09 August 2023
Recent online collections include zoological records from Kenya, documents from a Sufi shrine in India, manuscripts from Java, and records from monasteries of cloistered nuns in Lima. You can read a brief overview about these projects below, or go straight to the online collections using these links:
- Preserving endangered zoological archival material in the National Museums of Kenya
- Exploring the archives of cloistered nuns in colonial Lima (Peru)
- Documents in the Sufi shrine at Dhar (India)
- Identifying and Digitising Eastern Salient Manuscripts of Java (Indonesia)
This project digitised zoological archival records from the Zoology department of the National Museums of Kenya. The records include field trip reports and catalogues that capture details such as species notes, the localities where samples were collected or recorded, and the sources or names of donors. The material spans four taxa: mammalogy, ornithology, ichthyology, and invertebrate zoology. Containing valuable research information on species taxonomy, natural history, and distribution, these records offer insights into historical animal species distribution, shedding light on habitat destruction and helping to map out the extent of species decline.
This project digitised archives from the 17th to 20th centuries of two monasteries of cloistered nuns in Lima, Peru: the Monasterio de Santa Rosa de Lima and the Monasterio Jesus, María y José (Clarisas Capuchinas). Most of these documents shed light on aspects of daily life in colonial and early republican Peru, areas that have been minimally investigated. Due to the scarcity of sources, the lives of nuns and women in general during this period have been under-researched. It is hoped that the materials now digitised will stimulate ongoing and future studies, offering insights into religious and everyday life in late colonial and early republican Lima.
The goal of this project was to digitise and examine documents related to the tomb complex of Kamal al-Din Chishti in Dhar, Madhya Pradesh, India. Kamal al-Din was a member of the renowned Chishti lineage of Sufis. After spending a period with Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi, he migrated to central India in the late 1200s and passed away in 1331. His descendants have overseen Kamal al-Din’s tomb for seven centuries. Following some known and published inscriptions from the 1400s, the earliest extant documents from the shrine originate from the late 1600s, bearing seals linked to the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (1658-1707). Subsequent documents correspond with the reigns of Bahadur Shah, Farrukhsiyar, Muhammad Shah, and Shah Alam II. The archive extends into the Maratha rule of central India, with examples persisting into the 20th century. Predominantly detailing property transactions and endowments, these documents offer invaluable insights into institutional history, charitable endeavours, officials, local geography, and land stewardship.
This project digitised 97 manuscripts from 24 different owners or collections in the regions of Banyuwangi, Jember, Bondowoso, Situbondo, and Lumajang on the island of Java, Indonesia. The manuscripts cover the subjects of religion, history, culture, metaphysics, etc, predominantly written in Javanese and Arabic, but including some in Madurese, Indonesian and Malay.
30 May 2023
Every now and then, researchers notify us of a conference talk focusing on content digitised by EAP projects. We are always thrilled to be told about these talks and it prompted us to create a digital lecture series of our own. We approached a handful of people, who we knew had worked on EAP content and they, very kindly, agreed to take part. We have created two themes in the first instance: Narratives within the Archive and Manuscripts on Magic and the links to the individual lectures are below. The presentations are absolutely fascinating and we hope you enjoy listening to them.
Narratives within the Archive
Dr Helga Baitenmann - Hidden Narratives of Indigenous Women in Nineteenth-Century Mexico
Dr Mégane Coulon - Life histories in mid-nineteenth century Freetown, Sierra Leone
Manuscripts on Magic
Eyob Derillo (PhD student) - Ethiopian amulet scrolls, talisman and divination
Professor Fallou Ngom - Healing, Divination, and Protection Techniques in Wolof and Mandinka Manuscripts
Dr Sam van Schaik - Buddhist Magic
Dr Farouk Yahya - Malay Magic and Divination Manuscripts from Indonesia
We would like to take this opportunity to thank the contributors and if you are using EAP content for your own research and would like to notify us, please email us at [email protected].
30 March 2023
As a PhD placement student at the British Library, I had the privilege of being part of the Endangered Archives Programme. It allowed me to dive into the rich history and culture of West Africa through its manuscripts, and to play a role in making these unique works accessible to a wider audience. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with such a talented and supportive team. Initially, I had planned to participate in the PhD placement scheme full-time, but due to unforeseen circumstances, I had to switch to part-time. The team was incredibly supportive and understanding throughout my journey, making the transition smooth and hassle-free.
