Endangered archives blog

43 posts categorized "Religious records"

05 May 2016

New collections online - April 2016

In April six collections were made available through the EAP website and BL Sounds. The variety of subjects, locations, and types of record really highlight the broad range of projects that the Endangered Archives Programme is involved in.

EAP190: Digitising archival material pertaining to 'Young India' label gramophone records

1427 recordings can be listened to on BL Sounds

Related record label ephemera, including catalogues and advertisements

Close up of a record label for Young india Young India record and sleeve

The project digitised gramophone records, disc labels, record catalogues and publicity material from ‘The National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Company Ltd. Bombay’, which issued records under the ‘Young India’ label between 1935-1955. The company produced over 10,000 titles on 78-rpm, 10 inch diameter shellac discs with two songs per disc. The recordings of film, popular, classical and folk music, as well as educational material were issued mainly from amateur or up-and-coming artists. They feature music from different regions of India, sung in many different languages. The recordings have never been reissued on audio tape or CD and are therefore now available for many people to listen to for the first time. We have already received some great feedback about this collection, including one person who recalled his music teacher many years ago telling the students about Young India and how he used to be a tabla player for the label and regular D V Paluskar accompanist. He was delighted to find that he could now hear the actual music that his teacher talked about all those years ago. Hopefully, with this collection now available for anyone to listen to worldwide, many more people will discover or rediscover the recordings from the Young India label.

EAP468: To preserve Indian recordings on 'Odeon' label shellac discs

1404 recordings can be listened to on BL Sounds

Related record label ephemera, including catalogues and advertisements

Advert for Odeon, showing a woman picking a lotus from a pond.Odeon record label advert

This project digitised shellac discs, record labels and associated ephemera from the Odeon record label. Odeon label shellac discs were issued in India between 1912-1938. The company produced over 2,000 titles of north and south Indian music. About 600 titles [1,200 songs] have survived and are with private collectors

Odeon label shellac discs were issued in India in two phases: during 1912-16; and during 1932-38. During the first phase, Odeon's first Indian recordings were made in late 1906 on a grand tour that took the engineers from Calcutta to Benares, then on to Lucknow, Cawnpore, Delhi, Amritsar, Lahore, Bombay and finally back to Calcutta. In all, they recorded some 700 titles, which were duly shipped back to Berlin for processing and manufacture in what was then the established worldwide pattern. Disc records manufactured and pressed in Germany were shipped back to India by 1908. Gramophone records were the only mode of public and family entertainment in that period. Because of the diversity of language and cultural taste, Odeon's engineers recorded a great deal of regional music for local consumption. In a time before film music swept regional variations away, Odeon's activities allowed Indians to listen to the music that would otherwise have been irretrievable. Very few disc records from this period have survived.

In the second phase, the Odeon disc manufacturing company operated during 1932-38. Its operations were mainly from Mumbai and Madras and the company produced over 2,000 titles in north and south Indian music. At this time, radio and film songs had just entered the entertainment era. Disc manufacturing and distribution activity continued until the outbreak of World War II. Because of the embargo imposed on German goods, the company had to wind up their business in India, leaving behind hundreds of titles. The musical genre recorded on these discs include drama songs, speeches, folk music, classical music, drama sets, skits and plays, vocal and instrumental music.

EAP462: Preservation of Kaya district colonial archives and assessment of the potential and feasibility of recovering other former district capitals' collections, Burkina Faso

Close up of a telegramEAP462/1/1/6 - Telegrams

This project digitised a wide variety of documents related to the administration of the Cercle de Kaya colonial district. They are of interest to a wide range of historical study fields: population, politics, economy, development, customary law. These documents provide an insight into the local intricacies of the administration, politics, economy and social life of the district.

The material in Kaya though was at risk of neglect, physical deterioration and destruction. The documents were stacked on shelves and on the floor in a shed behind the administrative buildings, exposed to dust and moisture and at the mercy of rats, termites and mildew. More recent documents continued to be piled haphazardly on top of the old colonial ones. These colonial archives that for decades had been piled up in a shed in the former colonial district capital, Kaya, were packed up and transported to the Centre National des Archives (CNA) in Ouagadougou. At the CNA, the documents were thoroughly dusted and subsequently sorted, selected and subjected to an initial analysis. The documents were sorted into 4,200 files, with an average of 20 documents per file. Of these, about 40% were from the period 1919-1960 and eligible for digitisation.

