Endangered archives blog

News about the projects saving vulnerable material from around the world

08 February 2019

Let's rescue and disseminate the Chilean public education archives

The School Archives Programme at the Institute of History of the Pontificia Universidad Cat√≥lica de Chile is convinced of the value of historical documents created by Chilean public educational institutions. 

Founded during the nineteenth century as key institutions throughout the country, these secondary schools contain valuable and unpublished information concerning the local communities of the former Chilean provinces. Enrolment Records, Director's Correspondence, Subjects Taught, Teacher Council Minutes, Exam Proceedings, Punishment Books, Inventories, and other records will be digitised during 2019. Eight lyc√©es of national importance in five regions have agreed to take part in EAP1065. The educational institutions - known as 'liceos' that are taking part are: Gabriela Mistral (La Serena), Alejandro √Ālvarez (Ovalle), Technological Alfredo Nazar Feres (Valpara√≠so), √ďscar Castro (Rancagua), Luis Urbina F. (Rengo), Neandro Schilling (SanFernando), Abate Molina (Talca) and Enrique Molina G. (Concepci√≥n).

Meanwhile, we hope to encourage other institutions to get on board. Archives are often forgotten and neglected, sometimes at risk because of fire, earthquakes or floods. When these documents are valued, they take on new life and meaning thanks to rescue initiatives, organisation and dissemination activities proposed by the school communities themselves. These communities have taken into account the potential that these documents are fundamental resources for education, memory, identity and citizenship.

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In this way, and together with the School Archives Programme, numerous workshops, seminars, training courses and various projects that bring together university academics, school teachers and students with professionals from various disciplines working collaboratively have taken place between 2010 and 2018.

This material is not just for the study of the history of education, we also appreciate the importance they have for understanding of cultural and social history of the localities that keep them. Likewise, they are a source of great interest for diverse and innovative didactic applications that contribute to forming methodological competences among students.

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The goal is to develop and constitute a national network to which institutions and initiatives can be added in the three lines of work proposed by the School Archives Programme:
1. Archives and Heritage; 2. Pedagogical mediation; 3. Impact assessment on literacy and historical awareness.

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Blog written by Rodrigo Sandoval grant holder for EAP1065

14 January 2019

Early photographic work of the Hamilton Studios, Bombay.

Hamilton Photographic Studio is a significant cultural asset for Bombay. It sits in Fort, a beautiful business district in the bustling port area of the city. Amongst the steady thrum and beep of the traffic-choked roads, the studio hides on a tree-lined side street as an oasis of calm. It is not just that photographers and clients create a sense of stillness in the moment of creation; this studio feels more like an art gallery or place of worship. Photographs of significant people line the walls and so visitors immediately commune with a sacred past. The effect is tangible, and on a very hot and busy day in late September 2018, this haven is most welcome.

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Hamilton Studios was opened by Sir Victor Sassoon in 1928 to provide studio photography to the illustrious people of the day, including the British rulers and the significant Indian families. These include industrialist JRD Tata, and families including the Baldotas, Dubashes, Podars, Khataus, Vinod Khanna, Madhubala, Nutan, Maharani Gayatri Devi, Nadia Hunterwaali, as well a British aristocracy including Lord Bradborne and Lord Willingdon, and many upper-class people serving colonial Britain. When Sassoon left India after partition, the studio’s archive of glass plate negatives sat remaindered in cabinets, seemingly unimportant and unwanted. It was in 1957 when a young Indian photographer called Ranjit Madhavji bought Hamilton Studios and with it, the archive. The family still run the studio today.

The grandeur of the earlier era has been preserved by the Madhavji family. The studio is arranged such that it places the client at the centre of all of what is to come. The parlour, for clients to sit and talk about their portrait, is very comfortable, painted in a serene chalky green paint. The parlour walls host portraits of famous clients, including impressive-looking Maharajas and a portrait of a young Dalai Lama. Sitting there and observing, you would note the exceptional quality of the fixtures, doors and panelling, and how the high ceilings and generous space suggests high class comfort. Usually, sitters have tea and a long conversation to allow the photographer to understand the person more and plan the portrait. Today, this approach is still used.

