THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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19 June 2015

New images online – June 2015

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This month we have had one project go online, EAP656. This is a project from Uganda which digitised the photographic archive of Ham Mukasa, a leading intellectual and ethnographer in Buganda, a subnational kingdom within Uganda. The collection dates from 1868-1956 and makes a valuable contribution to the understanding of this period in Uganda’s history. The collection includes over 2000 photographs.

EAP656_1_8_Box 8-9EAP656/1/1/8: A couple dancing – Image 10

Ham Mukasa lived as a page in the court of King Muteesa I of Buganda, and may have been first exposed to photography in that setting (a knowledge of photography having been introduced to the court by the explorer Henry Morton Stanley, in 1875). Mukasa was certainly taking photographs by the 1890s. Initial surveys of his collection suggest that he was particularly active as a photographer in the period 1900-1920, although he continued to take pictures right up to his death, in 1956.

EAP656_1_1_box1-04EAP656/1/1/1: Ham Mukasa with his second wife Sarah, his two daughters from the first marriage and other children taken while seated in front of a house. – Image 4

Ham Mukasa was active during the period of British penetration into the region of Buganda; he was a key figure in the court of King Daudi Chwa II (1856-1884) and was secretary to Buganda’s Prime Minister Apolo Kagwa. His images offer valuable clues on the early history of colonialism in Uganda and aid the understanding of the fields of African history, anthropology and African visual studies/art history.

EAP656_3_1_2_From Eve Mulira photograph 46EAP656/3/1/2: Men playing on drums. - Image 30

The EAP website does not contain catalogue information about individual photographs, this can be obtained through the British Libraries ‘Search our Catalogue Archives and Manuscripts’ this can searched for via this link.

EAP656_1_8_60_Box 8-59EAP656/1/1/8: Image 60 - A lady holding a child with another boy and girl sitting beside her.

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.

 

02 June 2015

'Voices from pre-partition India' - The Nur-i-Afshan Periodical from the Punjab

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When the team from EAP660 submitted their hard drive containing all their digitised material, it seemed a very intriguing project, but as I could not read Urdu I wanted to learn a little bit more. I contacted one of the co-applicants, Dr Charles Ramsey,  to ask him a few questions about the project that digitised the periodical Nur-i-Afshan.

  • Tell us something about the periodical.  

The Nur-i-Afshan is a glimpse into the Punjab in pre-partition India.  The gazette is unique because it gives voice to the first generations of indigenous Christians in this region who wrote in Urdu.  It was a period of religious revivalism and the publication gives firsthand accounts from a constituency that is seldom heard.  This included discussion of political events, like the fall of the Ottoman caliphate and the start of World War 1; religious controversies, like debates between the Ahmadi and Christian preachers; and also the more mundane accounts of the rice harvest and administrative postings.

EAP660_Nur-i_Afshan_April_1913_v41_no14_001
EAP660/1/43/14   Nur-i-Afshan 1913, volume 41 no. 14

  • How many people worked on the project and what were their roles?

Approximately eight people worked on the project.  Each of the three co-applicants assumed responsibility for a particular area. Mrs Bushra Jaswal, Head of Libraries at Forman, arranged each piece of the technology which was no small task.  The digitisation room was built from the ground up.  She also trained and oversaw Mr Sohail and Mr Mirza.  Dr Yaqoob Bangash administered the grant.  He was assisted by Abraham, a former student who is preparing for graduate study, and they combed the archive for data to enhance his current monograph on the history of Christianity in Pakistan.  I, assisted by Mahmood Basharat and student interns Shuham Charles and Chand Prince, worked to identify and codify the key terms that would facilitate future research. I was particularly attracted by the collection of devotional poetry reprinted in the editions composed by authors from various faith traditions.

EAP660 teamFrom left to right: Dr Charles Ramsey, Mr Mirza, Mr Sohail and Mrs Bushra Jaswal.

  • What was the most enjoyable aspect of taking part in this project?

