Endangered archives blog

News about the projects saving vulnerable material from around the world

24 October 2019

The hour is approaching!


The deadline for applications for the next round of EAP grants is fast approaching! Midday GMT on Monday 11th November. We look forward to receiving a rich and diverse inbox to sift though.


Do read the Guidelines for Applicants https://eap.bl.uk/sites/default/files/2019%20Guidance%20for%20applicants%20for%20website%20Sept2019.pdf before filling in your application forms. You might find the blogs about our webinars useful as well. We did a webinar in November 2018 in English https://blogs.bl.uk/endangeredarchives/2019/07/applicant-webinar-nov18.html and during the summer we put on webinars in Arabic, French and Spanish https://blogs.bl.uk/endangeredarchives/2019/07/webinars.html. It is also a good idea to ensure you and your host institution are familiar with the standard grant terms and conditions https://eap.bl.uk/sites/default/files/EAP%20Grant%20Terms%20%26%20Conditions%20template%20July%202019%20for%20website_1.pdf


If you can’t find the answers to your questions in any of those links, do get in touch. But remember – you can’t stop the clock!


Written by Ruth Hansford

EAP Grants Manager

17 September 2019

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

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

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

A regional tradition – a regional approach

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

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

What can be done on a regional level?

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

The creation of an archival map

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

Improved partnerships between private custodians and branches of state institutions

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

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

Conservation efforts – digital and physical

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

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

Awareness-raising – suggestions

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

EAP1114 team

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

10 September 2019

Eight weeks at EAP

My name is Yiru Guo, a student of Museum Studies from the University of Leicester, on a summer placement with the Endangered Archives Programme (EAP). It was my pleasure to be a part of the EAP team, which aims to foster the digitisation of threatened archival documents around the world and make them freely accessible for the public.

Portrait of Yiru Guo standing in a cave.

Over the past two months of my placement, I was encouraged to join rich staff talks and British Library tours, including the treasures room and the conservation studio.

Additionally, I received training to use open source software Open Refine, which I used to process metadata, including the extraction of named entities and reconciliation with Wikidata.

My main tasks were to improve metadata relating to Chinese language collections, catalogue a new accession of Lanten manuscripts from Northern Laos, and promote EAP on Weibo social media. I learnt that sharing knowledge and expertise is vital to enhance research all over the world and sustain a team of preserving cultural heritage.

Staff sitting around a large table watching a presentation.

Group of British Library placement students looking at a display of bookbinding tools.

Improving metadata for Chinese language projects

Because some EAP projects only have transliterated (Pinyin) titles, I enhanced this metadata by checking the digitised manuscripts and creating Chinese language titles, as found on the original manuscripts. This will help improve the accuracy of the online search function and facilitate greater public access. Therefore, researchers can discover more details about these archives and conduct further studies.

On the left a digitised manuscript visible on the EAP website, on the right the catalogue entry.

Cataloguing the Lanten Manuscipts project (EAP791)

When every EAP project is completed, the project team supply the digital images and corresponding metadata to the EAP team, who process the content and make it available online. It was a great experience for me to participate in the Lanten manuscripts project. Using Open Refine, I processed all of the catalogue data for this project. This included checking the content of places, dates and subjects, and calculating the number of digital images and the digital file size of each record. Sometimes, it was important to check the images and find modern equivalents of ancient Chinese characters. This process is essential for making the material accessible to the public and making them more discoverable.

On the left Open Refine software, on the right the Lanten project page on the EAP website.

Promote EAP on the Weibo social media

I also helped introduce and promote the achievements of EAP's projects on the Chinese social media platform, Weibo. I wrote two posts for the official Weibo account of the British Library and received positive feedback in the comments. This encouraged people to contemplate the importance of preserving and digitising endangered archives and pay attention to their invaluable cultural heritage. I hope that it will also lead to the preservation of more endangered documents by EAP and lead to further use of this material by researchers.

Weibo post in Chinese showing images from EAP projects.

Weibo post in Chinese showing photographs of London.

Professional development

Taking part in this placement has been significantly beneficial to me. The development of my digital skills, the processing of archival metadata, and the use of collection management systems will broaden my career path and help me to work in or collaborate with different departments. It will increase my competitive capability to transfer this experience to work on digitisation projects within the museum sector. It has also taught me transferable skills such as teamwork, time management and communication.