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The parlour, with portraits (Photograph © Michael Cutts)

The studio room itself is a windowless, internal room, which retains much of the original equipment. Huge bulbs sit in vast silver pendants, whilst a contraption that looks like a pencil torch for the BFG hangs languidly above the head of the client as a spotlight. Curtains frame the space, a choice of backdrops. A 1928 Kodak 10x8 plate camera as big as a man stares from opposite, ready to be used, whilst smaller digital equipment discreetly lie on a table. Teak and steel filing cabinets, filled with negatives, line up, backs against the walls, as if giving as much floor as possible to the new photograph soon to be shot. It is all quite beautiful. The studio space, sometimes used for fashion shoots as well as portraits, has been assiduously kept for the future by Ajita Madhavji so visitors may better understand and experience another era. The conclusion is that a portrait taken at Hamilton is a treasure.

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The portrait studio (Photograph © Michael Cutts)

We are here because the studio is threatened from a number of directions. Over the past 90 years, the humidity of Bombay has wreaked havoc on this significant and important archive. Some 600,000 items, including negatives, prints and ephemera are still stored in paper sleeves and wooden cabinets and boxes, the earliest since 1928. The early negatives are of glass and are deteriorating badly, in themselves a story of exposure to unforgiving conditions. Caught between moving the negatives and letting them rest gathering dust, the family have left them alone for fear of damage.

The studio is also threatened by the possible redevelopment of the Ballard Estate. Originally the offices of import and export companies located directly next to Bombay docks, this once imposing estate now sits on valuable land. Redevelopment has been signalled since the 1970s with the calls getting louder as Bombay gets bigger and higher. However, a collective response from many tenants on the estate, led by the Madhavji family over decades, has meant a reaffirmation of tenant rights by the courts. Specifically, the threat that hangs over the photographic studio is that it must continue to operate as a studio and gallery to remain a tenant of the estate. Perhaps understandably, the ubiquity of digital photography has led to a decline in customers, but nonetheless Hamilton has survived, largely due to its reputation and heritage, and the hard work of the family. Right now, the Madhavji family is rethinking the future of the studio in order to maintain its location, relevance and status, with its fantastic archive, charming photographic studio and gallery space all feeding into a new business strategy.

An application for an EAP grant was successful on the basis that an archive from between 1928 and 1947 of approximately 25,000 negatives, prints and ephemera, be digitised and that the early negatives and prints go into new acid-free boxes. The digital archive will be made available online through the British Library on a non-commercial basis and through Hamilton Studios on a commercial basis. Ajita hopes that this project will act as an accelerant for her strategy and breathe new life into the studios. The application was made through Dr. Ben Kyneswood at Coventry University. His work, alongside photographer Jason Scott Tilley of Photo Archive Miners CIC involves helping owners of forgotten and historic archives digitise them in order to tell their story to a new generation. Their work on the Masterji archive from Coventry, UK, was exhibited in Mumbai in 2017 as part of the Focus Mumbai photography exhibition, and through that they came to know Ajita Madhavji and Hamilton Studios.

The archive is known in Indian photographic circles enough for enquiries to purchase some of the collection to have already been made. Ajita has rebutted these, knowing as she puts it, that vultures always circle. What attracted her to the EAP fund was the status of the British Library, that commercial ownership remained with her, and that the project would give her a platform for her strategy whilst making the public, through the Library, aware of Hamilton Studios. The project is designed therefore as a capacity building project where Ben and Jason train not just Ajita and an archivist at the studios, but also interns from two Indian colleges. The interns, from the National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad and from the Indian School of Design and Innovation (ISDI) in Bombay, will not just get valuable, paid, experience, but they will also develop a relationship with Hamilton that may last beyond the EAP project and into the next phase of the strategy.

