THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Endangered archives blog

News about the projects saving vulnerable material from around the world

14 December 2017

A project from Bhutan

On 17 December 1907, Ugyen Wangchuk, the first Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King), was coronated and the Kingdom of Bhutan has marked this day ever since as its National Day.

The British Library has some photographs of Ugyen Wangchuk when he was crown prince dating from 1905, which were taken by John Claude White, the Political Officer of neighbouring Sikkim. The image of him wearing the traditional Raven Crown and the order of Knight Commander of the Indian Empire is perhaps the most reproduced photograph of the ruler, but it is the one in more relaxed dress and surrounded by his family, that has, for me, more appeal.

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Photo 20/(1)

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To mark this anniversary, I thought I would highlight EAP039. This project was awarded in 2005, the very first round of grants  and took place at Gangtey Gonpa. The monastery was founded in 1613 by Gyalse Pema Thinley, the grandson of the saint Pema Lingpa (1450-1521) who was the most important Buddhist born in Bhutan and who discovered the hidden texts concealed by the 8th century Indian monk Padmasambhava.

The monastery underwent major renovation, beginning in 2000 and lasting for eight years. The Endangered Archives Programme project was independent to the refurbishment of the building but ensured the safety of the important Nyingma tradition manuscripts housed at the monastery. Below are some photographs of the village, the manuscripts beautifully wrapped and stored and the monks concentrating on the digitisation project. As the location lacked a reliable electricity supply, the team worked outside when photographing these precious texts, which were a funerary tribute to the founder of Gangtey.

We wish everyone in Bhutan a very happy National Day.

EAP039_Pub001On the road to Gantey.

EAP039_Pub011An example of one of the manuscripts.

EAP039_Pub006Monks at work.

GangteystudioBundles of manuscripts waiting to be digitised.

 

Further Reading:

Aris, M (1994) The Raven Crown Chicago: Serindia Publications

13 November 2017

An Abundance of Bulgarian Bagpipes

I am sure that I am not the only one who, every-so-often, talks about work over the dinner table. The reason for my excitement was because of the new EAP website that, for the first time, allows for keyword searches and also offers the ability to zoom into the images to really capture the finer details that were lost before. To illustrate what the new platform can offer, I chose the word ‘bagpipe’, to see what could be unearthed. My husband, who plays several types, suddenly lost all interest in his meal, which became colder and colder as he scrolled through the 1940s photographs of Bulgarian bagpipes (gaida) that had appeared on the computer screen.

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What I hadn’t expected was my own newly found interest in Bulgarian pipes and desire to learn more.

The gaida is made from goatskin that is placed in salt for several days and then reversed so that the fur is on the inside, which apparently helps prevent the build-up of moisture as the musician blows into the instrument. The hindquarters are removed and sewn up, the two front leg holes are used for the blow pipe (duhalo) - to inflate the bag, and for the drone (ruchilo), which is the longest pipe made of three sections providing a continuous and harmonious note to accompany the melody, played on the chanter (gaidanitsa). This has seven holes and is connected to the neck opening. Both drone and chanter contain single cane reeds.

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EAP103/1/3/9/28 Parts of a bagpipe (l-r) chanter with bead decoration, drone pipe, blow pipe

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the bagpipes were traditionally played by men to while away the time in the rural countryside taking care of their herds. Boys were expected to learn by ear and then go off and practise during the long working day. However, Maria Stoyanova, who fell in love with the gaida, was the first professional female player and has become one of the country’s most gifted instrumentalists. She started by sneakily playing her father’s pipes while no one was around to hear.

To be a good player you need to have gaidarski prŭsti or ‘bagpiper’s fingers’. This refers to the ornamentation that flourishes the melody and provides individuality to a folk tune.

Although the bagpipe has its roots in rural life, the website word search also brought up studio photographs of people in traditional dress and holding a bagpipe. I am not convinced that either of these two sitters can actually play the instrument. In the first example the sitter does not know where to place his hands and the second sitter, may have just been nervous of the camera but, to me, he seems to be holding the instrument with quite a bit of trepidation.

