THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Endangered archives blog

42 posts categorized "Religious records"

12 December 2014

KNOW YOUR CULTURE! OR ELSE…

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Kenya Jamhuri Day, 12 December 2014

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

Cover page of the manuscript
EAP466/1/18

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grant holder EAP466

 

 

10 November 2014

New online collections – November 2014 Part 1

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

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

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

EAP148_NLJ_MS1647_40EAP148/1/10 – Image 40

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

183_RMR6154_1044EAP183/1/1/261 – Image 11

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

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

 

04 November 2014

A Chief and his Wheelbarrow: Digitisation and history in India’s Northeast

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Historical Christian missionaries have long drawn the spotlight in modern Mizoram, a hill state in the borderlands of India’s northeast.  Stone memorials of missionaries’ late-nineteenth-century visits rise up along roadsides, their hair clippings are preserved behind glass, and their names christen Mizo schoolchildren’s sports teams and populate history books.

In late 2011, our EAP454 digitisation team arrived in Mizoram no less star-struck.  We trained our cameras on the earliest missionary documents and photographs in hopes of preserving digitally the exceptionally rapid transition of a Mizo hill people fundamentally transformed, from an oral society following localised religious practices to an overwhelmingly Christian and literate society.  In many ways, the plan was both sound and successful. 

But while snapping away at what we thought was the main historical vista, we started hearing other voices from the past whispering on our panorama’s fringes, beckoning us out to an overgrown, more vernacular trail.  With the help of various custodians of historical material, we started bushwhacking.

The trail took us away from the familiar paths and historical narratives, reversing their direction from a Victorian Aberystwyth and London inwards to a Mizo Aijal and Lungleh outwards.  Among many colourful characters, it led us to Khamliana Sailo, a Mizo lal, or ‘chief’. 

  A group photograph
[Fig. 1, Khamliana seated second from right, n.d., http://eap.bl.uk/database/large_image.a4d?digrec=2113522;catid=183611;r=27529]

Khamliana grew up around fire and sword.  By age twelve he had witnessed atrocities by both British and Mizo forces, including the utter destruction of his chiefly grandfather’s village and livelihood.[1] 

The next time the heir Khamliana came face-to-face with invading British forces, he and his father joined up as guides and interpreters, assisting a British captain who was known in the vernacular ominously as Lalmantua—the capturer of Mizo chiefs.  Khamliana was helping the very forces that had burnt his familial village.  Why?

At first blush, many of the EAP454 documents paint Khamliana as a full-blooded British ally.  A wealthy Khamliana makes various donations to the British Raj, principal among these a massive gift to the Imperial Indian Relief Fund in 1915.  Here, Khamliana’s largesse earns him nation-wide press in the journal The Feudatory and the Zemindari,as well as recognition from the Chief Commissioner of Assam and the regional Superintendent. 

  Khamliana poses outside his colonial-style bungalow at Lungleng village
[Fig. 2,  Khamliana poses outside his colonial-style bungalow at Lungleng village, n.d.,             http://eap.bl.uk/database/large_image.a4d?digrec=2113837;catid=183484;r=11478]

This idyllic ally Khamliana is also evident in the vernacular letter he wrote in 1897 to Kumpinu [‘Company Mother’ or Queen Victoria], a letter heralded as the first ever written by a Mizo. In it, Khamliana proudly informs the Empress of his intent to light patriotic bonfires all around his village on her birthday.  His tone is petitioning and deferential: ‘We will live on your kindness and take heed of your orders,’ he writes, ‘as for us we are less significant and smaller than even the ants to you.’[2] 

  Part of the letter
 [Fig. 3, Letter from Khamliana to Queen Victoria, 16 June 1897,                                        http://eap.bl.uk/database/large_image.a4d?digrec=2113528;catid=183611;r=29358]          

But pliable to the colonial authorities as he might have appeared, Khamliana was still playing a much older chiefly game.  Colonialism might have made some new rules, but he still strove to carve out and maintain familial status and honour.

Quick to learn and to exploit the potentials of the writing technology introduced more widely in the 1890s, Khamliana requests and keeps written character references from colonial officials, using these to secure positions for his sons. He fights for land rights. He invokes his father’s assistance to the Raj for special permission to keep guns.  He pens his own bonds of allegiance with Mizos, conscious of the potential for permanency inherent in the new technology (‘This agreement is a real one,’ records his pact with one Ralduha, and ‘must be kept as record for ever’).  He also maintains scrupulous (and apparently carefully concealed) financial records of vast wealth; in popular historical memory today, Khamliana drops off his first bank deposit via wheelbarrow, colonial officials’ mouths agape.