My initial meetings were with Jody Butterworth (EAP) and Mariam de Haan (Lead Curator Africa), who introduced me to EAP's work in Mali. I was then connected with Sophie Sarin (project holder for the projects in Djenné and Timbuktu) and Saadou Traore (who catalogued the several thousands of manuscripts). I was also introduced to Lucy Hinnie, who trained me on Wikipedia. Through Lucy, I also had the opportunity to attend the University of Edinburgh's "Women in Red" Wikithon online. The aim of this is to highlight and update Wikipedia pages about notable women who were not yet featured on the platform. The idea was also to highlight the rich content of the manuscripts on various pages dedicated to Mali on Wikipedia as well. Whilst this was one of the main aims of the placement, we found out that the Wiki entries would be more suited in the local languages and it was difficult to highlight primary sources on Wikipedia as the encyclopaedic nature of the platform requires context and other reliable published sources talking about the manuscripts. Since this was not the case, we decided to publish a blogpost on the British Library’s website instead.
My PhD placement focused on highlighting digitised manuscripts from West Africa for a West African as well as worldwide audience. Robert Miles, from the EAP team, provided me with the list of “most viewed” manuscripts from Djenné, Senegal and Nigeria, which was helpful in choosing manuscripts to be included in my report. The chosen manuscripts relate to everyday West African Muslim practices such as prayers for getting along with a superior, interpreting dreams, sayings of the Prophet, astronomy, geomancy, prayers for carrying a baby to term and even prayers for cursing the wicked.
Exploring the manuscripts was an exciting adventure. I was fascinated by the different handwriting styles and unique topics exclusive to West Africa. At first, it was challenging as I had to get used to the anomalies in the authors and scribes' writing styles. For instance, most writers of the manuscripts put the dot of the Arabic letter "fa”/ ف ) under the alphabet instead of above it, and the letter "qaaf/ “ق that usually had two dots on top sometimes had one and at other not even one! I found this to be a consistent characteristic in all the manuscripts I studied. Another noticeable characteristic common among all the manuscript was the traditional Muslim opening phrase, Basmalah, which praises Allah and his prophet Muhammad, the equivalent of doxology in Christian practice.
The manuscripts were unique in their own way, and no two were exactly alike. Despite not having page numbers, order of the pages was maintained in some by copying the word of the next page at the bottom of the preceding one. Additionally, some of the text highlighted the name of Allah and Muhammad in red ink. There was also the use of Ajami script, tables and sometimes figures in some manuscripts. For example, "Fā’idat ḍarb al-tis‘at ‘alā al-Shaykh Muḥammad al-Ghazāliy: Esoterics", which I could not decipher due to time constraints and hope that someone else researching the collections will be able to do so in future. I hope that my efforts will help others who are interested in learning about the rich history and literary culture of West Africa.
My report on the manuscripts explored can be found on the EAP website, along with my notes of any anomalies and illegible and ambiguity within the texts. Both these documents will also be added to the Library's digital repository and will hopefully be of interest to future researchers.
Nahida Ahmed is currently undertaking a PhD titled "Sociolinguistic Study of Wakhi in Urban Areas" at SOAS. The EAP team would like to thank Nahida for all her work over the past few months - it has been an absolute joy having her with us.
03 March 2023
This month we would like to highlight five new collections that can be accessed via the EAP website. Two of these are from India, with the others from Mali, Mongolia, and Brazil.
- Creating a digital archive of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century criminal and notarial records in Mamanguape, São João do Cariri, and João Pessoa, Paraíba, Brazil (EAP853)
- Digitisation and preservation of rare historical sources of Mongolia written in the 19th and early 20th centuries (EAP927)
- Survey and Creation of the Digital Documentary Resources in Nilgiri and Coimbatore (1850-1970) (EAP1274)
- Documenting royalty through the changing political culture in Kongu Nadu, South India, 1400-1950 (EAP1160)
- Recovering the rich local history of Kita (Mali) through the salvaging of its archival heritage (EAP1085)
Creating a digital archive of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century criminal and notarial records in Mamanguape, São João do Cariri, and João Pessoa, Paraíba, Brazil (EAP853)
This project digitised four collections of criminal and notarial records in Paraíba, Brazil. They should prove to be a great resource for studies of slavery and abolition, orphans and wards of the court, crime, and property ownership in the Brazilian Northeast. The four collections digitised are:
• EAP853/1 Fórum Miguel Levino de Oliveira Ramos, Comarca de Mamanguape (1846-1918)
• EAP853/2 Arquivo do Fórum Judicial da Comarca de João Pessoa (21 Mar 1855-27 Mar 1909)
• EAP853/3 Arquivo do Memorial do Tribunal de Justiça da Paraíba (1778-1893)
• EAP853/4 Arquivo do Fórum Nivaldo Farias Brito, Comarca de São João do Cariri (17 Sep 1782-11 Apr 1921)
The records consist mostly of legal proceedings from criminal, civil, and commercial courts. They include deeds of sale, powers of attorney, inventories, criminal lawsuits, eviction orders, and many other records created in the jurisdictions. More detailed information is available on each of the four collections catalogue records.