Unfortunately, very little metadata was provided with this collection so file descriptions and titles are very limited. If you would like to volunteer your time to making this collection a more usable resource, please get in touch with us.

EAP650: Grima in Caloto Viejo: archiving Afro-Colombian history

Cover of a file

This project made an inventory of the historical, notarial and judicial collections held in Caloto’s alcaldía (town hall), Colombia, and digitised a sample of the most valuable and damaged documents.

First founded in 1543, Caloto Viejo (Old Caloto) was the administrative capital of a wide region northeast of Popayán that included Native American groups, European settlers, their enslaved Africans, and maroon communities formed by escaped slaves. By the 1940s this rural region had not yet experienced industrialisation, yet many of Caloto Viejo’s towns had become autonomous districts. Now only the head of a small municipality, Caloto still houses the pre-modern documents of Caloto Viejo.

Caloto Viejo’s documents are crucial for Afro-Colombian history. Caloto and adjacent regions of the Cauca constituted the nineteenth century heartland of slavery, with Julio Arboleda’s massive Japio estate in Caloto the towering symbol of landholding power. The archives of Caloto are important for tracing the wider history of elites, native Americans, and Africans, and essential for salvaging the local history of important Afro-Colombian towns such as Puerto Tejada or the scholarly unknown maroon community of Caricacé with unique linguistic traditions, whose documentary history exists only in the endangered collections of Caloto.

EAP688: Digitisation of the Deed books in Saint Vincent for the slavery era, 1763-1838

  Page showing immaculate handwritingEAP688/1/1/72 - Deed book 1822-1823

This project digitised surviving Deed books for Saint Vincent from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

The Eastern Caribbean Court House, St Vincent, holds numerous historic manuscript documents connected with the colonial administration of the island. The earliest records date from 1763, when Saint Vincent was ceded to Britain at the end of the Seven Years’ War, until 1838, the date when Apprenticeship for slaves ended in the British Caribbean and slave emancipation was fully implemented in accordance with the Emancipation Act of 1834.

The Deed books include important material for researchers. After 1763, Saint Vincent was drawn into the orbit of slavery in the British Empire. Its sugar plantation sector expanded rapidly after that date and the island became (along with other Windward Islands such as Dominica, Grenada and Tobago) a new, expanding frontier for British slavery. The Deed books, compiled in the offices of the island’s Colonial Secretary and the Registrar, proved a comprehensive record of all land and property transactions carried out during the seventy-five years when slave plantations were the main type of investment and employment on the island. The Deed books are large bound volumes that are available for every year in the period from 1763 to 1838. The land and property details recorded in these records provide the names of investors, along with their occupation and residence, and precise financial details, either in sterling or in the island’s currency. The information on investors includes whites and free blacks, men and women, and absentee residents (in other West Indian Islands or in Britain) as well as those living in Saint Vincent. The financial information is wide-ranging. Credit transactions are included. Mortgages, annuities, loans and bonds are all specified, with the names of the parties involved. The Deed books contain much material on slave sales between individuals connected with Saint Vincent and they also have information on slave manumissions. Where sugar plantations are identified in these records, the numbers, and sometimes the valuations, of slaves are given. This is particularly useful for researchers for the period from 1763 to 1815 because it was not until after the end of the Napoleonic Wars that slave registration was commonly carried out throughout the British Caribbean.

EAP749: The narrative and ritual texts, narrative paintings and other performance related material belonging to the Buchen of Pin Valley, India

The head of a metal sculpture. The eyes have been painted on.EAP749/2/3/9 - Statue: Kunda (Wylie sku 'dra)

The Buchen are performers of specialist rituals, travelling actors, healers and exorcists, and disciples of the 14th/15th century Tibetan ‘crazy saint’ Tangtong Gyalpo. They reside in the culturally Tibetan Pin Valley in North India and are most famous for performing an elaborate exorcism ritual called the ‘Ceremony of Breaking the Stone’.

Buchen enact dramatisations of popular folk-tales, Buddhist morality plays which illustrate principles of karma and ideas of impermanence and are frequently enlivened with comedy. Buchen spread the teachings of Buddha through entertainment. These performances are related to the Tibetan Opera and to a tradition of lay religious performers called lama manipa, who retell the life stories of Tibetan saints whilst pointing out key scenes on narrative painted cloth scrolls (thangkas) with a metal pointer. Buchen theatrical performances contain a similar manipa-like introduction.