Jason and I arrived at the studios for the first time in late September 2018 for a nine day stay. Our plan was two-fold: firstly, to develop our relationship with Ajita and secure the interns, and second to assess the archive, build the digitisation studio and begin training. The equipment was sourced from Genus IT in the UK, and on their advice included a Canon EOS 5DS and Kaiser copy stand and Pro-lite lightbox for the negatives, and a copy stand, light rig and book holder using as Canon 80D for prints and documents. Canon software is used for tethered live capture, whilst Adobe Lightroom 6 is used to invert the negative and add metadata. PPI is determined by the object size, but a minimum of 300ppi is used a floor: for some glass negatives that measure in 10 inches in size, this still produces a file that is rich in detail (but huge in file size). For smaller negatives measuring 6 x 4, 600ppi produces a file around 60MB in size. Finally, the files are saved to a shared OneDrive as TIFFS, given an EAP1117_[Hamilton catalogue number] file name, with details added to the spreadsheet provided by the British Library. At this point the items are logged onto a spreadsheet issued by the British Library EAP team.

Our first few days were spent carefully understanding the condition of the studios and archive whilst we waited for our equipment to be delivered. The archive itself is spread throughout the studios rather than in a single place, a result of a single room often having its own climate and issues: warm one side, damp another, dry over there, and termites, or white ants, over there. A first impression suggests chaos but this knowing method has saved thousands of negatives. The room designated for the project sits just behind the office and seemed the ideal space: a natural airflow between doors at either end, with ceiling fans above, create a comfortable working space except in the most humid conditions. We surveyed the room already organised by Ajita. Two workstations would face a wall where new electrical points supply cameras and equipment, with a UPS to protect the sensitive equipment from common power surges on the direct current electrical system in India.

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The office used for digitising the archive

On day two we expected to receive our cargo from our supplier in the UK. These items include the archival boxes, copy stands, book holders and light rigs, including light boxes, which would form the backbone of our project. Unfortunately for us, the Indian Customs decided to investigate the cargo, and on deciding that several items needed prior declaration (they rated the copy stands as meteorological tools because of the metal used, despite our clarifications!) they held the items until an investigation was completed. They also questioned whether Hamilton Studios was the importer, not the University, through me, as a non-national, and therefore liable. This claim had implications for the Studios, who obviously were not in the import/export business, but would face large penalties if it was decided that they were.

The investigation lasted four months and involved conversations with different officials and the appointment of a Clearing Agent in India. Fortunately, Indian Customs eventually released and returned the items to the UK where we are now being permitted to apply to import the items. They still regard the copy stands as meteorological tools because of the metal used, and we are now sure they will not be pursuing Hamilton Studios for illegal importing. The lesson here is to never underestimate a bureaucracy’s ability to make work for itself and to always check and re-check, even when importing with a supplier who regularly supplies to India.

Despite this setback, Jason and I did not lose time whilst in Bombay. Ajita afforded us the great privilege of meeting her now elderly father over an evening meal at her home, a true delight. Ranjit Madhavji is a legend in Indian photographic circles as a recipient of many awards, and deserves international acknowledgment for his achievements. His stories of his upbringing, his life philosophy that led to setting up the studios will be recorded in another blog, but safe to say, it was the most wonderful use of our time. Ajita set about ensuring we were well looked after. Food from the nearby Café Britannia, whose ancient owner proudly met the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on a recent visit, kept us going as we examined the space, chased our equipment and taught Ajita and Gurujit, the lead archivist on this project, how to use the cameras with the software and the British Library’s archiving system. To ensure we could teach, we improvised a lightbox from an old light fitting. The electricians who supplied the new power points installed a square LED light into the light fitting and, after fashioning cardboard to fit the 5 x 7 negatives we were looking at, hey presto, we began to take photographs. This box was not the one we would be using in the future (we hope!) but for teaching Gurujit, who would them teach interns, it was very satisfactory.