There were many, and it is difficult to chose.  If I had to chose one it was the discovery--together as a diverse and polychromatic team--of the voices from this period.  The attitudes, the depth of understanding, and the quality of interaction across religious boundaries during this time were more dynamic than what we expected.  We were often surprised, even enchanted, by the words and expressions used to convey and describe their present reality.

  • What were some of the challenges?

Keeping the schedule was the greatest challenge.  We had to import the equipment and set up the digitisation laboratory.  That was very demanding, and it got us off to a late start.  

  • Did you find yourselves reading any of the articles when digitising? Is there an article that sticks in your mind?

Oh absolutely.  It should be noted that as we located articles we began disseminating these to pertinent scholars.  The materials have already been included in Birmingham and Oxford theses, as well as in local research projects.  I was taken by an extended series concerning the Sermon on the Mount.  This is virgin territory for indigenous theology, and I was personally edified.

  • Now that you are a dab hand at digitisation, will you be using the equipment to digitise another part of the Forman Christian College Collection? If so, what might it be?

Yes, absolutely.  We have automatically transitioned to scanning Folio, which is is the College's literary journal.  We are also in discussion with the Punjab archives about digitising Paisa Akhbar.  This was a leading Urdu language newspaper in Lahore and it is now endangered, in the truest sense of the word.  We hope to secure the permissions and complete a proposal by September or October.  Perhaps this can lead to the scanning of some of the other priceless 16th and 17th century texts also housed there.

 

Everyone at EAP would like to wish the team at the Ewing Memorial Library, Forman Christian College the very best for their next digitisation project.

11 May 2015

New online collections - May 2015

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This month has seen two new collections go online, EAP563 and EAP619. They are from Argentina and Bangladesh.

The team working on EAP563 digitised documents of the Hume family collection in Argentina.

The Hume family arrived in Argentina in the late 19th century and founded the engineering firm ‘Hume Brothers’ in 1880 which existed until the 1970s. Its main work consisted in planning and building thousands of kilometers of roads as well as setting up the industrial infrastructure of the country. The firm managed similar enterprises in Uruguay, Chile and Brazil around the same period.

The material contains records which are very special and unique. The glass plate negatives and photographs illustrate the company’s operations in constructing quarries, bridges and other sites. The records that complement the images include drawings, handmade sketches as well as budget accounts for the railroads, train stations, warehouses and factories. The collection shows the country changing from a rural economy to an industrial one.

Eap563_udesa_huhe_alb1_004.aEAP563/1/5/1: Photographs album 1 [c 1907-c 1910] – Image 4

EAP 619 is a fascinating project which surveyed and digitised Thakbast maps from the former East Bengal (present day Bangladesh), these maps date from 1848-1850. Thakbast surveys were conducted to demarcate the mouza (‘village’) boundaries in preparation for a revenue survey undertaken by the East India Company. For this purpose a rough map was compiled called the thak muzmilli. The vast majority of thak (boundary pillar) maps drawn before 1852 were eye sketches not intended to provide more than rough guidance to revenue surveyors. These were drawn by pencil whereas later maps were topographical and coloured. The hand-drawn Thakbast sketch pencil maps drawn during the 1840s and 1850s have become rare. EAP619 gathered and listed information about the survival of these maps. A trial digitisation of items from the Rajshahi district was undertaken.

EAP619_PhotographAlbum30_29EAP619/1/1/30: Thak Maps Volume 30 [1848-1850] – Image 30

These maps provide a wealth of information such as the name of the mouza, area, type of soil, cropping pattern, population size, number of houses and cattle, location of roads, ponds, rivers, mosques, temples, bazaars, indigo factories, etc. Useful facts and comments were often written in the corner of each map. The maps help to reveal a picture of rural Bangladesh during this period of British colonisation in the inlands of East Bengal.

EAP619_PhotographAlbum39_31EAP619/1/1/39: Thak Maps Volume 39 [1848-1850] – Image 32

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.