This project digitised or took images of a variety of texts, paintings and objects associated with these traditions, including images of masks, clothing, instruments and objects used in performances; thangkas; handwritten decorated and unbound Tibetan books (pecha).

Painting of the diety Green Tara, depictions of daily life can be seen around the central figure.EAP749/3/2/1 - Drowa Zangmo Thankga

Contemporary photograph of a Buchen in full costume.EAP749/3/4/1 - Meme Buchen in full costume

 

25 February 2016

New collections online - February 2016

Three collections have gone online this month – EAP640, EAP726 and EAP729.


EAP640: Digitising the documentary patrimony of Colombia's Caribbean coast: the ecclesiastical documents of the Department of Córdoba.


This project digitised a wide variety of ecclesiastical records dating from the 17th to 20th century that were located in the churches of Santa Cruz de Lorica and San Jerónimo de Buenavista in Montería in the Department of Córdoba in northern Colombia. These records include, amongst others, those associated with the sale of slaves, property and livestock; the records of mortgages, wills, debts, baptisms, deaths and marriage; land disputes; minutes of city council meetings, including those relating to decisions concerning public works, education and health. These records provide insights into one of the most ethnically diverse areas of Córdoba and allow researchers to explore unique information on racial demography, social and kin networks, and economic conditions of the region.


For a fantastic overview of the history of slavery in the region and the related projects (EAP255, EAP503, EAP640, EAP627, and EAP853) the Endangered Archives Programme have funded, I highly recommend reading the open access article: Researching the history of slavery in Colombia and Brazil through ecclesiastical and notarial archives, published in the EAP Anniversary publication From Dust to Digital. The article can also be downloaded as a PDF (809KB).

Page of manuscript.

Parroquia San Geronimo de Monteria LIBRO DE DEFUNCIONES No. 002 [1808-1836]
EAP640/2/1/29

Page of manuscript

Parroquía San Gerónimo de Montería. LIBRO DE BAUTISMO No. 2 [1808]
EAP640/2/1/1

 

EAP726: Preserving Peruvian newspapers for a regional approach: key 19th-20th century press in Arequipa

This project digitised copies of the ‘El Deber’ newspaper published between 1890 and 1962 in Arequipa, Peru. This paper was one of the most important politically conservative newspapers in the country. This influential Catholic gazette contributed to the national and regional debate on Church-State issues such as legalisation of divorce, secularisation of education, religious intolerance, confiscation of ecclesiastical assets, as well as broader topics such as the economy, social and ethical concerns, political interests and general religious affairs. The newspapers help to provide a portrait of daily life in the city and surrounding area, and are a great resource for researchers looking for information on political, social, cultural, genealogical, intellectual and religious history.

Page of newspaper.

El Deber – 7th August 1945. Front page the day after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima
EAP726/1/1/56/174

Page of newspaper

El Deber – 4th November 1890
EAP726/1/1/1/2

EAP729: Cataloguing, digitisation, and preservation of ancient palm leaf and paper manuscripts archived in Chinmaya International Foundation (CIF)


The Chinmaya International Foundation (CIF) in Kerala, India holds rare paper and palm leaf manuscripts dating back to the late 16th century. The manuscripts include information on arts, mathematics, religion, spirituality, architecture, science, technology, medicine, Ayurveda, rituals, Sanskrit literature, as well as many other topics and are written in various languages and scripts including Sanskrit, Hindi, Marathi, Malayalam, Tamil and in Devanagari, Grantha and old Malayalam.

Single palm leaf manuscript

Pañcatantram - Ancient collection of stories , probably first composed 300CE. It is an ancient Indian collection of inter related animal fables in verse and prose.
EAP729/1/1/40

Small page of a manuscript with five lines of writing.

Bhagavad Gītā - The Bhagavad Gita copied in 18th century AD
EAP729/1/2/39

28 October 2015

New images online - October 2015

This month we have had four projects go online. The first photographed temple murals in Tamil Nadu (EAP692). This is the first time that EAP has funded a project to preserve architectural art.  These exquisite paintings were vulnerable for a variety of reasons, including the recent use of sand-blasting in temples. The pilot project digitised murals at five sites, four of which are Hindu: Alagarkovil Kallagar Temple (with art dating from the 17th Century);  Madurai Meenakshi Sundareswara temple (16th Century murals); Narasingampatti - Chitrachavadi  and Adiyamankottai, Chenraya Perumal temple (all 17th Century). The last location is a Jain complex at Tirumalai.

