two sets of the 46-volume rNying ma rGyud ’bum, the world’s largest Astasahasrikaprajñaparamita, and about a hundred miscellaneous titles. The collection, mostly written in the 17th century as a funerary tribute to the founder of Gangtey, holds a unique textual, artistic and historical value of immense religious significance.

Gangteng_kanjur_'bum_014_pha (3)EAP039/1/1/1/14: Sher phyin ‘Bum: Volume 14 – Image 3

EAP286 digitised archives held at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies (IES). The IES is the major custodian of cultural and historical antiquities in Ethiopia. Manuscripts in the collection have come from government offices, monasteries, churches, mosques, public libraries, and private collections.

One of the largest parts of the collection is made up of Ge'ez manuscripts representing the history and literature of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Numbering more than 1,500 items, these manuscripts cover a wide range of genres: bibles, liturgies, histories, theologies, grammars, and magic scrolls produced by the Church.

Another substantial part of the collection is the Arabic manuscripts representing the history and literature of the Muslim community in Ethiopia and the set of Amharic manuscripts representing the last 150 years of Ethiopia's emergence into the international community.

EAP286IES00788_069EAP286/1/1/119: Commentary on 1-4 Kings, Commentary on Ecclesiasticus… -  Image 69

Check back next month to see what else has been added!

You can also keep up to date with any new collections by joining our Facebook group.

18 February 2015

Stories they tell: clues from endangered archives

Add comment Comments (0)

Documents, manuscripts, photographs and sound recordings that capture much of the world’s memory are preserved in vulnerable collections around the globe. If they perish, part of history is irrevocably lost. In the past, efforts to preserve these collections and make them available for scholarly interpretation often meant removing them to the safety of western libraries. Though well intentioned, these actions frequently had unintended consequences. Preserved and available to scholars, the materials became inaccessible to the communities whose history they captured. This had a twofold effect: it impaired the communities’ ability to write their own history and at the same time, by detaching documents from original context, led to the loss of an important layer of historical information.

A courtyard of a monastery with monks digitising outside.
EAP039 Buddhist manuscripts from the library of the remote Gangtey monastery in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan © Dr Karma Phuntsho

The Endangered Archives Programme uses digitisation to preserve records and to make them freely accessible to all, without removing original materials from their custodians. Whenever possible the projects help the keepers to secure the survival of the original documents. Because the materials are often too fragile to be handled on a regular basis, the digital surrogates frequently provide the only point of access not only for scholars worldwide, but also for local readers. By making digital records available to all, the programme ensures that the history they capture is open to wide audiences, multiple perspectives and diverse interpretations.

Inside someones home, the walls are med from reeds. Three men smile and look very happy. Two of them stand by a metal trunk.
EAP334 Locating and digitising manuscripts in Wolof Ajami script, written by members of the Muridiyya Sufi order founded in Senegal in 1883 © Dr Fallou Ngom

The “From Dust to Digital” volume, which marks the 10th anniversary of the Endangered Archives Programme, showcases the historical importance and research potential of the digitised collections. The open access online version of the book is designed to ensure that not only the primary sources, but also the research they have inspired, are freely available to all. The book brings together 19 articles from the 244 projects that the programme has supported since its inception. We asked the authors to focus on the digitised collections, but gave them complete freedom in choosing specific questions they wanted to explore. The intention was to ensure that the volume illustrates a wide range of research that the EAP collections make possible.

Front cover of the book From Dust to Digital

The chapters discuss inscriptions in Libya; manuscripts in India, Ethiopia, Kenya and Mali; archival records in Bulgaria, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Nigeria, Senegal, Palestine; photographic collections in Argentina, India, Russia and Cameroon; and sound recordings from Guinea, Iran and the Russian Federation. The articles tackle the fundamental problems of transcribing and translating – sometimes for the very first time – languages that have nearly fallen silent. They investigate historical transmission of texts and explore the processes underlying collection formation. They bring to light unknown events and cast new light on historical phenomena. They provide vivid insights into local and even personal histories. 