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Ajita is using the Canon MKIV 5DS with a macro lens looking at a negative sitting on the improvised lightbox. The tripod is an original of the studios and dates to the 1940s and is very beautiful.

The initial scoping and test scans and revealed fantastic stories, with data taken from envelopes, which gave us names, dates and addresses, and letters written to the studios requesting further copies. The studios kept correspondence, usefully writing date (including year) received on letters, as in this example below, from Shelia Jepsom, from June 1943.

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Shelia K Jepsom, from 1943, requesting copies of her portraits, and especially for the copy in her nurse uniform to be darkened because of the effect of the light processing on the lips!

As we stand now, just into the New Year for 2019, we will be returning to Hamilton Studios in just a few weeks’ time, once the equipment has made it to the studios. We have appointed an importer in India to oversee this and to ensure we do not lose time to investigations again. From then we are ready to begin exploring the wonderful Hamilton Studio archive.

Please follow our work on @photominers on Twitter and check back here for more updates.

Blog written by Dr Ben Kyneswood grant holder for EAP1117


08 January 2019

In Celebration of Djenné

During the last part of 2018 two identical photographic exhibitions celebrating the involvement of the Endangered Archives Programme with the manuscripts of Djenn√©, Mali have been mounted. The first of these, named : ‚ÄėBeyond Timbuktu, the manuscripts of Djenn√©‚Äô had its opening on the 27th of September with a glittering private view at the British Library with addresses by Lisbet Rausing, the Trustee and Founder of Arcadia, which funds the Endangered Archives Programme, as well as by H.E. Cat Evans, the British Ambassador to Mali ; Roly Keating, the Chief Executive of the British Library and Sophie Sarin, who has co-ordinated the Djenn√© Library‚Äôs four consecutive EAP projects since 2009. These projects have resulted in a treasure trove of around 400,000 images of the Arabic manuscripts of Djenn√©, which are now available on-line.

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Speeches at the opening in London

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The private view in London

Since it was unfortunately not possible to bring the Djenné team to London, it was decided that the exhibition should be duplicated and shown in Bamako. Djenné itself is now considered too dangerous because of the deteriorating security situation. A hard drive containing the digitised Djenné manuscript images of the first project EAP488 had already been delivered to the Archives Nationales in Bamako in a ceremony in 2013, attended by the then British Ambassador Philip Boyle. The last hard drives containing the EAP projects EAP690 and EAP879 needed to be delivered and at the same time a final ceremony /celebration for the projects seemed a suitable way to end a long and fruitful collaboration . It was therefore decided that the handing over ceremony of these last hard drives should take place at the same time as the opening of the concurrent Djenné photographic exhibition. This took place on the 7th of December.

The photographs are a mixture of images from the manuscripts in the EAP digitised collection and pictures taken by different photographers of the island city of Djenn√©, which enjoys UNESCO World Heritage status celebrating its monumental mud architecture with its crowning glory the Great Mosque. The pictures were expertly printed and mounted by La Maison Africaine de la Photographie, an institution connected to the Ministry of Culture which has plenty of experience in mounting exhibitions in this country, which is rightly proud of its star-studded photographic heritage featuring names such as Malick Sidibe and Seydou Keita.

An additional attraction to the exhibition display on the morning of the ceremony in Bamako was a 3-D display called a ‚ÄėGoogle experience‚Äô, which showed images of Djenn√© and the library with the aid of cardboard 3-D viewers in combination with smart phones. This feature was supplied courtesy of

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Captivated by a virtual tour of Djenné

The 7th of December was a Friday- this is always a half-day in Bamako as everyone is intent on going to Friday Prayers at the Mosque. The ceremony was therefore scheduled to start early enough with the guests being seated by 9.30, since Malian official events are always very tied to protocol and the longer the list of illustrous guests, the longer the introductions to each of the speeches must become, since protocol demands that every VIP is greeted individually by every person giving a speech. The list of VIPs who would be present kept changing in the 24 hours before the event and at one point it included one ex- President ; the First Lady of Mali ; three ministers as well as four ambassadors. Therefore the Archives Nationales underwent a hasty and much- needed clean-up and face-lift.