These paintings come from the east ceiling of the Alagar kovil Kallalagar Inner Mandapa and depict the continuous narration of the Ramayana.

Image of the RamayanaEAP692/1/1/2 Alagar kovil Kallalagar Inner Mandapa Ceiling East [17th Century]

Image of the Ramayana
EAP692/1/1/2 Alagar kovil Kallalagar Inner Mandapa Ceiling East [17th Century]

The next two images come from cave 1 at Tirumalai and probably date between the 15th and 17th centuries.

Faded Jain image
EAP692/5/2 Tirumalai Jain Cave. Room 1 [16th Century]

Close up of faces of people.
EAP692/5/2 Tirumalai Jain Cave. Room 1 [16th Century]

The second project to go online was EAP759, a pilot project that digitised manuscripts from Sundarban Anchalik Sangrahashala, a regional museum housed in an abandoned part of Jadunath Nandi Hospital, in the South 24 Parganas District of West Bengal, India.

This illustration from EAP759 shows a page from another Hindu epic, this time the Mahābhārata.

Torn page of a manuscript.EAP759/1/2 Mahabharata [19th century]

Madagascar was the location for the next project (EAP856), with the digitisation of archives of the nineteenth-century prime minister, Rainilaiarivony (1864-1895). The journals are written in Malagasy using Latin script that was introduced in 1823. The archives have been inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register since 2009. They have never been systematically studied and now that this invaluable resource is online, it will be of huge benefit to researchers.

Photograph of Rainilaiarivony seated and inspecting a row of soldiers.EAP856/1/1 Photo Album D

Page from the diary.
EAP856/1/2  Journal du Premier Ministre Rainilaiarivony - Relations de diverses affaires traitée par le Premier Ministre [1866]

 EAP698 was the last project to be made available this month, a major grant that digitised Cham manuscripts. An important cultural group within Vietnam, the Cham once had their own kingdom called Champa, which lasted from the 7th century to 1832. There are about 162,000 Cham people living in Vietnam today, concentrated in Central Vietnam and the Mekong Delta region.

The project digitised manuscripts from 25 private collections and below is a taste of what the manuscripts contain.

Manuscript page in Cham script.EAP698/15/6 Cham manuscripts collected by Ms. Dong Thi Hang, No.06

Illustrated page of a Cham manuscript.
EAP698/1/11 Cham manuscripts collected by Mr. Sam Van Tanh, No.11 [Latter half of 20th century]"

I am sure we will have some more interesting projects to share next month, but if you can’t wait until the next blog to hear our latest news, do join our Facebook group.

23 September 2015

5 million images online

In February, the Endangered Archives Programme celebrated its tenth anniversary and the various press releases and newspaper articles all quoted that we had 4 million images online. It is hard to believe that today we reached the milestone of 5 million images.

I thought I would use this opportunity to reflect on some of the projects that have gone online since the beginning of the year – doing a ‘round the world’ selection.

One of the first projects to be made available this year was EAP164, which consisted of people's memoirs and diaries from rural societies along the Ukrainian Steppe. As well as paper archives, there is a wonderful selection of photographs giving a real sense of community, as this picnic illustrates.

  Late 19th century photograph of a party having a picnic in a wooded area.EAP164/1/2/3 Album of photos of representatives of a family - Perovskyh [1891-1990]

From the Africa collections, we put EAP286 online, a project from Ethiopia that digitised both Muslim and Christian manuscripts. A substantial part of the collection consists of Asmat prayers,  and this is an example of part of a 19th century scroll.

  Illuminated Ethiopic prayer scroll.

EAP286/1/1/38 Asmat Prayers [19th century]

To show the variety of the collection, this is the first page of an incomplete Taḫmīs al-Fayyūmī on the "Poem of the Mantle" by al-Būṣīrī.

  Page in Arabic script.

EAP286/1/1/489 Uncomplete Taḫmīs al-Fayyūmī on the "Poem of the Mantle" by al-Būṣīrī, The Unwān
al-šarīf ("The Token of the Noble") on the birth of the Prophet [18th century]

EAP566 is an example of one of the Asian projects that went online, a very impressive collection of 18th and 19th century Urdu periodicals. The articles cover an incredibly broad range of subject matter and the accompanying illustrations are a joy to browse through, as can be seen from these pages from Nairang-i khiyal.