Learning more about the Endangered Archives Programme and digitising endangered heritage material has given me a better understanding of the British Library’s wider role in the world, and how it interacts and assists with other places, no matter where they are. I understand that preserving cultural archives is not merely a work done by one person or team; it requires the combined effort of many people around the world.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the EAP team for all they have done for me.  I am really glad that I did this placement. Not only do I understand more about the cultural institutions in the UK, my professional and personal development have greatly improved too. It was an unforgettable and fulfilling experience to be here with the EAP team.

The front of the British Library on a sunny day.


30 July 2019

Introducing EAP in other languages: French, Spanish and Arabic webinars

We would like to receive good, focused applications from as many parts of the world as possible. We recently put on a series of webinars to introduce the Programme and discuss how to make the best possible application, and therefore increase the likelihood of a successful project. The panel for each webinar included two previous Grant Holders who shared their experiences, talked about the challenges and gave their advice. Here are the presentations from the French, Spanish and Arabic webinars.

Please see the previous blog post 'Completing a Successful Preliminary Application' for further information in English.

Part of an illustrated manuscript from Eastern Chad

Note that the working language for the Programme is English, and applications must be in English. Check our Guidance for more information and get in touch if you would like to discuss any aspect of the process. We look forward to receiving a rich and diverse set of applications for the next round which opens in September.

Nous aimerions recevoir des candidatures fortes et ciblées provenant d’un grand nombre de pays et de regions du monde. Nous avons récemment organisé une série de webinaires pour présenter le programme et discuter comment soumettre la meilleure candidature possible et ainsi augmenter vos chances de succès. Le panel de chaque webinaire comprenait deux anciens participants qui ont partagé leurs expériences, parlé des défis et donné leurs conseils. Voici la présentation en français:


Notez que l’anglais est la langue de travail du Programme et que les candidatures doivent être rédigées en anglais. Consultez le nouveau “Guidance for Applicants” (en anglais) pour plus d’informations et n’hésitez pas à nous contacter si vous souhaitez en savoir plus. Nous sommes impatients de recevoir des candidatures riches et variées pour la prochaine session qui sera en septembre prochain.

Nos gustaría recibir buenas, fuertes y concretas candidaturas provenientes de diferentes regiones del mundo. Recientemente organizamos una serie de seminarios web para presentar el programa y debatir como preparar de la mejor manera la solicitud y así aumentar la posibilidad de éxito de las propuestas. El panel de cada seminario web incluía dos antiguos participantes que compartieron sus experiencias, hablaron sobre posibles dificultades y dieron consejos. Aquí esta la presentación en lengua Española:

Tenga en cuenta que el Programa es en Ingles, y las candidaturas tienen que ser escritas en lengua Inglesa. Consulte nuestras Guia para los participantes, dónde obtendrá más información y no dude en contactarnos si desea comentar algún aspecto del proceso en concreto. Esperamos recibir candidaturas ricas y diversas para nuestra siguiente sesión que abre en Septiembre.

تقديم برنامج حفظ الأرشيف المعرض للخطر بلغات أخرى

اللغة العربية

هدفنا هو استقبال طلبات تتميز بجودة عالية من مناطق ودول متعددة حول العالم. لهذا قام أعضاء من فريق برنامجنا مؤخراً بتقديم مجموعة من ندوات الويبناربعدة  لغات. ركَز كل ويبنارعلى التعريف بالبرنامج وتناولَ كيفية كتابة طلب جيد وهذا بطبيعة الحال يزيد احتمالية إنتاج مشروع ناجح. تألفت اللجنة في كل ويبنار من خبراء قاموا سابقاً بإدارة مشاريع مع برنامجنا حيث شاركونا تجربتهم وتحدثوا بشفافية عن التحديات التي واجهتهم وقدوموا نصائحهم. إليكم العرض الذي تم تقديمه باللغة العربية


نود لفت انتباهكم إلى أن اللغة المعتمدة لبرنامجنا هي اللغة الإنجليزية ولهذا لا بد أن تكون جميع الطلبات المقدمة مكتوبة باللغة الإنجليزية. يمكنكم الإطلاع على "الدليل الإرشادي"  للحصول على معلومات أكثر، كما يمكنكم التواصل معنا إذا كنتم ترغبون بمناقشة أي جانب من عملية التقديم. نتطلع لاستقبال مجموعة غنية ومتنوعة من الطلبات في الجولة القادمة التي تبدأ في أيلول




29 July 2019

EAP Webinar: Completing a Successful Preliminary Application

The first live EAP webinar “Completing a Successful Preliminary Application” took place on 2 November 2018. Over 40 participants from around the globe took part in an online Q&A session, where EAP staff members and previous grant holders s answered questions about all aspects of the application process. The presentation and Q&As are reproduced below.

