Endangered Archives Programme reveals Untold Lives
13th century Arabic manuscripts in the Al-Aqsa Mosque Library, East Jerusalem; rock inscriptions in the Tadrart Acacus mountains in Libya; records of the sale of slaves on the island of St Vincent in the West Indies; photos of Andean culture from Peru; Buddhist manuscripts from Bhutan – all of these and more have been preserved through funding from the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme.
The Endangered Archives Programme (EAP), sponsored by the charitable foundation Arcadia, was set up in 2004 and will be celebrating its 10th anniversary next year. During this time 214 projects have been funded in countries around the world: from Azerbaijan and Argentina, to Vietnam and Zambia, vulnerable archival material has been preserved. This is achieved through the relocation of the documents to a safe local archival home where possible, digitising the material, and depositing copies with local archival partners and with the British Library. These digital collections are then available for researchers to access freely, either by visiting the local archives, visiting the British Library, or viewing them online through the EAP website. To date, the digital collections from 35 projects are available online.
One of the more popular items that has been viewed online is the Banns of Marriage (1849-1924) from the remote island of St Helena in the South Atlantic. The island’s archives in Jamestown hold records from its first years as an English colony, with the earliest documents dating from 1673 and including East India Company records through to 1834. After 1834 and the transition to direct Crown rule, the records follow the standard pattern of similar colonies. The Banns of Marriage are remarkable in allowing an insight into people’s lives at this time and are of great interest to people researching their family history.
Do you know of any collections that merit preservation? The Endangered Archives Programme is now accepting grant applications for the next annual funding round – the deadline for submission of preliminary applications is 1 November 2013 and full details of the application procedures and documentation are available on the EAP website.