  Drawing of a sari wearing deity standing on a lotus leaf.

EAP566/1/4/10/1 Nairang-i_khiyal (Volume and Issue not known) [1932]

  Advertisement for slipper shoes.

EAP566/1/4/10/1 Nairang-i_khiyal (Volume and Issue not known) [1932]

My final continent from the EAP worldwide whistle-stop tour, of course, is the Americas and one important project that went online was EAP563 – the archives of the engineering firm ‘Hume Brothers’ which was set up in Argentina in 1880. The company's main work consisted of planning and building thousands of kilometers of roads, not only in Argentina but also throughout Uruguay, Chile and Brazil. It is a project that contains a mixture of texts, drawings and photographs.

This is a photograph of the construction of a lift bridge over the Riachuelo in Buenos Aires.

  Photograph showing the construction of a bridge.

EAP563/1/5/4/3 Construction of a lift bridge over the Riachuelo in Buenos. Aires. It belonged to Ferrocarril Sud ( F.C.S.) [Early 20th century]

And this example is a stereoscopic view of the San Roque Dam in Argentina.

  Stereograph images of a dam.

EAP563/1/5/5/1252 San Roque Dam (Argentina). [c 1945]

But of course I must not leave out the two projects that went online this month and got us to 5 million images. The first was EAP753, a pilot project that carried out an inventory and sample digitisation of parish documents in the area of Belém do Pará, Brazil.

Page from the archive.

EAP753/1/1/4 Cairary Baptisms, n 4 [1895-1901]

and EAP541, which digitised the historical archives in the Public Records and Archives Administration (PRAAD) in Tamale, Northern Ghana. I rather liked the fact that we have records about latrines - this has to be a first for EAP!

  Typewritten page.EAP541/1/1/88: Salaga-Site for septic Tank Laterines [1952-73]

15 July 2015

New images online - July 2015

This month three projects have gone online, EAP080, EAP660 and EAP769.

The first of these projects, EAP080, microfilmed Serbian musical collections from the Craftsmen choral society in Zemun. Choral societies were a prominent part of Serbian musical culture in the 19th century. Between 1834 and 1914 over 150 Serbian choral societies were founded. Some of them had extremely rich musical libraries, with thousands of scores and choral parts. Unfortunately, only a few of them preserved their full musical collections, which often included original manuscripts. Numerous collections were lost, divided or even destroyed. 

The musical collection of the Craftsmen choral society from Zemun contains 27 large boxes of material: manuscripts, handwritten and printed scores, mostly choral music, stage music as well as some documents on the history of the society. The compositions are written by Serbian, Russian, Czech, German, Austrian and Italian composers.

This collection is an excellent example of the typical musical taste of a growing citizen class. Judging by stamps and signatures, it seems as if other choirs' libraries were added and came from the Serbian Orthodox Choral Society and the Academic Choir, both from Zemun, and the Cathedral Choir from Novi Sad.

Scan_0026EAP080/1/8/3/4: Image 12 - Unknown author, Ukoricene crvene, plave i zelene sveske [Music note books with red, blue and green covers]

The second project this month, EAP660, digitised copies of Nur-i-Afshan, a periodical published by the Presbyterian Mission in the Punjab. Sometimes published weekly, and other times bi-monthly. Nur-i-Afshan, was a multifaceted news magazine and carried local and international news summaries, government postings, commodity prices, and advertisements, but also opinion articles, essays, proverbs, and poems.

This periodical is one of the very few primary sources originating locally in pre-partition India, which shows Christian missionary work in the Punjab. In addition to being a religious publication, Nur-i-Afshan also forms part of a large and growing corpus of Urdu periodicals published in the nineteenth century and gives the researcher invaluable insight into the thinking, concerns, and ideas of nineteenth century Indians and enables a better understanding of the social, political and religious forces at play during this period. Furthermore, the study of such periodicals is of interest to scholars engaged in linguistics and language development. As the nineteenth century was a key age in the development of the Urdu language, the styles of prose, grammar, and diction used in this publication are important research materials. The role of a missionary society in taking up a local vernacular for discourse at that time makes the importance of Nur-i-Afshan even greater and its study more significant.