EAP webinars in Arabic, Spanish and French took place in June and July 2019. These presentations can be found on the blog posted on 30 July.

Q&A Session

  1. Do endangered archives of film (i.e. motion-picture) reels qualify under EAP? These are 20th-century artefacts, and some even from second half of 20th century, but under threat of destruction and spoilage.

You should consider copyright issues - this can be quite complicated for film. Do also consider Documenting Global Voices, another Arcadia project and note the dates of their competition. You must also think how unique the material is and whether there are copies elsewhere.

  1. How small is a small digitisation project to be considered for a Pilot project? (e.g. we want to digitise about 10,000 lyrics = 10,000 tiff files. is that too big to be considered as a pilot project?!)

It depends on time and budget. This seems a rather large amount of material, but could fit within the Pilot project budget depending on circumstances. Pilots are generally given for projects that last under a year and cost less than £15,000 - if you think you would need more time or money, apply for a Major grant. You may also apply for a Major grant with a smaller budget.

  1. We are working with archaeological records, some of which are unpublished surveys of sites. The publication of this raises some questions, most significantly, the possibility of leading potential looters to unsecured sites. While we’d like all the material to be open, but is there a way keep these records private?"

All EAP material must be made available online - I recommend you contact the other Arcadia funded project based in Oxford – EAMENA – as they focus on archaeology.

  1. What is the policy/EAP recommendations for copyright of orphan works? Are there any concerns especially for non-commercial source material?

The grant holder needs to do the research into copyright of the physical material. We ask for Creative Commons, Non-Commercial licences for all material. For orphan works, the grant of permission form should be signed by the person who owns the material.

  1. If you’re an independent researcher what type of experience are you looking for in regards to applying?

It is possible to do a project as an independent researcher – the experience that would help towards a successful project are digitisation experience, preferably in the field, as well as project management, language ability, understanding of the material, and good budgeting skills. There are, however, several disadvantages – working with a respected partner organisation can benefit the project by providing an institutional framework for project support and administration.

  1. I am keen for technical assistance to help preserve and digitise my very large collection on the Holy Land

Do have a look at Remote Capture (https://www.openbookpublishers.com/product/747). It is free to download from Open Book Publishers. I would also suggest that you do not attempt to digitise the whole amount, rather focus on one aspect. You can also budget for training within the grant application. I'd add that the pilot project stage offers the opportunity to trial your digitisation method, perhaps making adjustments/improvements during the major grant stage. During my [Andrew Pearson's] St Helena pilot project, I digitised a relatively small volume of material, but rather I trialled the photography on a variety of document types, to see what worked well with my camera set-up, and what didn't.

  1. What if some of the documents are considered sensitive material by the authorities in the country where the archive is located (in this case Egypt) - for example maps? Could these be exempt from being put online?

You would need to get the appropriate permissions. If these are state archives, then you would need governmental permissions. We only fund material that can go online.

  1. Having located endangered material in private collections across a region, can one independently initiate and carry out a project without recourse to a team at an institution? (Provided all the material is indeed deposited at a relevant local institution, in addition to BL, once it is digitised?)

Please refer to question #6. In addition, you really would need to have significant experience in digitisation and metadata to be able to handle the workload by yourself.

  1. If an independent researcher is partnering with the country archive or museum, whose experience do you detail in the application?

The independent researcher’s experience is what the panel will be assessing.

  1. Do you pay for travel costs of person teaching how to digitise and can you confirm if the equipment stays with the local archive?

Yes, we will pay those costs, as long as they have been detailed in the application and approved by the panel. The equipment does remain in the country for further use.

  1. Could you please confirm if archival material on microfilm (dating from the late 1800s to 1900s) qualify?

Digitising microfilm is quite complicated (the BL outsources this) so look at the feasibility and the uniqueness of the content on the microfilm.

  1. Do EAP grants cover the undertaking of an oral history project that is focused on gathering and recording new material?

We do not pay for interviewing as the main part of a project. We have digitised oral histories that are on a format that is at risk, such as cylinders and tapes.

  1. Does a photographic archive deriving from film reels (especially damaged or partially spoiled ones) qualify for deposit in digital form? i.e. Does it have to be full reels/films for digitisation or parts/excerpts are admissible?

We have not had experience with this to date. If you are applying, you would need to detail the percentage of recoverable material in the application.

  1. When does "pre-modern" period end?

This doesn’t have a single global answer! It will vary with the history and context of different regions. There are two good rules of thumb: the year of independence for countries that were formerly colonies; material that is out of copyright. However, as in the case of photographs, the format can be considered modern but the images refer to a pre-modern period. If you have an questions, please contact the EAP team with information about the collection that you have in mind.