Digitisation and preservation of rare historical sources of Mongolia written in the 19th and early 20th centuries (EAP927)
This project digitised c. 3000 rare, unpublished documents in seven different sub-collections, held by the Institute of History and Ethnography at the Mongolian Academy of Sciences (MAS). The majority are typewritten copies of 19th century-early 20th century materials created in the 1940s-1950s by scholars copying them into Uyghur Mongolian or Cyrillic script. The documents illustrate the events of the Manchu empire (lasted until 1911), Mongolian sovereignty (1911-1921), Chinese-Russian-Mongolian connections, and the start of socialism (from 1921 on).
Survey and Creation of the Digital Documentary Resources in Nilgiri and Coimbatore (1850-1970) (EAP1274)
The four collections digitised in this project consist mostly of photographs dating from the late 19th to mid 20th centuries. Other records digitised include newspaper clippings, postcards, and other documents. The four collections available are:
• EAP1274/1 Collections of Rao Bahadur C.M. Ramachandran Chettiar of Coimbatore (1925-1953)
• EAP1274/2 Annual Meeting photographs of the United Planters' Association of South India (1893-1953)
• EAP1274/3 Collections of Nilgiri Documentation Centre (NDC) (1st half of the 20th century)
• EAP1274/4 Badaga Family Collection (Mid 20th century)
EAP1274/1 contains photographs of various temples in India, portraits of celebrities, and newspaper cuttings related to temples and monuments. The EAP1274/3 collection includes the records of Dr. Philo Irudhayanath, and Mr. A. Dharmalingam who founded the Nilgiri Documentation Centre in the 1940s, and created a collection of photographs related to the Nilgiris.
Documenting royalty through the changing political culture in Kongu Nadu, South India, 1400-1950 (EAP1160)
This project carried out a survey of records from various locations in Kongu Nadu, in addition to digitising notebooks and registers from one of them – the Idayakottai Zamin Collection. The records address a variety of issues of Idayakottai Zamin and their estate, and include acquittance rolls, complaints, land accounts, minutes books, temple accounts and leases. Many of the documents are related to the social history and financial activity of the Idayakottai Zamin, their participation in municipal administration, and association with various government departments and officials.
Recovering the rich local history of Kita (Mali) through the salvaging of its archival heritage (EAP1085)
This is a continuation of the EAP820 project which carried out a survey (and sample digitisation) of archives of the Kita Cercle in Mali. The project revealed a larger number of records in poor condition and in need of digitising resulting in this follow-on project with more material preserved digitally.
Kita played a crucial role in the French colonisation of western Mali, partly because of it being the location of one of the earliest colonial railroad stations in the country. The Cercle was the main colonial administrative authority and created a tremendous amount of information on social and economic life in the region. Records digitised include those related to political affairs; state surveillance; meteorological reports; decrees, ordinances, and circulars; administrative records and correspondence.
19 December 2022
This month we are highlighting the following three projects that have recently been made available to view online.
- EAP1073: Creation of Historical Photography Archive at the History Department of Khartoum University [Sudan]
- EAP1293: Documenting and Copying (Estampage) Sluice Inscriptions: A Case Study of Pudukottai [India]
- EAP1294: Safeguarding for Posterity Two Private Collections of Palm-Leaf Manuscripts from the Tamil Country [India]
This project carried out a survey of private photography collections in Sudan and included the digitisation of images from one of these, the Ali Muhammad Osman Collection. This collection is made up of personal photographic material from his childhood, his teenage years in which he experimented as a photographer and sought connections with other photographers, and into his early adulthood in which he went to university and studied visual arts, joined the scouts and briefly the military, and traveled across Sudan. 319 photographs were digitised in total.
This project visited 60 sites in Tamil Nadu to document inscriptions found on the sluices used in ancient irrigation tanks for water management. The inscriptions can help researchers to understand the history, irrigation techniques, water management, social structure, rituals and many other cultural aspects associated with the sluices.
