Endangered archives blog

22 posts categorized "Slavery"

03 February 2014

New online collections - February 2014

 EAP now has over one million images available online!

We have four new online collections this month which has taken the total number of images available in our collections over the one million mark; EAP201, EAP279, EAP295, EAP529. These collections come from India, Lesotho in Southern Africa, Grenada and Mongolia.

EAP201 surveyed and digitised collections of Hakku Patras in Andhra Pradesh, one of the 28 states of India. Hakku Patras are documents which grant folk performers and artisans the right to carry out certain activities in specific villages and areas.  These performers are prohibited from performing in a region not assigned to them. Within their region they carry out folk performances and perform religious rituals, for providing these services they are paid renumerations (katnam).

Copper Plate of Turpati Shankaraiah
EAP201/1/5/8 Image 1

The project found the details for many Hakku Patras held by nomadic and non-nomadic performing communities. The documents are inscribed on copper plates or written paper. The contents of Hakku Patras contain the name of the village, performing community, date of the sanctioning of the grant and the form of the performance.

EAP279 digitised the Matsieng Royal Archives, Lesotho. The Royal Family of Lesotho has been based there continuously since the founding of Matsieng, which has been a 'royal hub' of the Basotho kingship and chieftainship. The documents cover material dating from the early 19th century. The archives include records of historical, political, legal and economic significance.

72-18-P   095B
EAP279/1/2/34 Image 159

The project digitised two main collections of documents. The first are Bewis (Bewys) records dating from 1942-1973, these records are certificates of ownership which were issued by chiefs to animal owners as a proof that they are the rightful owners of their animals. When acquiring or disposing of an animal the person had to apply for bewis from his chief. Even when a person was selling wool, mohair, skin or hides he had to have a bewis. The chief on his part had to satisfy himself that the animal had not been stolen. Bewis were issued for cows, horses, donkeys, sheep and goats as proof of ownership. It was mandatory for owners of animals to have bewis.

The second series of documents relates to the chieftaincy. These records include correspondence between the office of the paramount chief and the principal and ward chiefs, correspondence between the paramount chief and the resident commissioner, complaints between the chiefs and complaints between chiefs and the public.

EAP295 digitised the unique historical archives of Grenada. The material provides a micro-vision of how Grenada was transformed in the late eighteenth century by imperial conflicts, the expansion of plantation slavery and revolutionary politics. The two main sources of records are from Government House and the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court records reveal the multi-racial alliances and conflicts that marked slave society while the Government House correspondence shows the local negotiations and conflicts that shaped the prolonged transition to a free society during the mid-nineteenth century.

During Hurricane Ivan in 2004 the Grenada Public library lost part of its roof and the Government House correspondence became displaced and out of order. The project had to reorder this material chronologically before digitising it. 

The material at the Supreme Court Registry was far better preserved than at Government House as it was relatively unaffected by Hurricane Ivan. Loose-leaf documents previously identified as connected to the eighteenth century French Deeds formed the initial focus of in situ digitisation in the Supreme Court Registry. Digitisation also covered some of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registers.

EAP295_GH C1_003EAP295/1/1/1 Image 3

EAP529 set out to digitise the 19-20th century collection of Buddhist Manuscripts from Dambadarjaa monastery in Mongolia. The communist purges from 1937-1938 saw the destruction of many monasteries in Mongolia. The Dambadarjaa monastery, one of the first three monasteries in Mongolia which was built between 1761 and 1765, was reduced to two temples and two shrines from an original total of 25 buildings.

Today, what remains of the monastery is subject to structural aging and is in a critical condition since no repair works have been undertaken since the 1930s. One of the temples holds around 1,500 Buddhist manuscripts and ritual items used in the religious service for the public. All the manuscripts are subject to damage by mice, temperature fluctuations and fire.

The project focused on 200 of the most old and fragile Buddhist Manuscripts dating from 1860-1920s. All 200 manuscripts were repackaged in fire-proof and acid-free containers, while 51 of the manuscripts were selected for digitisation and can now be viewed online.

EAP529_001_ (3)
EAP529/1/1 Image 3

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

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

06 April 2011

March Accessions Part One

March was an extremely busy month for the EAP, as we received material from eight different projects.

EAP254 Preservation of the historical literary heritage of Tigray, Ethiopia: the library of Romanat Qeddus Mika'el

This project aims to digitise the library holdings of the Romanat Qeddus Mika'el Dabre Mehet Church in Enderta. The library posesses around 70 codices and manuscripts of high quality, many of them containing illuminations and marginalia. The collection stands as an indigenous and integral local documentary archive in a region of crucial importance to Ethiopian history.


EAP248 Preserving more Marathi manuscripts and making them accessible - major project

Marathi is a New Indo-Aryan language with inscriptional evidence extending back to A.D. 1012, and a literature dated to the 13th century. Marathi manuscripts are predominantly found in the Indian state of Maharashtra, in many cases in private collections which cannot offer a suitable level of archival care, meaning that these valuable materials are under threat from inhospitable environmental conditions, and unavailable to researchers.