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EAP103/1/2/1/55 A studio photograph

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EAP103/1/3/2/137 A studio photograph

It is the sequence of photographs in a maker’s workshop that I fell in love with. You see the interior of the room, with piles of wood blanks waiting to be made into dones, finished bagpipes waiting to be sold, and the maker at his bench. A row of notched wooden sticks seem to indicate where the seven finger holes should be placed. But it is the last photograph in the series, which is just so wonderful – the maker just having played his newly finished instrument. The face is somewhat blurred and I would like to believe this is because the photographer has a slightly shaky hand after hearing the beautiful sound, but what hasn’t been lost is the pride on the maker’s face.

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EAP103/1/3/5/92 Inside a maker's workshop

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EAP103/1/3/5/90 Working at his hand-driven lathe

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EAP103/1/3/5/96 (detail) Finger hole marking templates

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EAP103/1/3/5/95 The finished instrument

There are two types of gaida. The smaller, slightly higher pitched instrument (djura) performs a slow melancholic song, without an obvious beat, known as bavna pesen, often played at a wedding, when the bride’s family hands over their daughter to the groom. In complete contrast it can also play upbeat dance tunes called horo for weddings and other festivals. The second type of instrument is larger (known as a kaba) and originates from the Rhodope mountains. There is even an orchestra made up of 100 kaba gaida, and when I listened to them on the internet, it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I have a feeling that I know where we will be spending our next summer holiday...

But do have a play on the new website for yourself and see what the keyword search will uncover for you.

 

Further reading:

Rice, T. (2004) Music in Bulgaria: Experiencing music, expressing culture Oxford; New York, Oxford University Press

Rice T. (2011) "Evaluating Artistry on the Bulgarian Bagpipe" in Ethnomusicological encounters with music and musicians: essays in honor of Robert Garfias Surrey, England: Burlington VT Ashgate Publishing

Video of a televised concert of 333 bagpipe players - old and young, boys and girls

 

 

 

31 October 2017

EAP Call for Applications - The Clock is Ticking

It’s that time of year again. In London the nights are getting longer, the weather is more unpredictable, and we have a new office on the fifth floor of the Library with a stunning view of the ribbed rook of St Pancras station and the clock– as well as more sky than we’ve been used to in our previous home.

Photo of St Pancras roof

The other annual milestone is that the next call for applications for grants under the EAP is now open! This will be the 14th round for the BL and Arcadia (and my first). Each year we seem to get a bigger post bag as the word gets round. The International Panel considers all the applications and they will be looking for material that fits the eight criteria as listed in the Guidelines for Applicants (see page 3): urgency, vulnerability, significance, feasibility, age of material, expertise and experience of the team, professional development and capacity building, and access. The Panel will also be looking for applications where they can understand what it is that the end user – be they researcher or casual user – will see on the screen.

The applicants shouldn’t assume that the Panel are experts in archives in all formats and from every corner of the world. They need to be helped to make sense of the applications at speed – in terms of what they might fund and why. In short, the application needs to tell a concise but compelling story about the material and the need for the project. You can send one indicative photo, but don’t run the risk of your application not getting through because the file is too big.

We know that it is hard to apply for any kind of funding. But institutions often have teams dedicated to helping employees navigate the application process; they can help colleagues to understand how to create a budget, how to sort out rights and permissions and how to express their idea in a few concise sentences. Applicants must make clear from the outset that they – and the owners of the archives they are wanting to digitise – understand the implications of putting content on the internet.

The working language of the Endangered Archives Programme is English, and application forms must be written in English but, in an attempt to increase the geographical coverage and improve the quality of the applications we are providing supporting notes in a number of other languages. If you still need advice, we are available to respond to queries, but chances are that we’ll encourage you to re-read the guidance and apply it to your own situation; you’re much better placed to write about your project than we are.

Ruth Hansford, Grants Portfolio Manager