  Khamliana’s bungalow as it looks today.
[Fig. 4, Khamliana’s bungalow preserved in Lungleng, Mizoram; photographed by author in 2008, CC-BY.]

Indeed, Khamliana inherited his chieftainship from his father in a time when waves of chaos, war, and political upheaval were crashing over the hills.  In his attempt to stay afloat amidst such a turbulent political sea-change, he grasped the new technology of writing, deftly managed wealth, chose his own allegiances, wrung material benefits out of colonial authorities, and dispatched calculated messages of diplomacy even to the highest British Chieftainess. 

As Khamliana’s case shows, the EAP454 collection provides an opportunity to see the people of this upland region of India as complex, three-dimensional participants in their own histories rather than as the flat, supporting characters to colonial missionaries and officials.  There is a whole host ready to ride into the scene.  And at least one of them is pushing a cash-stuffed wheelbarrow.

 

Written by Kyle Jackson co-director of the 2011 EAP pilot project ‘Locating and surveying early religious and related records in Mizoram, India’.  He is a PhD candidate at the University of Warwick’s Centre for the History of Medicine where he is exploring histories of health, religion, and Christianization in colonial northeast India.


 

[1]      Lalhmingliani, ‘Khamliana’, Historical Journal Mizoram 12 (2011): 1-11.

[2]              Translated in P. Thirumal and C. Lalrozami, ‘On the discursive and material context of the first handwritten Lushai newspaper “Mizo Chanchin Laishuih”, 1898’,  Indian Economic & Social History Review 47.3 (2010), 377-403 (pp. 399). 

 

 

06 October 2014

September online collections 2014

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This month four collections have gone up online, these are EAP127, EAP266, EAP550 and EAP607.

EAP127 is a project that digitised Bengali 'popular books', street literature targeted at a wide population geared to the non-elites.

The material covers such varied subjects as religion, folk culture, local history, popular literature, pornography and erotica, fashion and cookery, instruction on traditional rural pursuits such as agriculture and animal farming, citizen's rights, public hygiene and social reform.

The books are of unique sociological interest, illustrating the changing society, culture and economy of Bengal. They illustrate sectors of Bengali printing history and book trade and developments of the Bengali language. They were usually printed cheaply on poor paper that discoloured quickly. Digitising these collections has ensured that they will be preserved as a resource for future researchers.

A large amount of this collection unfortunately is not able to be viewed online because of copyright reasons, however over 13,000 images are available and the remainder can be viewed in the British Library reading rooms.

127_EIFC_YakD_001EAP127/9/104 - Image 1

EAP266 is a pilot project which aimed to reorganise the Bolama collection in Guinea-Bissau. Bolama was the first capital of Portuguese Guinea, these records relate to the city and island dated from 1870’s to the 1960’s. They are currently held by the National Historical Archives of Guinea-Bissau after being transferred from the Mayoral Office of Bolama in 1988. It includes all the documents of the public administration which could be found in Bolama in 1988.

The Bolama collection is of great historical value. It reflects the fundamental change in Portuguese colonial rule from outside administration (directed from the Cape Verde Islands) to significant Portuguese presence and the political and economic penetration of the Guinean mainland.
In January 2009 some additional research was undertaken in Bolama and other public documents from the colonial period on the island were found. Relevant documents of the Bolama Court were stored in the archives of the Ministry of Justice in Bissau; these records were in a vulnerable state as the archive was stored in the loft of the old Palace of Justice which has a roof in a bad state of repair.

As part of the project these additional records were transported to the National Historical Archives of Guinea-Bissau. The documents of the entire collection were painstakingly restored to their original order and rearranged and re-packaged in 279 boxes. A digital sample of the records was taken and this is now available to view via our website.

Doc30EAP266/1/1 - Image 5

EAP550 surveyed and digitised Yao manuscripts from Yunnan province in Southern China. Yao manuscripts are very unique writings which are significant for understanding Yao people, their religion and culture in general. They are mainly used in religious activities including funerals, annual festivals and special rituals for telling fortunes and expelling evils. Yao manuscripts record texts on various subjects but in a relatively standard poetic format. Since the texts cover the local knowledge on history, literature, astrology, geography, agriculture and many other subjects, they are regarded as the encyclopaedia of Yao people. The texts are read or sang normally by the indigenous priests, known as shigong in Chinese, sometimes they are accompanied by a couple of female singers. It seems that being a shigong shaman is a family profession succeeding in the patrilineal lineage, therefore Yao manuscripts are preserved in individual families and traditionally it is prohibited to show manuscripts to strangers. Yao manuscripts can be accessed in numbers only when the social changes drive shigong shaman to a marginal status and manuscripts are no longer as cherished.