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Preparations for the National Archives ceremony in Bamako

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However, the list of VIP‚Äôs had eventually shrunk to a more manageable size comprising one minister (Madame Sanogo, Secretaire Generale du Gouvernement) who presided ; 3 ambassadors (South Africa, Sweden and UK) and the Honorary Malian consul to the UK Mark Saade who had flown out especially for the event.

A short film in French had been produced on the evening of the British Library‚Äôs private view, which included a greeting to the people of Djenn√© and Library team by Sophie Sarin and Kolado Landoure, from a well known Djenn√© family greeting his townsmen in Saurai ; addresses by Mark Saade and by Dr Marion Wallace, Lead Curator of African collections at the British Library. This film was shown during Sophie Sarin‚Äôs short address.

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Showing the film at the ceremony, Bamako

The British ambassador Cat Evans once more graced the proceedings and addressed the assembly as did Hasseye Traore, the President of the Djenné Manuscript Library who raised the important matter of the future funding of the Library since the projects have now come to an end. He spoke in Bambara with interpretation from the MC Mamadou Samake, who worked for many years on the Djenné Projects. Finally the Minister Madame Sanogo brought things to a close, and people were about to go for refreshments and to view the exhibition when one last dramatic incident threatened to derail the entire ceremony.

The Djenné projects have, from the very beginning, had a small but powerful group of detractors in Djenné, at first led by the late Imam Korobara, and lately by the new traditional village chief of Djenné. The latter has done all in his power to get the EAP projects closed and with them the library itself, including going to see the Minister of Culture and UNESCO to complain and to insinuate that the British Library’s EAP projects are illegal. Having investigated the situation, the Minister of Culture then sent a letter to the village chief, which was leaked to anyone who was somehow concerned in the affair. This letter stated that the digitisation of manuscripts was a legal act as long as the manuscript owners agreed to it and that the Ministry of Culture warmly encouraged the digitisation of the Djenné manuscript. Everyone now thought this problem had finally disappeared.

However, on the morning of the ceremony, one of the first guests to arrive was the Djenn√© village chief. He took his seat and bided his time. After Madame Sanogo‚Äôs final speech wrapping up the procedings he stood up and indicated that he wanted to say something. Of course he was given the opportunity to speak. Mamadou Samake the MC went over with the microphone and the village chief started to voice his by now well-known discontent in Bambara. After a short while, and before Samake had time to interpret, Madame Sanogo whispered something in the ear of her assistant who went over to Samake and passed on the message. What followed was a remarkably graceful manoevre when Samake politely said thank you to the village chief, removed the microphone and ‚Äėinterpreted‚Äô the following "For Your Excellences the ambassadors who may not speak Bambara, The village chief is expressing how very thrilled he is to be here at this ceremony and he is congratualting the Djenn√© Manuscript Library on the wonderful work they have done !"

The assembled guest then went to look at the exhibition and enjoy their refreshments, and the ceremony and celebration of Djenné came to a happy conclusion.

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Blog written by Sophie Sarin, grant holder for the projects in Djenn√© 

Photographs of Bamako opening: © Souleyman Bathieno



14 November 2018

Mandinka Ajami and Arabic Manuscripts of Casamance, Senegal

This a wonderful blog written by Eleni Castro, OpenBU & ETD Program Librarian at Boston University as well as Project Technical Lead for EAP1042.