Three men look directly at the camera, they stand next to three large piles of Ethiopian manuscripts.
EAP526 The priests of May Wäyni monastery with their manuscripts, Ethiopia © Professor Michael Gervers

Many of the contributions stress the importance of the original context for our understanding of the materials. The physical location of inscriptions within a landscape; the ceremonies preceding a reading of a manuscript; the place that a manuscript or a photograph holds within a larger collection, are all important for our interpretation of these documents. Without them we can only see a part of the story.

Most of the sources discussed here were not previously subjects of scholarly attention. We hope that this publication will open new debates and inspire scholars to explore the archives preserved by the Endangered Archives Programme. We also hope that open access to both the primary sources and to the articles in the “From Dust to Digital” volume will encourage future authors to make their research freely available to all.

  The Chief Executive of the British Library, with Ambassador of the Lao Embassy and the third Secretary.Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, with Ambassador of the Lao Embassy, H.E. Mr. Sayakane Sisouvong and the 3rd Secretary, Mr Moungkhoun Chansavath at the book launch held at the Library on the 17th February 2015.


Piles of the book 'From Dust to Digital' with two people browsing through one of the copies.
Gabriela Ramos and Evelyne Mesclier browsing through the publication.

Dr Maja Kominko

Cultural Grants Manager at Arcadia and the editor for the publication “From Dust to Digital”

12 December 2014

KNOW YOUR CULTURE! OR ELSE…

Add comment Comments (0)

Kenya Jamhuri Day, 12 December 2014

The Riyadha Mosque in Lamu, Kenya, is home to a collection of Islamic manuscripts that documents and preserves the teaching traditions of the Lamu archipelago from c.1850 to 1950. In the EAP online collection, under the unassuming name of EAP466/1/18, can be found a 241-page compilation of prayers, litanies and invocations. It is prefaced by an inscription, framed by an ochre and black geometrical pattern, which reads, somewhat ominously: “This book, what is in it, is in it. Whomsoever does not know what is in it, may the dog pee in his mouth.”

Cover page of the manuscript
EAP466/1/18

When they were copied some time in the mid-19th century, these texts had been handed down through generations, and were well known in the wider Swahili world - indeed in the Islamic world as a whole. In the volume, we find for example the Mawlid Barzanji, authored in the 18th century, and widely recited in East Africa to this day. It narrates the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, including the “heavenly handmaidens” who according to popular tradition attended his mother Amina. Knowledge of this type of text constituted what it meant to be a member of coastal Muslim community in 19th-century Lamu, through a “core curriculum” that regulated individual and collective practice of Islam. In short, knowing these texts made you part of mainstream culture. Failure to acquire this knowledge could mean social exclusion – or, more often, non-inclusion if you were an outsider to Lamu society. The consequences, as indicated by the inscription, could be dire.

A first assumption here is to interpret this threat as an eccentric liberty taken by the copyist, perhaps a poke at a madrasa (Islamic school) teacher who may have used these exact words during class. However, unusual though it may be, a similar worded warning can be found in at least one other manuscript from the Swahili coast, again cautioning against unwanted attention from dogs. The message is clear: Know you culture, your religion – and your identity – or else face exclusion.

As the volume stands today in the Riyadha library, it is owned by the mosque but forms part of the heritage of Lamu Muslim society, and that of the wider Swahili world. It is also part of the national heritage of Kenya. As Kenya celebrates its 50th Jamhuri (Republic) Day, it is sadly not in an atmosphere of tranquillity. The Westgate attacks in Nairobi in 2013 brought the world’s attention to Jihadist-style terrorism within Kenya’s border, but also to the looting by the security personnel in the wake of the killings. However, the mistrust between the coastal population and the authorities has simmered for years, and caused rifts between sections of the costal Swahilis. Religious leaders have been assassinated, attempts at cultural and religious dialogue have stalled under the threat of violence. Couple this with large-scale foreign and domestic investment, land-grabbing, corruption, the continuing turmoil in Somalia and the expansion of al-Shabbab on the coast, Kenya is facing challenges that threatens its stability and – ultimately – even its unity.