The Yao manuscripts are endangered in many aspects. Firstly, the quality of the original material and their preservation conditions. Secondly, the modernisation process in China after the 1980s brought dramatic changes to the Yao societies. Shigong shamans were marginalised and the indigenous religious activities mostly abandoned. Yao manuscripts were viewed as insignificant and destroyed at an astonishing speed. Thirdly, smuggling and illegal trading brought further threats to the records.

The project was successful in digitising over 200 volumes of Yao manuscripts and creating the first database on the records surviving in China.

KMY_013_010EAP550/1/13 – Image 10

EAP607 digitised Native Administration records which were generated between 1891 and 1964 by the Native Authorities (traditional chiefs) in Malawi, formerly Nyasaland.

Prior to British colonialism, Malawi was a predominantly oral society where everything was transacted and captured orally. The establishment of Native Authorities marked a historic transition as traditional leaders were required to conduct and capture official business on paper. The Native Administration records are therefore immensely unique and historical as they portray the interaction between the literate Western culture and oral African culture and the subsequent triumph of literacy over illiteracy in Malawi. The records are a lasting legacy of the impact of colonialism on the people of Malawi.

From July to September 2011, the National Archives of Malawi carried out an earlier pilot project (EAP427) which inspected 32 traditional authorities in the northern region of Malawi to confirm whether traditional chiefs were still keeping the records and to assess the condition of them. The results of the survey established that there were significant volumes of vital records relating to the native administration between 1891 and 1964. The Native Administration records are regarded as personal property inherited by successive chiefs over the past century. EAP607 carried on this work and further identified and assessed the nature and volume of Native Administration records in Malawi. The project digitised the most endangered records. Approximately 20,000 records were digitised and are now available to view online

  District_Administration_Riots_Riot Damages_001EAP607/4/9 - Image 1

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

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

07 September 2014

New online collections – September 2014 – three million images online!

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Last month eight collections went up online EAP010, EAP040, EAP105, EAP219, EAP254, EAP341, EAP443 and EAP644.

It was only two months ago that we reached two million images online and this month we are happy to report that we have now broken the three million barrier! This is largely thanks to EAP341 a project which contains around 750,000 images.

EAP341 is a project that preserved printed books and periodicals held in public institutions in Eastern India. Many of the public libraries in that area are now suffering from a financial crisis that makes most of the documents vulnerable to loss or degradation. The project digitised materials from eight public libraries in the districts of Howrah, Hooghly, 24 Parganas North and 24 Parganas South, all located in semi-urban and rural areas within the proximity of Calcutta. This project helped to preserve these materials digitally and make them available to researchers.

00000005EAP341/5/587 Image 5

EAP644 digitised part of the Fouad Debbas collection. This consists of over 3000 photographs which were produced by the Maison Bonfils from 1867-1910.

Established in 1867, the Bonfils house set out the first photographic studio in Beirut. Mr Bonfils and his wife Lydie, apparently the first woman photographer of the area, along with their children succeeded in capturing some fascinating images. These include pictures of a region of immense physical beauty, landscape photos of Beirut and Baalbeck and portraits of different ethnic groups. They also provide a record of rapid socio-economic change during a crucial moment of the region’s history. The Bonfils Debbas collection is an invaluable document registering the history of a region at a crucial crossroads in the wake of great historical upheaval. For more information about the collection have a look at our previous blog ‘The Good Woman named Bonfils’.

TFDC_163_010_0217_01EAP644/1/27 Image 11

EAP040 digitised medieval and early modern archival material of the Brasov/Kronstadt and Burzenland region in central Romania.

The material from 14th to 17th centuries from this archive is one of the main sources for Transylvanian history in today’s central Romania. Documents that were digitised included
; ecclesiastical material with focus on the 16th to 17th centuries, the collection of Joseph Trausch (manuscript copies covering the whole period), documents on educational matters focusing on the 16th to 17th centuries, cultural matters (music, liturgy, buildings, local traditions and legends) and correspondence (warfare, defence, political relations).