  1. Is a music collection produced in the 20th century qualify, if it’s endangered?

If it is unique and on a problematic format. Think of the other criteria when applying. I suggest that you have a look at the Indian recording labels and Syliphone archive that we have funded.

  1. Do you have suggestions for other funds which might work with endangered 20th century materials?

Yes, a new programme is being set up at UCLA also funded by Arcadia. It is called Documenting Global Voices

  1. At the preliminary stage, what kind of evidence of permissions from collection owners/curators should be included? There is a box for that on the application, but what precisely should appear there?

I would say that submitting formal documentation would only be required at the detailed application stage, but in the preliminary application we want applicants to be aware that the material will go online and it is their responsibility to seek the appropriate permissions.

  1. Is making materials available to scholars the same as making them available to the public? Some archives depend on search fees for funding.

The goal of the EAP is to save endangered archival material and make them open available for research. This focus means that some projects, while otherwise excellent, may not be a good fit for the programme. The British Library will make the outputs of projects openly available for research by scholars and others. This is a key requirement. It does not, however, mean that the local archive cannot provide a priced service that includes access to the content or is driven by its metadata. Such services exist in many domains.

  1. On the project team: Should we be concerned if the largest part of our budget turns out to be salaries for a team (in my case, around 10 people, for example)?

For the EAP project based on Nevis, which used two local staff, that salaries formed the largest single element of the grant. In the past, the Panel have asked applicants to re-budget if they felt that the costs were prohibitive. Also, you should note that if the archive is housed at the host institution, we expect some contribution in-kind. Often this means the salaries of existing permanent staff employed by the host institution.

  1. It says in the application instructions that you do not allow costs for conservation. What if you have documents that require conservation before digitisation?

We cover preservation (archival boxing, Melinex sleeves, dehumidifiers, etc.) to prevent further deterioration, but sadly not conservation. I think if the material needs work of this sort, I suggest you look for other funding before applying to EAP.

  1. When you say that detailed cataloguing should not be part of the project, does this also include database recording for the documents?

You must submit metadata as part of your project outputs. There is a template of the spreadsheet that we use available on the website. The level of description depends on the type of material being digitised, for example, with manuscripts we would expect a description at volume level (file level) and not at page level, but for photographs we would expect a description for each photograph (item level). We plan on introducing webinars for current grant holders regarding cataloguing standards.

  1. Could you please elucidate what differentiates an Area from a Major grant in terms of the amount of material that needs to be digitised? (Reference to paper-based archival material)

There is a considerable range of the amount of material that is digitised in Major grants. We have seen successful Major grants that have produced a few tens of thousands up through nearly a million. In recent years, the average amount of content is about 60K images per project year with 50% of projects delivering between 20K and 120K images per project year (ie, a 2-year project might deliver between 40K and 240K images). The variation partly due to the difficult of local conditions, access, and nature of materials. For example, good quality bound ledgers can be processed quickly and efficiently. Crumbling damaged manuscripts must be handled with great care. That being said, we would expect an Area grant to produce material roughly in proportion to a Major grant, and perhaps derive some economies of scale. So perhaps 60-360K images per project year would be likely.

  1. Is it typically in the range of a pilot project to create a project website that serves the local community (in the local language, mobile-first, designed to be accessible with patchy internet connections)?

Typically not for a pilot project. In cases that it is considered particularly important, a modest contribution could be made toward it. We look to the local archival partner to do much of this though.

  1. Is any training support offered to applicants as a part of this grant?

Look at our website to see if there has been a recent project near to where your proposal is based. The EAP office may be able to put you in touch with someone with local experience which may be useful. We also plan on having future webinars covering various topics. The handbook Remote Capture is also a good resource.

  1. Is EAP giving any legal support against illicit traffic of archival materials? Is there any guidance?

This is not within the scope of EAP. Our ethos is that the material stays in the country of origin and that is why the digitisation is done in situ.

  1. On the preliminary application under ‘Project People and Organisations’, if applying through a host institution, there is no space to describe the experience and past achievements of the principal applicant or team? How do you gauge if the principal investigators have the experience to carry out the project? Is it okay for the principal applicant to complete Q10c and Q10d even if applying through the applicants host institution?

This is dealt with in more depth at the detailed application stage. In the preliminary application, if you are employed by the Host Institution, you only have to answer Question 9.