As has been shown in recent studies, access to, and use of heritage (including scientific research), is often unequally distributed and represented in the national narratives when new nations are formed. Jamhuri day is a nationwide day of celebration of Kenya’s freedom, but also of its diversity, its multiple and parallel pasts. As coastal Kenya struggles to express its perceived marginalisation, it can look to its own rich past, and to the various ways in which it incorporated new populations into Swahili society. From this vantage point, the coast may find new ways to represent itself in the national narrative of Kenya in the coming 50 years. The message from a 19th-century copyist can still be relevant. 

Click on the link if you would like to read more about the manuscript collection at Riyadha Mosque 

Dr. Anne K. Bang, Chr. Michelsen Institute, Norway

Grant holder EAP466

 

 

10 November 2014

New online collections – November 2014 Part 1

Add comment Comments (0)

This month we have had eight new collections go up online, with over five hundred thousand new images now available to view on our website. This blog will focus on four of the new projects, EAP148, EAP128, EAP180 and EAP183. Part 2 will be published next week and will cover the remaining four projects EAP285, EAP618, EAP110 and EAP211

The first collection is EAP148, this project carried out an inventory of archival holdings in Jamaica. This targeted libraries and archives which contain valuable historical collections that focus on the lives of enslaved Africans and free blacks in Jamaica during the period 1655-1800. The documents are important to scholars studying the Caribbean, especially Jamaica, and supplement the extensive records that are held in Britain on the forced migration of Africans to Jamaica.

The project compiled inventories of original documentation published before 1800, which are in the possession of four institutions, the Jamaica Archives, Roman Catholic Chancery’s Archive, University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Mona and the National Library of Jamaica (NLJ). At the Jamaica Archives, the Manumission of Slaves, volumes 5 through 12 were digitised, which cover the period 1747-1778. At UWI the team compiled an inventory of approximately 150 items and 10 primary sources were digitised, these documents cover the historical period 1493-1800. At the Chancery, Several burial, baptismal and marriage records were digitised. At the NLJ, the team compiled an inventory of approximately 90 items and 12 primary sources were digitised. 

EAP148_NLJ_MS1647_40EAP148/1/10 – Image 40

EAP128 digitised publications related to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities in Thailand. Bangkok is home to some of Asia's earliest and largest GLBT communities.

Since the 1970s, Thailand's GLBT communities have produced large quantities of Thai language publications including multi-issue periodicals and magazines and community organisation newsletters. This large volume of material, totalling several thousand items, documents the history of one of the world's most important non-Western homosexual/transgender cultures and is a largely untouched research resource. These materials are in danger of being destroyed and disappearing completely. Since no Thai or western library or archive has collected these materials, the only remaining copies are in the hands of private collectors.

A total of 648 issues of Thai gay, lesbian and transgender community organisations and commercial magazines from 32 different series were collected and digitised. These are now available to view online.

Anu-trp7662_cherngchai_1982_1_1_1_masterEAP128/1/14/1 – Image 1

EAP180 digitised one of the largest collections of early printed books and periodicals in the Republic of Armenia, located in the Fundamental Scientific Library (FSL).

After the establishment of the communist regime in Armenia in 1920 and the ideological cleansings of 1937, substantial numbers of manuscripts and books were destroyed and the remaining material was confined to the archives. A huge number of Armenian periodicals published during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were placed in closed archives, as they represented views which the Soviet regime did not want circulated. The FSL was selected by the authorities to house this material and a very limited number of researchers had access to these materials. Since 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet regime and the emergence of Armenia as an independent republic, all spheres of Armenian society have experienced a tremendous and fundamental change. This category of material previously closed is now open to all users. Periodical literature is a vital and unique source of information for the study of the history of the Armenian diaspora, literature, culture, institutions, church life and politics. The condition of the material is in danger because of its storage conditions and the quality of the paper they were printed on. The fluctuation of temperatures and level of humidity in the stacks during the autumn and spring seasons remains uncontrolled. This has caused the physical condition of the materials to deteriorate and many of the rare books have been lost already. 

This project digitised over 4200 volumes and has ensured that the information contained in these volumes will be preserved for research.

If you would like to know more about this project and gain insight into the digitisation procedures of an EAP project you can read an article by the project leaders Alan Hopkinson and Tigran Zargaryan, “Peculiarities of digitising materials from the collections of the National Academy of Sciences, Armenia”.