1EAP040/1/110 Image 2

EAP254 digitised the library of the church Romanat Qeddus Mikael Dabre Mehret, Enderta in Ethiopia. The library possesses around 70 codices and includes several valuable manuscripts of high quality, some of them with illuminations and valuable marginalia. The library of Romanat Qeddus Mikael was built up over more than 300 years. The collection builds an indigenous and integral local record in a region important for the history of Ethiopia. The library remains practically unknown and is endangered due to the poor preservation conditions.

EAP254_RQM_050_006EAP254/1/50 – Image 5

EAP010 preserved rare periodical publications from Mongolia. Mongolia underwent significant political and economic change during the collapse of Communism. The euphoria of revolution led to neglect or even intentional eradicating of documents, publications and other materials from socialist times. Political and economic dependence upon the Soviet Union for seven decades and the resulting sudden release from political ties meant that everything related to the Soviet Union and the period of its dominance was subject to denial. In addition, the deep economic crisis in the 1990s meant that cultural issues including the maintenance and development of libraries, publication of books and actions to safeguard the documentary heritage of Mongolia were not the priority for the government or public for a while.

The periodicals digitised cover the transition period of 1990-1995. They document the political changes in Mongolia after the fall of Communism. The project resulted in scanning 39,029 pages from 6,189 issues.

Ab950121_01EAP010/1/1/21 Image 1

EAP219 is a project that catalogued and digitally preserved the endangered Nôm archive at the Institute of Social Science Information (ISSI) in Hanoi, Vietnam. Nôm was the national script used in Vietnam for over 1,000 years since the country's independence from China in 939.

The project completed a thorough inventory of the archive and digitised the volumes from the most vulnerable section of the archive. These include village and district records of families, land ownership, real estate and property exchanges, contacts with the royal courts, decrees by various emperors as well as some maps. Since Nôm was the national script used in Vietnam for over 1,000 years, the archives have an inestimable historical value providing, together with Han-Viet records, the main written record of the history and culture of Vietnam for 10 centuries.

Issi_HN_0533_001_001vEAP219/1/14/5 Image 2

EAP105 digitised the manuscript collections of Drametse Monastery and Ogyen Choling in Bhutan.

Drametse Monastery, founded in 1511 by Ani Choten Zangmo, the grand-daughter of the famous Bhutanese saint Padma Lingpa (1450-1521), is one of the major monasteries in eastern Bhutan.
Drametse's manuscript collection includes the 46-volume rNying ma rGyud 'bum, sixteen volumes of Prajnaparamitasutras and about a hundred and fifty volumes of miscellaneous titles including religious hagiographies, histories, liturgies, meditation manuals and philosophical treatises. Many of the books are written in dbu med script, indicating that the books were most likely brought from Tibet in the distant past.

Ogyen Choling, located in central Bhutan, is a seat of two famous Nyingmapa saints, Longchenpa (1308-1363) and Dorje Lingpa (1346-1405). Although historically a religious establishment, it is now a manor house of the family which claims direct descent from Dorje Lingpa. Its library, housed in three of the five temple rooms in the manor complex, contains several hundred titles of manuscripts ranging from pilgrimage guides to philosophical treatises, including a beautifully executed 21-volume set of Dorje Lingpa's writings. Professor Samten Karmay has recently catalogued the collection highlighting some of the rare works of Zhang Lama Drowai Gonpo (1123-93), Lhodrak Drubchen Namkha Gyaltshan (1326-1401), Wensa Lobzang Dondrub (1504-1566) and Jangchub Tsondru (1817-57). In addition to the manuscripts, Ogyen Choling also owns a large body of books printed from xylographic blocks.

D.032 002EAP105/2/7/4/15 – Image 2

EAP443 carries on the work of pilot project EAP284, which surveyed records related to the slave trade held at the Sierra Leone Public Archives.

The materials being targeted here include valuable documents of immense importance for research on the transatlantic slave trade and its repercussions. The original Registers of Liberated Africans who were taken off slave ships by the Royal Navy from 1808 to the 1840s document more than 85,000 individuals. In addition, there are Letter books which provide information on the treatment and ‘disposal’ of tens of thousands of “receptive” Africans, court records, treaties with local chiefs, and other documents that are essential materials for any research on Sierra Leone. Moreover, there is important genealogical information for many people in Sierra Leone, including birth and death registers from the 1850s. Additional materials include registers of “foreign” children resident in Freetown, dating from the 1860s onwards, and registers of slaves who had escaped from the interior to Freetown, as well as letter books in Arabic that relate to political and commercial relations with the interior of West Africa in the second half of the 19th century.