This project catalogued and digitised two collections of palm-leaf manuscripts in Tamil Nadu: the Kalliṭaikuṟicci and Villiampākkam collections. 186 Sanskrit, Tamil, and Manipravala manuscripts from the 18th-19th centuries were digitised in total and include works on: theology, philosophy, poetry, medical texts, temple rites, Śaiva praise verses, vedic, Pāninian Grammar, Śrīvaiṣṇava treatise, Śrīvaiṣṇava poetry, Dharmaśāstra, Citrakāvyam, Kāvya, Mīmāṃsā, vedic, Pramāṇa, Vyākaraṇa.
05 October 2022
We have another four projects that recently went online to highlight this month. Two projects from India, and one each from Cuba and Columbia:
- Preservation and Digitisation of Manuscripts Belonging to 16th to 20th Century of Central Kerala (EAP1320)
- Creating a digital archive of ecclesiastical records in the original seven Villas of Cuba (EAP955)
- Digitisation of Documentary Heritage of the Colombian Caribbean in the Maritime Port of Cartagena de Indias (EAP1212)
- Songs of the Old Madmen: Recovering Baul Songs from the Note-Books of 19th and 20th Century Bengali Saint-Composers (EAP1247)
The project team has digitised 84 documents, made up of a total of 77 palm leaves documents and seven old books. The palm leaves belong to the period 1600 to 1910 AD. Notable outcomes are the recovery and digitisation of assumingly ‘lost’ ancient works like ‘Lagnaprakarana’ of renowned ancient scholars and a Palm leaf manuscript text of Rgveda. The records cover the topics of Astronomy related mathematics, Ayurveda, Upanayana, Astrology, Commentaries, amongst others. The sources of these collections are mainly from two families with renowned tradition of knowledge in ancient Kerala. One is the Irinjadapilly Mana the ancestral home of Sangamagrama Madhava, the legendary Mathematician of the 14th century. The other is Kunnathur Padinjaredath Mana, known for their knowledge in Vasthu Sastra and Tantra.
This project digitised records owned by the Bishopric of Santa Clara in Cuba, and held at three separate locations: the Catedral de Santa Clara, the Iglesia de San Juan, and the Iglesia of La Caridad. Records include baptism, death, and burial registers.
This project digitised notarial documents from 1853-1900 corresponding to the First Notary Office of Cartagena, and notarial documents from 1859-1861 corresponding to the Notary Public of the Municipality of El Carmen de Bolívar. Such documents are found in the Historical Archive of Cartagena de Indias, an administrative unit of the Historical Museum of the same city. The digitised material accounts for the social history of both the city of Cartagena de Indias and the Municipality of El Carmen de Bolívar. It addresses aspects related to economic life (including: trade, formation of commercial companies, purchase-sale of possessions and rural and urban properties, production and marketing of tobacco, public administrative contracts, mortgages), as well as characteristics of social, public and private life (civil marriages, successions of post-mortuary assets, appraisals, wills), both in rural and urban areas.
This project digitised records from six different Baul collections in West Bengal, India. The songs of the Bauls (literally “mad”, intoxicated by divine love) are composed by gurus or spiritual teachers, and performed by itinerant folk musicians. They are performed among low-caste communities in India and Bangladesh, where they are recognized as intangible cultural heritage. An encyclopedia of beliefs and practices, Baul songs discuss ideas on cosmogony, health, sexuality, meditation and everyday life.
The collections provide important primary sources for the study of the Baul tradition of Bengal, showing how the songs are passed down across the generations and transmitted from older gurus to contemporary singers/practitioners. They provide information about the continuity and change in the repertoire of Baul songs, while also offering a window to understand the intimate and devotional relationship between gurus and disciples of this tradition.
The records include handwritten notebooks of Baul songs, three albums of correspondence between guru and disciple, historical documents, and numerous photographs of Baul performers and their families which have been found within the pages of the notebooks.
04 August 2022
This month we are highlighting four pilot projects that have recently been made available online, from Indonesia, Kenya, Russia, and Tunisia.
- Early Cyrillic books and manuscripts of old believers communities in Kostroma, Russia [EAP990]
- Family Manuscript Libraries on the island of Jerba, Tunisia [EAP993]
- Endangered manuscripts digitised in Kampar, Riau Province, Indonesia [EAP1020]
- County Council of Nairobi Minute Books digitised at McMillan Memorial Library, Nairobi, Kenya [EAP1357]
Led by Dr Ilya Nagradov, this project (awarded in 2018) digitised a total of 174 books and manuscripts located at traditional residing places of old believers in the Kostroma region of Russia.
Old Believers are Eastern Orthodox Christians who follow a form of Christianity that pre-dates the reforms of Patriarch Nixon, who aimed to unite the practices of the Russian and Greek Orthodox churches in the mid 17th century.