This October we presented a poster entitled, ‚ÄúDigital Preservation of Mandinka Ajami Materials of Senegal‚ÄĚ at FORCE2018 (Montreal, Canada), which is an annual conference on making research and scholarship more broadly and openly available. This poster provided a project overview and update on the work we have been doing for EAP 1042 - an international research collaboration between Boston University, the West African Research Center, and local experts in Senegal, which involves visiting manuscript owners in the Casamance region of Senegal to work with them to digitally preserve and make more broadly available manuscripts written in Arabic and Mandinka Ajami (Mandinka using Arabic script) from their personal libraries.

In January 2018, we gave a three day digital preservation workshop at the West African Research Center (WARC) in Dakar, and shortly thereafter went to Ziguinchor to begin our digitisation field work. Overall, the team is spending 15 months 1) interviewing manuscript owners and digitising rare manuscripts from Ziguinchor, Kolda, and S√©dhiou, 2) curating and post-processing over 14,000 digital images, and 3) depositing three independent copies at: WARC in Dakar, the British Library, and Boston University‚Äôs African Ajami Library on OpenBU. At the time of writing, we have digitised over 10,000 Arabic and Mandinka Ajami manuscript pages (some bilingual).

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Digitisation Workshop team at the West African Research Center in Dakar, Senegal (Jan. 2018)

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Project PI, Dr. Fallou Ngom, looking over manuscripts with manuscript owner, El-hadji Lamine Bayo

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Ibrahima Ngom (photographer) and Ablaye Diakité (local project manager) photographing manuscripts from the Abdou Khadre Cisse collection (Jan. 2018)

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Ibrahima Yaffa interviewing manuscript owner Abdou Khadre Cisse and his brother Cherif Cisse. Filmed by project photographer, Ibrahima Ngom

As we began our digitisation, we noticed that there was a large number of bilingual manuscripts written in both Arabic and Mandinka Ajami, which is very different from the mostly unilingual Wolof Ajami manuscripts digitised in EAP 334. The genres and subject matter found in these works varied widely, from religious to secular topics, such as: astrology, poetry, divination, Islamic education, jurisprudence, Sufism, code of ethics, translations & commentaries of the Quran and Islamic texts from Arabic into Mandinka, stories about Mandinka leaders and important historical figures (including women), records of important local events such as the founding of villages, ancestral traditions, and Mandinka social institutions.

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Manuscript of a long form poem praising the Prophet Muhammad, written in Arabic with marginalia in Arabic and some Mandinka Ajami (Abdou Khadre Cisse Collection)

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Mandinka healing document (Abdou Karim Thiam Collection)

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19th Century watermark found in Biniiboo manuscript (Abdou Khadre Cisse Collection)

Since we are working in remote areas, with non-studio conditions, we encountered some technical issues early on. Finding the right lighting has been an ongoing challenge, since our time in the homes of manuscript owners is precious and limited, and so we have had to work with available light and the help of a macro ring flash. Our camera overheats after +1h of continuous use, but we found that by replacing an extra hot battery with a cooler one, helps us resume digitisation much faster. Since we have a geographically dispersed team, we have setup a communication channel via WhatsApp, and upload files on Google Drive for backup and review as soon as a new collection is being worked on. Internet speeds can be quite slow when sending these large raw image files, but a mobile hotspot modem has helped with internet access while working in the field.

While we will be wrapping up digitisation and curation of these manuscripts by April 2019, there is still more work to be done to help researchers more effectively study and explore these materials. We will be looking into using a IIIF image viewer for scholars to better be able to compare various manuscripts and annotate them. Transcription is a longer term goal, since more unicode work is needed to extend Arabic script characters for African Ajami manuscripts to be full-text searchable in their actual languages.

08 November 2018

EAP's first webinar - Completing a Successful Preliminary Application

The Endangered Archives Programme held its first webinar on 02 November 2018 where we invited potential grant applicants to join us for a brief presentation, followed by an opportunity for them to ask questions to both EAP staff members and former grant holders. This gave participants the chance to find out about all aspects of the application process to determine whether they may like to apply for a grant, either for this round (Deadline: 19th November. Still time to apply!) or the future. We were very pleased to welcome over 40 people from 24 different countries to this seminar. We are planning to hold more webinars in the future, please watch this space!