More than 170 volumes held in the Public Archives of Sierra Leone were digitised, with over 32,000 images. Collectively, these volumes provide information on the identities, origins and experiences of enslaved Africans forcibly relocated to the British Crown Colony in the nineteenth century. Other volumes relate to the inward migration of people from the colony’s hinterland, including registers of slaves who had escaped from the interior to Freetown. The volumes include series of registers of births and deaths, which are in a particularly fragile and endangered condition.

Eap284_liberated_african_register_25423_30708_1827_1829_011EAP443/1/17/12 – 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.

08 August 2014

New online collections – August 2014

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Last month seven collections went up online EAP140, EAP184, EAP231, EAP272, EAP454, EAP569 and EAP657.

EAP140 was a project to digitise the Tangut collection held at the Institute of Oriental Studies in St Petersburg.  The Tanguts were a people who established a kingdom during the 10th-13th centuries in present day northwest China. Once the area had been invaded by the Mongols in 1227 the usage of the Tangut language began to decline. These unique historical, literary, and administrative texts are of great value in understanding and preserving a lost writing system and culture. If you haven’t seen it already you can read more about this collection and the Tangut people in our last blog

140_IOS681_Tang334201VBF21V_REAP140/1/35 – Image 92

EAP184 digitised items from the Matanzas province in Cuba. The records that were digitised relate to African slaves and their descendants. Collections from seven different archives were digitised, six of these collections came from parish archives; the final collection from the Archives of the Provincial Government of Matanzas. 

During the nineteenth century, Matanzas became the centre of Cuban sugar production, which meant a high demand for slave labour. The territory became the major destination for African slaves in Cuba. The region's archives are very rich in all kinds of information on the African population living in Matanzas from the early 16th century to the end of the 19th century. This includes demographic statistics, information on ethnicity, resistance and occupations of free and enslaved Africans.

CIMG1574EAP184/1/11 Pt 1 – Image 257

EAP231 digitised court records of the Department of State for Justice in Banjul, the Gambia. The collections are valuable for researchers hoping to gain a deeper understanding of how colonial agents and local communities engaged with one another. Court records reveal struggles between men and women, elders and youths, elites and commoners. Since African women could visit colonial courts to seek divorce, court transcripts are one of the few places where historians can hear African women's voices. The records also reveal disputes over land, other forms of property, child custody and many other subjects.

Due to the nature of the material some items in this collection are only available to view via the reading rooms at the British Library.

IMG_4136Court of Request 1902-1904EAP231/1/1 - Image 177

EAP272 digitised and preserved 1,400 ephemera and 215 manuscripts that came from the Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya in Nepal.

The ephemera are mainly political but also cover religious, social and cultural topics. They are mainly pamphlets and leaflets, with some posters and postcards. The ephemera dating from 1900-1951 represents the last 50 years of the Rana Period.  The remainder date from 1951-1960, this covers the period of Nepal's short stint with parliamentary democracy, until the first elected government was toppled by a coup from King Mahendra in December 1960, replacing the multiparty democracy with his own brand of political system named the 'Panchayat'.

The manuscripts date from 1808 and cover a wide range of subjects such as religion, culture, philosophy, law, medicine, hagiography, natural history, and literature. The project rescued these items from poor storage conditions and ensured their long term preservation.

EAP272_MPP_Ephemera_226EAP272/1/1/226 - Image 1

EAP454 was a pilot project which surveyed privately held ecclesiastical documents in Mizoram, India.

The main focus was early religious and related records, particularly English and Welsh missionary records that recorded a history otherwise only transmitted by the then exclusively oral Mizo society. The project’s scope widened with the surprising discovery of hitherto unknown and early collections written in vernacular Mizo. Many of the earliest missionary educated Mizos were prolific writers of letters, manuscripts, diaries, and notebooks. Most of these sources still revolve around the distinctly religious axis of the Project's focus, but from the perspective of the Mizo.

The Project digitised much more material than initially expected; over 10,000 images are now available to view online.

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EAP569 identified and collected information on relevant documents about Nzema in Ghana. These documents pertain to the land management system and local power structure that has been in place in Ghana since pre-colonial times and that still plays a fundamental role in Nzema society today.

The project looked at records from the Public Records and Archive Administration Department (PRAAD) in Secondi-Takoradi as well as the Western Nzema Traditional Council Archive in Beyin and the Eastern Nzema Traditional Council Archive in Atuabo (Ellembele District, Eastern Region).