This pilot project, led by Dr Paul Love, digitised manuscripts and documents located at the private residence of the El Bessi family. The manuscripts originally belonged to the endowed collection of the al-Bāsī mosque in Waligh, Jerba (Tunisia), which operated from the 18th to the early-20th century.
The texts in the El Bessi library deal with a variety of religious topics including law and theology, as well as biography and poetry. Alongside religious texts, however, the collection holds several works on rhetoric and language as well as the sciences. While many of the manuscripts were written by Sunni-Muslim authors from the Hanafi and Maliki schools of Islam, others were authored by the minority Ibadi-Muslim community on the island. Ibadis are neither Sunni nor Shi’i Muslims and most of their texts today remain in private collections like this one. Having been protected for centuries by Ibadis, collections like this one and many others on the island of Jerba are in danger of being lost forever.
Almost all items are in Arabic, although Turkish appears occasionally as a language of commentary or marginal notes.
This pilot project led to a follow on major project, which has digitised a further seven Arabic library collections in Jerba, Tunisia; the results of which will hopefully go online later this year. But in the meantime, the EAP993 project has produced nearly 100,000 digital images to keep you busy until then.
This pilot project, led by Mr Fiqru Mafar, produced a survey of manuscripts located in the Kampar region of Indonesia.
The team also digitised manuscripts at 11 different locations.
The dates of the manuscripts range from the 17th century to the 21st century. The oldest manuscript can be dated back to 1668.
Led by Ms Angela Wachuka, the EAP1357 team, including digitisation coordinator Maureen Mumbua, digitised minute book volumes for the County Council of Nairobi, Kenya from 1920s-1950s.
This collection, located at the McMillan Memorial Libary, provides unique visual documentation of Kenya’s politics, history and culture during the colonial era, by capturing the City Council’s meeting notes concerning parliamentary matters, historical events and daily life in this significant period.
22 June 2022
We have another 4 new projects online to bring to your attention. This time from Indonesia, Iran, India, and West Africa:
- Bima Manuscripts [EAP988]
- Zoroastrian historical documents and Avestan manuscripts [EAP1014]
- Private records of leading business families of Early Colonial Bengal [EAP1104]
- Pulaar Islamic Texts: Six Archives of the Taal Families in Senegal and Mali [EAP1245]
Bima Manuscripts [EAP988]
Led by Dr Titik Pudjiastuti, this pilot project digitised 205 manuscripts that represent the history and culture of Bima - one of the provinces in Nusa Tenggara Barat, in the eastern part of Sumabawa Island, Indonesia.
In 2016, these manuscripts survived an avalanche and flood that affected the region. And this project has gone some way to helping protecting the manuscripts against future natural disasters.
This major project was led by Dr Saloumeh Gholami. It digitised 11 manuscripts containing more than 8,000 pages. It also digitised more than 15,000 historical, economic, and legal documents regarding the religious minority of Zoroastrians in Iran.
The collection came to light in February 2016 in a Zoroastrian house in the Priests' Quarter [Maḥalle-ye dastūrān] in Yazd in Iran. Arabab Mehraban Poulad, a famous Zoroastrian merchant from a priest family, had accumulated and archived his own documents and Avestan manuscripts as well as the documents of his father and grandfather over the course of his lifetime. This collection now belongs to his grandchild Mehran Pouladi.
Led by Dr Tridibsantapa Kundu, this major project digitised the private records of 11 leading business families of colonial Bengal. This project built on the EAP906 pilot project, also led by Dr Tridibsantapa Kundu, where 25 business families were approached and a survey of the various collections was produced.
These collections are important for understanding the Bengali business community and their strategies in dealing with the English East India Company and the British Raj.
Led by Dr Mohamed Mwamzandi and Dr Samba Camara, this project digitised manuscripts written by some of the most influential Haalpulaar (speakers of Pulaar) Islamic scholars of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Pulaar is a variety of the Fula/Fulani language spoken by over five million people in the West African countries of Senegal, The Gambia, Mauritania, Guinea, and Mali. About 40 million Africans use varieties of the Fula/Fulani language. And you can read more about these manuscripts and the project to digitise them in a blog post written by the project's co-lead, Dr Samba Camara.
Endangered archives blog recent posts
- New online - July 2023
- EAP Digital Lecture Series
- PhD Placement focussing on Manuscripts from West Africa
- New online - February 2023
- New online - November 2022
- New online - September 2022
- New online - July 2022
- New online - June 2022
- Digitising Haalpulaar Islamic Manuscripts (EAP1245 Project)
- New online - April 2022