12 May 2014
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 2011
Last week the EAP received material from project EAP261: Digital Archive of Early Bengali Drama. The project digitised a selection of the vast array of theatre materials collected by Dr Devajit Bandyopadhyay, a noted musician and scholar of Bengali theatre.
The collection dates from the 19th to early 20th centuries, and is primarily constituted of play texts for 'formal' Bengali drama (based on western models), Jatra or traditional Bengali folk theatre, song books from musical theatre, and ephemera.
Part of this collection - a small selection of 20th century theatre booklets - was previously digitised as part of the project EAP127 Archiving Popular Market Bengali Books, and is currently available to researchers in the British Library Reading Rooms. EAP261 was run by staff at the Jadavpur University School of Cultural Texts and Records; the SCTR also undertook project EAP071 Archiving Texts in the Sylhet Nagri Script, and two projects to digitise private collections of North Indian Classical Music (EAP132 and EAP274).
In addition to material created as part of EAP funded projects, the SCTR maintain digital and physical collections of Bengali literary and cultural material; further information is available on their web pages.
29 September 2010
2971 examples of Bengali street literature have been digitised by staff at Jadavpur University, Kolkata. Digital copies and (some of) the original material can be consulted at the School of Cultural Texts and Records or the reading rooms here at The British Library. The books cover subjects including folk literature, music and songs, theatre booklets, homeopathy, astrology, adventure novels, horror stories, grammar guides, religious practices and belief, and many many other topics. Anyone reading this blog will be familiar with some of the material, and seen some of the images produced by the Project.
The material is organised into 11 separate Collections, based on the name of the Collector of the original material. This includes the School of Cultural Texts itself whose Collection contains seven sub-collections, reflecting the development of their holdings. The 11 Collections are:
EAP127/1 SCTR Collections
EAP127/2 R.P. Gupta Collection
EAP127/3 Devajit Bandyopadhyay Collection
EAP127/4 Sukanta Chaudhuri Collection
EAP127/5 Samantak Das Collection
EAP127/6 Arun Ghosh Collection
EAP127/7 Satyabati Giri Collection
EAP127/8 Gautam Mitra Collection
EAP127/9 Rudrajit Mookherjee Collection
EAP127/10 Prabir Sen Collection
EAP127/11 Sukumar Sen Collection
27 August 2010
Last Tuesday Lynda and I attended a group discussion hosted by the East London Theatre Archives Project (ELTA). The group consisted of fellow archivists and theatre practitioners engaged with theatre archive projects. Over the course of a few hours we had the opportunity to test their new online resource created as part of a JISC funded project and to discuss issues relating to Archives, archiving and performance and theatre documentation.
Some interesting points were raised in discussion. We were thrown into the deep end with the first question: what exactly is an archive (Archive)? After a few minutes it became apparent that everyone present had a broad view of what could constitute an archive and what records and objects were archive worthy. The EAP takes a broad line on this too. A glance at our projects and collections shows that we have digitised trade union records, video footage of ritual narration and performance, the photographic collection held at a Buddhist monastery and rock art. This last project includes navigatable 3D models.
The discussion covered topics such as the definition and nature of ephemera, the difficulties in finding common ground and shared meaning within multiple definitions of key archival ideas such as context and provenance, and research in the online environment. To round off the discussion we turned to a question which the theatre and archive communities are starting to address and explore: if (as famously noted by Peggy Phelan) performance "becomes itself through disappearance", how do you document and archive performance?
19 August 2010
This week we present details of another cinema booklet from the Collection of Rudrajit Mookherjee. Based on the Henrik Ibsen play An Enemy of the People, the film Ganashatru tells the story of Dr Ashoke Gupta's attempts to bring the truth - and good health - to the small West Bengal town of Chandipur. (The reference number for this cinema booklet is: EAP127/9/1371).
Following several cases of jaundice, typhoid and other water-borne diseases in Chandipur, Dr Gupta begins an investigation and discovers that the water supply at the recently built temple of Tripureshwar is contaminated.
Dr Gupta's attempts to have the temple closed are blocked by his religious brother Nishith and the rich local businessman who financed the temple. The local paper refuses to publish the story for fear of reprisal and negative public opinion. Dr Gupta finds himself branded as a heretic and a public enemy by those with vested interests in the temple.
Frustrated and vilified, Dr Gupta makes plans to leave Chandipur. Fortunately, a small group of students declare themselves willing to fight for his cause. Together they attempt to take the bureaucrats and those with vested interests to task.