  1. I thought to apply for a pilot project for: getting permissions from three archives I am in touch with; evaluating the volume and character (hand-written/lithographs/etc.) of the manuscripts applicable for the major project; locating more archives - public and private - that I know are there; putting up the team of technicians and scholars to work for a major project. Does that make sense? Should I include portable scanner to digitise sample texts?

This is a classic Pilot project. Since you mentioned you are looking at manuscripts, a portable scanner would not be appropriate, you would need a camera and portable tripod. Look at the Digital Appendices for Remote Capture, which suggests model types.

  1. Is there any limitation as to the country of main applicant?

No, the important thing is where the material is located.

  1. What is the required form of indicating consent / permission from foreign partners? A written and signed letter of consent in their language and then a translation? Will you honour informal translations or does it have to be a legally binding translation?

As part of the detailed application, we have Grant of Permission forms thatyou are welcome to translate when showing them to foreign partners, but the English version would need to be signed and returned to the EAP office.

  1. What type of organisations/archival partners do not qualify as local institutions? For example: does a local non-profit with a collection of relevant material qualify?

It must be a non-commercial institution, it sounds as if the organisation you have in mind would qualify.

  1. I am interested about how to discern what kind of project for which to apply. We have a website partially constructed. We are a local archive in Serowe, but our internet access is tenuous. We would probably need help make the archival material available from Serowe.

Please refer to Question 23.

  1. Thank you for your helpful advice.... Unfortunately I don't think my archive is eligible for the EAP. Does the British library have a service or a contact I can approach for advice on rehoming a modern archive?

Feel free to contact Jody.butterworth@bl.uk, also take a look at the Documenting Global Voices programme.

  1. Can we email individual panellists? We are working in Antigua and would love to talk to Andy.

I'm sure Andy would be glad to provide help. Please email endangeredarchives@bl.uk and we'll pass your request on to him.

  1. Among the accepted applications, is there a typical ratio - are the grants equally distributed among pilot, major and area, or is there a typical distribution in the rate of success?

This is the first time we are offering the area grant. The distribution varies year to year. To date we have had 220 major projects and 130 pilot projects.

  1. I have a question relating specifically to a collection of amateur films (travelogues and documentaries). This is the only surviving collection in the country of origin, so it will be quite valuable to researchers because it will dispel myths about pre-industrial filmmaking in this country. The owner transferred the rights to a team of filmmakers before passing away, but they do not have a way to properly store and digitise them. My question, more specifically, is whether I can submit an application to rescue these films, even though I don’t reside in the country of origin? I should add that this country doesn’t have the institutional framework or infrastructure to pursue this. The team has tried to find a way forward unsuccessfully, but I am able to bring this to fruition from Canada.

We have had several projects where the applicant is outside the country of origin, but it would be important for at least one of the rights owners to be a co-applicant. If you are invited to the detailed application, you would be strongly advised to include the grant of permission forms signed by all of the team members (copyright owners).

  1. In the country of origin there is no institutional framework that can administer the type of collection that needs to be rescued/digitised (all options have been exhausted). Can it be administered from a different country, and then share the digitized archives with the country of origin?

Please refer to question 35.

19 June 2019

New collections online - June 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EAP820 - Documenting Slavery and Emancipation in Kita, Western Mali

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Written by Alyssa Ali, EAP Apprentice

17 June 2019

Marking Refugee Week with the EAP collections

17 June is the start of Refugee Week, which takes place every year across the world. The U.K. has a programme of cultural and educational events to celebrate the contribution refugees have made.  This year’s theme  ‘You, me and those who came before' is ‘an invitation to explore the lives of refugees – and those who have welcomed them – throughout the generations’.

Looking through the Endangered Archives’ collection, I came across a file of photographs taken by Madanmani Dixit, the first photojournalist in Nepal.

The photographs were taken at a refugee camp in Bangai village in 1971, and depict refugees who have escaped the atrocities of  the Bangladesh Liberation War. It seemed appropriate at the start of this week to share some of these powerful images on the EAP blog.

Close up of a woman with the refugee camp in the background


Group of women and children sitting huddled together and looking at the camera

Photograph looking down at the camp, people standing in the shade of a wall with cows eating the straw on the ground

Extreme close up of a young woman with her head covered. She looks directly at the camera

To view more images from the file EAP166/1/1/30, please visit the EAP Website.

07 June 2019

United National Independence Party of Zambia Archive Online

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

The front of the bungalow where the archives are housed

The original records are still housed at the archives of UNIP

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

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

Inside the bungalow with boxes of archives on metal shelving

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

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

A page from the archive

To browse the collection, please visit the EAP webite.