The project was successful in identifying many relevant records, creating a list of these items and packaging the documents in archival materials. The project digitized 46 files (15 in the Eastern Nzema Traditional Council Archive, 31 in the Western Nzema Traditional Council Archive) and generated 5,039 digital photographs, which are now available to view on our website.

Due to the nature of the material some items in this collection are only available to view via the reading rooms at the British Library.

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EAP657 digitised and preserved a collection of archival material related to Taras Hryhorovych Shevchenko (9 March 1814–10 March 1861), the famous Ukrainian writer and painter whose literary heritage is regarded to be the foundation of modern Ukrainian writing. His archival collection had been dispersed until recently, and valuable nineteenth century documents had been kept in deteriorating conditions.

The materials digitised reflect different periods of the life of T H Shevchenko. The archival material had been held in different private collections of Shevchenko’s friends and relatives from all over Ukraine until just 10 years ago.

Some of the items in this collection, due to copyright reasons, are only available to view via the reading rooms at the British Library.

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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 June 2014

New online collections - June 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

 

12 May 2014

New online collections - May 2014

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This month we have four new collections online, these are EAP261, EAP427, EAP535 and EAP593. Two of the collections hail from African countries, Nigeria and Malawi. The other two collections are from India and Mexico.

EAP427 is a pilot project which looked to preserve Native Administration records from Malawi, formerly Nyasaland. These records date from 1891 to 1964 and were generated by the Native Authorities (traditional chiefs).

The records represent a rich history of Malawi from the colonial period up to the transition to self-rule. Prior to independence, the Colonial Government introduced the Native Authorities to Nyasaland as a way of involving the local people in the governance processes through their own traditional institutions. The introduction of Native Authorities meant that native chiefs became part of Government administration. As such, in the course of undertaking government business, the chiefs created, received and maintained a lot of administrative records.

Prior to British colonialism, Malawi was a predominantly oral society. The establishment of the native authorities marked a transition to literacy as the traditional leaders were required to conduct official business in writing. The records are a lasting legacy of the impact of colonialism on the people of Malawi and for this reason this project helped to ensure their preservation.

The project targeted 32 different districts to survey. It digitised a sample of records from four of the districts; these are now available to view online.

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EAP535 is a major project which digitised precolonial documents from Northern Nigeria. The project focused on materials held by the National Archives Kaduna, which was established as the major repository for Northern Nigeria in 1957. 

The records consist of three main collections. The first is a collection of Arabic manuscripts dating from the early 18th century to the 1930s. They include local chronicles, private correspondence, legal documents and religious literature.

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The second, ‘The Secretariat Northern Province Collection’, consists of letters to various colonial administrators, official assessment reports, ethnographic reports, and numerous annual numerical files dealing with diverse subjects like agriculture, religion and slavery. This material dates from 1900 to 1959.

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The final, the ‘Provincial Offices Collection’ consists of circular letters to various colonial administrators, official assessment reports, ethnographic reports, and numerous annual numerical files dealing with diverse subjects like agriculture, religion and slavery. The materials copied in this project deal with the period between 1900 and 1953.

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These materials are of high importance as they document the social, economic and political history of the Sokoto Caliphate (the largest 19th century Islamic empire in West Africa) as well as the early years of British colonial rule in Northern Nigeria, when many features of Caliphate economy and society were researched by colonial officials. The documents are also of value to historians of Africa in general, because such resources deal with labour, culture, intellectual history and inter-group relations in the African pre-colonial era.

The project successfully created 62,177 digital images. These are now available to view online.

EAP261 digitised a wide collection of rare and unique material related to Bengali drama. The material was held by a private collector, Dr Devajit Bandyopadhyay. The collection covers the 19th and early 20th centuries, and includes texts of formal 'modern' drama, texts of jatra or traditional Bengali folk theatre, books of songs from plays, and secondary material of that period.

Apart from the documentary value, the collection offers unique opportunities for historical and thematic study. Bengal saw the first major rise of Western-type drama in India. The Western influence derived largely from Shakespeare and other Renaissance drama, and had suggestive resemblances with traditional folk theatre. The entire process can be traced through this archive, combining jatra with Western-type drama.

249 titles were digitised, some of them multi-volume, making a total of 385 volumes and over one hundred thousand images.

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EAP593 looked to survey material relating to Mexico’s indigenous population. It focused its search on the town of Tenejapa. The project aimed to preserve archives which show the culture and traditions of these communities, which are changing rapidly due to the modernisation of the area. These include photographs, negatives and personal documents. The project digitised a sample of these collections which are now available to view online.

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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.