Eap180patmutyun hajoc-149EAP180/1/1/116 Image 149

EAP183 preserved early print literature on the history of Tamilnadu. The aim of the project was to preserve and provide access to a very important segment of cultural material that reflects the history of Tamilnadu. The project preserved over 150,000 images on microfilm reels and then digitised them for better access. The materials were identified through library surveys and were borrowed and shipped to the Roja Muthiah Research Library (RMRL) for microfilming and digitisation. The subject material is important for scholars to reconstruct the history of Tamilnadu, covering areas such as the Self-Respect Movement, Dravidian movement, Bhakti movement and other social and cultural histories of the 19th and early 20th century Tamilnadu.

183_RMR6154_1044EAP183/1/1/261 – Image 11

Check back next week to see what else has been added!

You can also keep up to date with any new collections by joining our Facebook group.

 

09 June 2014

New online collections - June 2014

Add comment Comments (0)

Happy International Archives Day! Welcome to our monthly blog updating you about recent online collections. This month four collections have gone online EAP027, EAP061, EAP144 and EAP372. One of these collections hails from Liberia, two are from Indonesia and one is from India.

The first collection is EAP027 which preserved the papers of William V.S. Tubman, Liberia’s longest running president (1944-1971). These materials were being stored in a library in an unoccupied mansion in Liberia. Many had been damaged by mould and insects. Some had been left on the floor after the room had been searched by rebels, who thought the papers may contain hidden money and valuables, during Liberia’s civil war in 2003.

The collection contains papers which relate to Tubman’s personal and political life from his presidency in 1944 to his death in 1971. The majority of the collections focuses on the beginning (1944-1950) and the end (1961-1971) of his presidency. The papers are divided into three main groups, Liberian government papers, W.V.S Tubman papers and records relating to Tubmans work with non-governmental organisations. Given Tubman’s status as an African head of state during the de-colonization era, these papers will be of particular value for the study of the Organization of African Unity’s early years, as well as for the study of West African diplomacy.

A previous project, EAP139, which is already online, preserved the photographic collections of William V.S. Tubman.

VAB6923-00631-0003
EAP027/1/1/5/22 – Image 3

EAP061 is the first of the collections from Indonesia; it digitised Islamic manuscripts belonging to Pondok Pesantren. Pondok Pesantren are traditional Islamic schools which have become centres for Islamic learning and the dissemination of Islamic knowledge in Indonesia. The manuscripts reveal their role as centres for learning and sharing of Islamic teaching.

The project digitised three collections: Pondok Pesantren Langitan in Tuban, established 1852 by KH. Muhammad Nur; Pondok Pesantren Tarbiyyah al-Thalabah in Keranji, established in 1898 by KH Musthofa; and Pondok Pesantren Tegalsari, Jetis Ponorogo, established in the 18th century by Kyai Mohammed Besari.

These manuscripts include 'Yellow Books' (Kitab Kuning, a term referring to Islamic works printed on yellowish paper), such as Jawhar al-Tawhid, Hidayat al-Sibyan, Kitab Taqrib, Kitab Sittin Mas'ala etc. However their marginal notes make them unique from the original books. These notes are an important resource to study the efforts of Indonesia Ulama to translate Islam into the local context. The manuscripts provide evidence for how Islam interacted with local and Indonesian culture.

125b
EAP061/1/17 Image 74

EAP144 is the second project from Indonesia. It digitised over 250 manuscripts from five Suruas (Prayer Houses) in West Sumatra. These manuscripts contain various texts such as Al-Qur'an, Al-Qur'an Translation (Tafsir), Tasawuf, Fiqh, Agiography (The Stories of the Saints), Arabic Grammar, Minangkabau Laws, Kaba, Hikayat, Nazam, Azimat, Letters and Medicine which hold important information for Minangkabau culture and Islamic history. They will contribute greatly to the study of Islam, Tasawuf, Traditional Laws, Language, Literature, Culture, and Medicine in Indonesia.

EAP144_DMMCS_BT_13_DMMCS_002
EAP144/1/13 – Image 2

EAP372 is the final project, this digitised early periodicals and newspapers of Tamilnadu and Pondichery in India.