The EAP248 project is creating digital and microfilm surrogates of 510 catalogued manuscripts at the library of Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute in Pune, and 359 manuscripts from the Prajna Pathshala collection of Wai, which has been donated to the Marathi Manuscript Centre.

EAP256 Preservation of endangered historical records in the Public Records and Archives Administration (PRAAD) in Tamale, Northern Ghana

This pilot project will conduct a survey of the endangered archival materials within the PRAAD's regional branch in Tamale, Northern Ghana. These materials are threatened due to inadequate facilities for conservation, overuse and deterioration from humidity and other hazards of the tropical climate. Some of the documents most urgently in need of preservation will be digitised, in order to preserve their content and also as a mechanism for training the Archive's staff.


 EAP284 Before the war, after the war: preserving history in Sierra Leone

This pilot project aims to relocate, survey and list the endangered collections of the Sierra Leone Archives, and to digitise a selection of the Liberated African Letter Books. These registers record slave ships captured by navy patrols, and list those men, women and children released at the Vice-Admiralty Court at Freetown.

Here is an example entry from a Liberated African Register, November 1816 to February 1819, Nos 9759 - 11905. This entry gives the following information: Number, Name, Sex, Stature, and a brief description of identifying physical marks:


Description reads "Scar on left knee a[nd] on back of right shoulder tattoed [sic] on right shoulder".

The remaining projects will be discussed in next week's blog entry.




04 March 2011

February Accessions

Last month we received material from five very different projects:

EAP231: Social History of the Gambia: rescuing an endangered archive, police and court records

This pilot project is undertaking a survey of court records from the Department of State for Justice in Banjul, the Gambia. It is also copying a selection of these records. The records chosen for copying originate from the Muhammedan Court, the Police Court, the Court of Requests in Bathurst, the Police Magistrates Court and the Supreme Court. The records held by the Department of State for Justice date back to the 1820s. 

EAP248: Preserving more Marathi manuscripts and making them accessible - major project

Carrying on from an earlier pilot project, EAP248 is microfilming Marathi manuscripts currenlty held by libraries and private homes in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Some of these manuscripts are unique in that they have not been published. The project will thus make valuable material widely available to scholars for the first time.

EAP262: Retrieval of two major and endangered newspapers: Jugantar and Amrita Bazar Patrika

The Jugantar and Amrita Bazar Patrika are two leading newspapers from colonial and post-colonial Bengal. Both newspapers cover important periods in history, including the partition of Bengal in 1905, both world wars and the independence of India. Here is a page from the Amrita Bazar Patrika from December 1872:

EAP262 Amrita Bazar Patrika Dec 1872 1 

EAP284: Before the war, after the war: preserving history in Sierra Leone

Also a pilot project, EAP284 is surveying records held by the Sirerra Leone Archives, and digitising a selection of these that relate to the Atlantic trade in slaves. Among the records held are Registers of Liberated Slaves and Letter Books that contain details of captured slave ships and Africans who disembarked at Freetown. Significantly, these latter records include details on individuals.

EAP285: Preservation of Gypsy/Roma historical and cultural heritage in Bulgaria - major project

This project has continued copying material identified by a previous pilot project, and new material found during the current project. Included in this are photographs, posters, political flyers, publications and political documents. The project has copied a mix of administrative, political records, and material relating to the legends, history and customs of Gypsy communities in Bulgaria. Here is an image of a wedding group:

EAP285 N_31 


05 November 2009

The Collections - Political Records

It's November 5, Guy Fawkes Day. In Britain, on this day, we commemorate the gun powder plot of 1605 which failed to blow up James I's parliament. The lives of many politicians and other people were saved. I often think, though, that in the act of destroying parliament the explosion would also have destroyed a large number of government papers and archives.

It's worth reflecting that, by thwarting the conspirators, the authorities simultaneously rescued some of Britain's important and irreplaceable political documentary heritage. This made me wonder how many political archives are the subject of EAP surveying or copying activities. As it turns out, quite a few. And they are:

Tuvalu National Archives preservatoin pilot project and Tuvalu National Archives major project

First Yap State Constitutional Convention audio tapes conversion project

Rescuing Liberian history: a pilot study to preserve and enable access to Liberia's Presidential and National Archives and Rescuing Liberian history: preserving the personal papers of William V S Tubman, Liberia's longest serving President and Rescuing Liberian history - preserving the photographs of William VS Tubman, Liberia's longest serving President

Pilot project to seek, identify, contact and report on collections of the endangered archives of the states of Maranhao and Para in the Amazon region of Brazil and Endangered African diaspora collections of the State of Para in the Amazon region of Brazil

Rescuing Eastern Nigerian history: preserving the holdings of Enugu and Calabar regional archives

Digitising the photo documents of Georgia's central state audio-visual archive

Pilot project to identify endangered African diaspora collections at the major archives of the province of Matanzas, Cuba and Digitisation of endangered African diaspora collections at the major archives of the province of Matanzas, Cuba