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EAP Webinar: Completing a Successful Preliminary Application

Live webinar recorded Friday 2nd November 2018. Introductory presentation by Adam Farquhar, EAP Director

Q&A Session

  1. Do endangered archives of film (i.e. motion-picture) reels qualify under EAP? These are 20th-century artefacts, and some even from second half of 20th century, but under threat of destruction and spoilage.

You should consider copyright issues - this can be quite complicated for film. Do also consider Documenting Global Voices, another Arcadia project. Their call will be announced on 1 December. You must also think how unique the material is and whether there are copies elsewhere.

  1. How small is a small digitization project to be considered for a pilot project? (e.g. we want to digitize about 10.000 lyrics = 10.000 tiff files. is that too big to be considered as a pilot project?!)

It depends on time and budget. This seems a rather large amount of material, but could fit within the Pilot project budget depending on circumstances. Pilots are generally given for projects that last under a year and cost less than £15,000 - if you think you would need more time or money, apply for a Major grant. You may also apply for a Major grant with a smaller budget.

  1. We are working with archaeological records, some of which are unpublished surveys of sites. The publication of this raises some questions, most significantly, the possibility of leading potential looters to unsecured sites. While we’d like all the material to be open, but is there a way keep these records private?"

All EAP material would need to be made available online - I recommend you contact the other Arcadia funded project based in Oxford ‚Äď EAMENA ‚Äď as they focus on archaeology.


  1. What is the policy/EAP recommendations for copyright of orphan works? Are there any concerns especially for non-commercial source material?

The grant holder needs to do the research into copyright of the physical material. We ask for Creative Commons, Non-Commercial licenses for all material.

For orphan works, the grant of permission form should be signed by the person who owns the material.

  1. If you’re an independent researcher what type of experience are you looking for in regards to applying?

It is possible to do a project as an independent researcher ‚Äď the experience that would help towards a successful project would be digitization experience, preferably in the field, as well as project management, language ability, understanding of the material, and good budgeting skills.

There are, however, several disadvantages ‚Äď working with a trusted respected partner organisation can benefit the project by providing an institutional framework for project support and administration.

  1. I am keen for technical assistance to help preserve and digitise my very large collection on the Holy Land

Do have a look at Remote Capture ( as this is a publication to help. It is free to download from Open Book Publishers. I would also suggest that if you are applying you do not attempt to digitise the whole amount focus on one aspect. You can also budget for training within the grant application.

I'd add that the pilot project stage offers the opportunity to trial your digitisation method, perhaps making adjustments/improvements during the major grant stage. During my St Helena pilot project, I digitised a relatively small volume of material, but rather I trialled the photography on a variety of document types, to see what worked well with my camera set-up, and what didn't.

  1. What if some of the documents are considered sensitive material by the authorities in the country where the archive is located (in this case Egypt) - for example maps? Could these be exempt from being put online?

You would need to get the appropriate permissions. If these are state archives, then you would need governmental permissions. We only fund material that can go online.


  1. Having located endangered material in private collections across a region, can one independently initiate and carry out a project without recourse to a team at an institution? (Provided all the material is indeed deposited at a relevant local institution, in addition to BL, once it is digitised?)

Please refer to question #6. In addition, you really would need to have significant experience in digitisation and metadata to be able to handle the workload by yourself.

  1. If an independent researcher is partnering with the country archive or museum, whose experience do you detail in the application?

The independent researcher’s experience is what the panel will be assessing.

  1. Do you pay for travel costs of person teaching how to digitise and can you confirm if the equipment stays with the local archive?

Yes, we will pay those costs, as long as they have been detailed in the application and approved by the panel. The equipment does remains in the country for further use.

  1. Could you please confirm if archival material on microfilm (dating from the late 1800s to 1900s) qualify?

Digitising microfilm is quite complicated (the BL outsources this) so look at the feasibility and the uniqueness of the content on the microfilm.