EAP660_Nur-i_Afshan_December_1900_v28_no52_001EAP660/1/26/60: Image 1 - Nur-i-Afshan December [1900 volume 28 no.52] [1900]

The final project this month is EAP769, a pilot project which looked at archives and records from the Caribbean island of Montserrat, a country that has suffered from harsh environmental conditions and natural disasters. Inappropriate storage and handling has resulted in material being lost or rapidly deteriorating, creating an urgent need for proper preventive conservation care. Recent volcanic activity destroyed many of the previous storage facilities.

This project identified archival material held throughout Montserrat, assessed its condition and prepared a long term plan for its safe storage, digitisation and increased public access and awareness of this endangered resource.

The pilot project worked on the collections of original material held by the Montserrat National Trust (MNT). This comprises of 18th and 19th century estate plans and deeds; 20th century letters, newspapers, land deeds, wills, receipts; and collections of slide photographs from the 1980s, including a 1986 historic buildings survey which show many buildings no longer standing after the 1995 and 1997 volcanic eruptions.

EAP769_MNT_HSS_Pg_00EAP769/3/3/1: Image 1 – Historic Building Survey 1986

In addition, the project worked on some of the 18th century records held at the Central Library, a collection in private ownership, and material held by the Government Registry Office.

Sample digitisation of selected material was undertaken and is now available to view online.

EAP769_MNT_EST12_069_1EAP769/3/1/12: Image 6 - Sale of Champion Jones Properties [1910]

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

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.

16 March 2015

New online collections - March 2015

This month we have had three collections go up online EAP153, EAP460, EAP714.

EAP153 surveyed and digitised private collections of documents in the Riau Archipelago.

The Riau Archipelago spreads over a vast geographic area in the triangle between Sumatra, Singapore and the Borneo. During the nineteenth century the area was part of the Dutch East Indies and was considered to be the core area of Malay language and culture. In their endeavour to standardise the Malay language, Dutch officials collected manuscripts from the archipelago; these manuscripts became the basis for a standard grammar and dictionary of the Malay language. This collection process not only resulted in several large repositories of Malay manuscripts, but also kindled a renaissance of Malay writing at the court of Riau and beyond. The remnants of this manuscript and book culture can still be found in the private collections that were surveyed.

Thirteen collections on four different islands in the region were digitised, amounting to approximately 8,000 photographs of 450 items. These comprised handwritten manuscripts, printed archival materials (forms, receipts, grants) and a few printed books.

EAP 153_DAIK_MUSEUM_42_001EAP153/10/42: Wafak Mandi Safar - Image 1

EAP460 digitised Shui manuscripts from private manuscripts in South Guizhou. Shui manuscripts (spelled as lesui in the Shui language) are ritual texts for the Shui people, a native ethnic group in Southern Guizhou. The earliest manuscripts can be safely dated to the 16th century. The contents of the Shui manuscripts cover knowledge on astronomy, geography, folklore, religion, ethics, philosophy, art and history. Therefore, the manuscripts are not only the key and irreplaceable materials to understand the unique culture of the Shui people, but also constructive for studying history, anthropology, folklore and even palaeography in general.

The project was successful in digitising 216 manuscripts. These are now available to view online.

EAP460 DDA_002_025EAP460/1/2: Shui Priest manuscripts, Duyun, Guizhou - Image 25

EAP714 assessed the state and extent of church records in Malawi dating between 1861 and 1964.

Malawi, formerly Nyasaland, had been a predominantly oral society. The arrival of British missionaries in the early 1860s led to the generating of written records. Between 1861 and 1891, before the establishment of the Colonial Administration, different Churches were established in Malawi and influenced people in many ways.

The Churches generated important records in the form of accounts, correspondence, day books, deacon’s diaries, manuscripts, maps, minutes, minute books, miscellaneous, nominal rolls (communicants, baptismal and catechumens rolls), photographs, registers (birth, death, expelled members and village schools), reports and statistics. These records are unique in that they are the earliest written documents in the country and they illuminate Malawi’s pre-colonial past more than any other records. 

The project successfully surveyed the records of seven different mission stations. The project digitised a sample of records from each church; this sample can now be viewed online.

EAP714 LM_Communion_Roll_011EAP714/2/1: Communion Roll [1892-1908] - Image 11

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

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”

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