A survey of the endangered court records of Nevis, West Indies

Preserving the archives of the National Independence Party of Zambia

Inventory of archival holdings in Jamaica

Digitisation of Bolivian indigenous communities' records on ayllu structure, tax and land tenure

Creating a digital archive of Afro-Colombian history and culture: black ecclesiastical, governmental and private records from the Choco, Colombia

Preservation of endangered historical records in the Public Records and Archives Administration (PRAAD) in Tamale, Northern Ghana

History of Bolama, the first capital of Portuguese Guinea (1879-1941), as reflected in the Guinean National Historical Archives

Digitising the endangered archives of Grenada

The titles alone display the variety and reach of these collections. They comprise and document African diaspora and slavery records, the struggle for political independence or separation from colonial powers, land use and taxation of indigenous populations, the early histories of new states, the correspondence of local and national governments, the relationship between church and state and the papers of long serving political leaders and their parties.

Some of these projects have been the subject of past blog entries. One early project focused on photographs held by Georgia's central state audio-visual archive. This was a pilot project and the team aimed to survey the existing photographs. In this they were successful. Although no major copying was done, some sample images were made:

EAP057 Alb53-6

03 July 2009

Records from Jamaica

This week we received material from another project copying records relating to slavery: Inventory of archival holdings in Jamaica. It seems appropriate to highlight this material, following on from my last post.

The project focused on undertaking a survey of endangered records, but also copied items from the Jamaica Archives and Records Department, the National Library of Jamaica, the Library of the University of the West Indies and the Roman Catholic Chancery in Kingston. All four institutions contain valuable material relating to the lives of enslaved Africans and free blacks in Jamaica during the period 1655-1800. The material chosen to be copied covers birth, death and marriage registers, manumission registers, indentures, correspondence and petitions. The surveys reveal many other records containing genealogical and historical information relating to slaves and slavery in Jamaica.

Here's a page from one of the Manumission Registers:


These Registers were deposited with the Office of the Island Secretary of Jamaica. They contain certificates, or deeds, of freedom for free people of "colour", which included people with both black and mixed-race backgrounds. They're written in English and Spanish and give names, dates and other information. They're currently housed at the Jamaica Archives and Records Department.

While looking over this new accession I noticed the poor condition of some of the original records. Jamaica's tropical climate and warm temperatures provide less than ideal conditions for storing historical material long term. Paper and other materials suffer from heat and fluctuations in temperature due to their chemical make-up; and vermin and insects particularly like hot and humid climates, and can be very tenacious in discovering ways into archival stores. In this, the records of Jamaica have something in common with those from Tuvalu.

22 June 2009

Records of the African diaspora in Matanzas, Cuba

In 2007 Britain marked the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. The same year saw the completion of the following EAP project: Pilot Project to Identify Endangered African Diaspora Collections at the Major Archives of the Province of Matanzas, Cuba.

Slavery wasn't legally abolished in Cuba until 1886. In colonial Cuba, the Province of Matanzas was an important centre for sugar production and thus a major destination for African slaves. The office of the Governor of Matanzas was responsible for regulating the slave trade and for supervising, or administering, issues relating to slavery. The Governor's office thus created and kept records documenting the activities of slaves, slave traders and slave owners.

These records cover topics such as slave revolts, runaways, the arrival of ships carrying slaves (both legally and illegally) and abolition. Some of the correspondence includes:

Communication to Don Ignacio de Acosta authorising him to land and transport African slaves on two [inappropriately named] American ships, the Liberty and the Friendship, March 1800 (EAP060/1/1/5)

Communication of the Matanzas Governor on a runaway slave found dead inside an empty house, May 1816 (EAP060/1/1/10)

Communication to Don Juan Tirry y Lacy on the expenses to protect white colonists from African slaves, October 1818 (EAP060/1/1/18)

Communications to Matanzas' Governor on measures to eradicate the African slave trade in Cuba, April 1826 (EAP060/1/1/26)

Draft of a communication to the Captain of Ceiba Mocha on two horses abandoned by two runaway slaves, June 1838 (EAP060/1/2/61)

Communication to Matanzas' Governor on the dissolution of a police battalion that failed to prevent slave revolts, July 1837 (EAP060/1/3/11)

Measures taken by O'Donnell to prohibit cockfighting among slaves, February-June 1844 (EAP060/1/3/47)

Here is a page from a communication by the Matanzas' Medical Officer noting that African slaves landed in Matanzas have been vaccinated (EAP060/1/1/19):


The project also copied registers of births, death and marriages for "blacks and coloured peoples" kept by the Matanzas Cathedral. These registers show how Cuban society divided itself according to colour and ethnic origin. The Cathedral organised its registers into three categories: Blancos (Whites), Indios (Natives) and Pardos y Morenos (Blacks). The project copied those registers recording births, deaths and marriages for the Pardos y Morenos.

The outcome of the project, including a full catalogue, can be found on the EAP webpages.


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