Tamilnadu and Pondicherry occupy a prominent place on the map of print history in South Asia. Printing during the modern period proliferated to the rest of India from Tranquebar, a small coastal town south of Pondicherry in Tamilnadu. There was a big boom in printing in the 19th and the 20th century in the Tamil region. Evidence to this is the number of books, periodicals and newspapers that were published. While importance was given to the creation of publications, preservation took a back seat. A number of periodicals and newspapers primarily in Tamil and English remained locked and in deteriorated condition in several collections in Tamilnadu and Pondicherry.

The project was undertaken by a team from the Roja Muthiah Research Library. They identified materials in libraries and private archives which were then digitised. A total of 140,609 images were digitised. 10,770 issues from 56 titles of periodicals were identified, many of which were rare periodicals.

EAP372_SM_1922-09_009EAP372/1/1/1/1 – Image 9

Check back next month to see what else has been added!

You can also keep up to date with any new collections by joining our Facebook group.

 

14 April 2014

New online collections - April 2014 - Part 2

Add comment Comments (0)

This is the second part of this month’s blog updating you on the new EAP collections which are now available online. This edition covers four projects, EAP408, EAP450, EAP570 and EAP596.
Two of these collections come from Caribbean Islands the Turks and Caicos Islands and Anguilla. The other two collections come from Sri Lanka and Bhutan.

EAP408 was a pilot project which carried out a survey of archives of the Turks and Caicos Islands. These islands do not have a formal national archive, which has left the islands archives vulnerable to loss. Only the Turks and Caicos National Museum has a mandate to collect and care for historical records and before this project its archival collection, which spans around 50 linear feet, represented the islands only known archival records.

The project searched to find collections of archives; it located the major repository of Government Archive records and investigated any other reported or potential storage areas on the inhabited islands of Grand Turk, Providenciales, North Caicos, Middle Caicos, South Caicos and Salt Cay. A sample of the records was digitised and this is now available to view on our website.

408_TCNM201101_jamaicadispatches58_080_03
EAP408/1/1/78 – Image 3

The second project, EAP596,  is from the Caribbean as well, aiming to survey the endangered records of Anguilla. Anguilla also has no formal archive for the collection of records relating to the island. Most archival work has been undertaken on a voluntary basis. Most notably, the Anguilla Archaeological & Historical Society (AAHS), although lacking in resources, has intervened on an ad hoc basis in order to prevent the destruction of historical records wherever possible.
The survey yielded somewhat more pre-1900 material than expected. It represents a valuable resource for research into the island’s history. The material offers a portrait of social and economic conditions, distilled from the King’s Bench records of the 18th century as well as from the Deed series that begin in 1824 and continue through into the later 20th century.

There is abundant documentary material that relates to the Revolutionary period, although much of it has been destroyed by natural disaster and human neglect. The Revolutionary documents have stimulated the most local interest and also detail the extraordinary transformation of Anguilla from an island in 1970 without telephones or electricity to the complex tourist-based economy and society of the present day.

The project’s secondary focus was on creating a digital sample of some of the material. Four document series, comprising six bound volumes, one newspaper and one group of unbound documents were digitised, resulting in the creation of 2,491 digital images. These are now available to view via our website.

EAP596_Wills_013_05
EAP596/1/3/1 – Image 56

EAP450 undertook a survey of manuscripts in Sri Lanka that had been written in the Malay language. The history of the ‘Malay’ community in Sri Lanka goes back to the middle of the seventeenth century, following the foundation of Dutch rule in the island in 1640. The designation ‘Malay’ has been commonly used to refer to people from the Indonesian Archipelago who were exiled to Sri Lanka by the Dutch as political exiles and convicts, sent there in various capacities to serve the Dutch, or recruited as soldiers to colonial armies, both Dutch and, at a later stage, British.

The Malays of Sri Lanka produced a diverse range of manuscripts in the eighteenth to early twentieth centuries. These included Islamic theological treatises, poetry, biographies of the prophets, mystical writings and more.

This pilot project documented approximately 50 Malay manuscripts, books, letters and notes. It provided a digital sample of 5 of these manuscripts. These are now available to view via our website.

450_Saldin2_129
EAP450/1/2 – Image 129

EAP570 is our largest collection to date, containing over two hundred and ninety thousand images.  It digitised the archives of several Buddhist temples in Bhutan. With a long history and undisturbed continuity, Bhutan’s far flung temples and monastic archives represent a literary trove which is still largely unexplored. The project went to the temples of Dongkala, Chizhing, Dodedra and Phojoding; they all have significant manuscript collections dating from the 16th century and later, covering a wide range of subjects from canonical writings to local biographical and ritual literature.

The books are housed in the temple halls, and were generally wrapped in cloth or sometimes bound with a rope and stacked on shelves. They are vulnerable to damage and even possible destruction. For instance, the earthquake on 19 September 2011 has affected 339 temples in western Bhutan including those mentioned here, and destroyed 17 beyond repair. Despite the spiritual, academic and artistic significance of these collections to the local communities, scholars and wider audience, they remain in precarious conditions.

Making digital copies has proven to be the most effective and economical method of preservation, also allowing these fantastic resources to reach a much wider audience. The project was exceptionally successful, even managing to digitise some manuscripts from four additional temples Phurdogkha, Menrikha, Thujedra and Pumola. The project digitised nearly 800 manuscripts. During the process they also cleaned bookshelves, changed book covers and helped to improve the conditions in which the original books were stored.

EAP570_Dongkarla_kanjur_brgyad_stong_001_ka (427)
EAP570/1/1/1 Part 2 – Image 213

Check back next month to see what else has been added!

You can also keep up to date with any new collections by joining our Facebook group.

 

06 January 2014

New online collections - January 2014

Add comment Comments (0)

Happy new year from the Endangered Archives Programme! To celebrate the start of 2014 we have four new online collections available with over one hundred thousand images. Two of these collections come from India with the other two collections originating in China and Indonesia.

The first collection is EAP143, this project preserved Shui manuscripts in China. These are considered to be one of the few remaining types of documents in China that are written in a hieroglyphic style.

The manuscripts give a rare insight into Shui culture as well as being useful for studying history, anthropology, folklore and even palaeography in general. Shui manuscripts are written, kept and taught by the native priesthood. The manuscripts are used in rituals, as well as in teaching the next generation of priests. The contents of the manuscripts cover a variety of topics including Shui knowledge on astronomy, geography, folklore, religion, ethics, philosophy, art and history.

The project surveyed about twenty villages in Libo County and a selection of approximately 600 Shui manuscripts was chosen and then digitised; these are now available to view online.

DPS_118_009
EAP143/2/118 – Image 9

EAP208 set out to digitise palm leaf manuscripts from northern Kerala, India. These documents, which are in a fragile and endangered condition, contain several insights into areas of knowledge such as ecology, agriculture, science, art (the arts) and spirituality.

The project was successful in digitising 275 manuscripts with over 50,000 images.

208_KRI0021_021
EAP208/15/37 – Image 21

EAP281 located and identified Lepcha manuscripts in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Sikkim in India. The Lepcha people are local to Sikkim but represent a minority of the population in Sikkim and neighbouring areas. The culture and language has been diminishing for over a century as many young Lepcha give preference to learning English or Nepalese and are less interested in their traditions.

The Lepcha people have their own indigenous script which dates back to the 18th century. The manuscripts reveal the earliest stages of Lepcha literary heritage. The oldest handwritten materials that have so far been identified were written in the second half of the 19th century. Many of the manuscripts contain texts of a Buddhist nature, a smaller number of texts reflect older Lepcha traditions. The project successfully digitised 40 manuscripts and located many more.

281_FoningManuscript5_009
EAP281/1/5 Image 9

EAP329 digitised private collections of Acehnese manuscripts located in Pidie and Aceh Besar regencies. These had been surveyed by a previous pilot project EAP229. The content of the manuscripts is a part of Acehnese history with regards to lifestyle, the kingdom of Aceh, and the war against colonialism. They also relate to Islamic knowledge and Islamic mysticism (Sufism) and its order. The project successfully digitised 483 manuscripts with over 46,000 images.

EAP329_TMC17_0001
EAP329/1/17 Image 1

Check back next month to see what else has been added!

You can also keep up to date with any new collections by joining our Facebook group.