  1. Do EAP grants cover the undertaking of an oral history project that is focused on gathering and recording new material?

Sadly we do not pay for interviewing as the main part of a project. We have digitised oral histories that are on a format that is at risk, such as cylinders and tapes.

  1. Does a photographic archive deriving from film reels (especially damaged or partially spoiled ones) qualify for deposit in digital form? i.e. Does it have to be full reels/films for digitisation or parts/excerpts are admissible?

We have not had experience with this to date. If you are applying, you would need to detail the percentage of recoverable material in the application.

  1. When does "pre-modern" period end?

This doesn’t have a single global answer! It will vary with the history and context of different regions. There are two good rules of thumb: The year of independence for countries that were formerly colonies; material that is out of copyright. However, as in the case of photographs, the format can be considered modern but the images refer to a pre-modern period.

If you have an questions, please contact the EAP team with information about the collection that you have in mind.

  1. Is a music collection produced in the 20th century qualify, if it’s endangered?

If it is unique and on a problematic format. Think of the other criteria when applying. I suggest that you have a look at the Indian recording labels and Syliphone archive that we have funded.

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  1. Do you have suggestions for other funds which might work with endangered 20th century materials?

Yes, a new programme is being set up at UCLA also funded by Arcadia. It is called Documenting Global Voices. Their call will go out on 1 December 2018.

  1. At the preliminary stage, what kind of evidence of permissions from collection owners/curators should be included? There is a box for that on the application, but what precisely should appear there?

I would say that submitting formal documentation would only be required at the detailed application stage, but in the preliminary application we want applicants to be aware that the material will go online and it is their responsibility to seek the appropriate permissions.

  1. Is making materials available to scholars the same as making them available to the public? Some archives depend on search fees for funding.

The goal of the EAP is to save endangered archival material and make them open available for research. This focus means that some projects, while otherwise excellent, may not be a good fit for the programme. The British Library will make the outputs of projects openly available for research by scholars and others. This is a key requirement. It does not, however, mean that the local archive cannot provide a priced service that includes access to the content or is driven by its metadata. Such services exist in many domains.

  1. On the project team: Should we be concerned if the largest part of our budget turns out to be salaries for a team (in my case, around 10 people, for example)?

I can certainly say that for my EAP project based on Nevis, which used two local staff, that salaries formed the largest single element of the grant.

In the past, the panel have asked applicants to re-budget if they felt that the costs were prohibitive. Also, we should make you aware that if the archive is housed at the host institution, we expect some contribution in-kind. Often this means the salaries of existing permanent staff employed by the host institution.

  1. It says in the application instructions that you do not allow costs for conservation. What if you have documents that require conservation before digitization?

We cover preservation (archival boxing, Melinex sleeves, dehumidifiers, etc.) to prevent further deterioration, but sadly not conservation. I think if the material needs work of this sort, I suggest you look for other funding before applying to EAP.


  1. When you say that detailed cataloguing should not be part of the project, does this also include database recording for the documents?

You must submit metadata as part of your project outputs. There is a template of the spreadsheet that we use available on the website. The level of description depends on the type of material being digitised, for example, with manuscripts we would expect a description at volume level (file level) and not at page level, but for photographs we would expect a description for each photograph (item level). We plan on introducing webinars for current grant holders regarding cataloguing standards.

  1. Could you please elucidate what differentiates an Area from a Major grant in terms of the amount of material that needs to be digitised? (Reference to paper-based archival material)

There is a considerable range of the amount of material that is digitised in Major grants. We have seen successful Major grants that have produced a few tens of thousands up through nearly a million. In recent years, the average amount of content is about 60K images per project year with 50% of projects delivering between 20K and 120K images per project year (i.e., a 2-year project might deliver between 40K and 240K images). The variation partly due to the difficult of local conditions, access, and nature of materials. For example, good quality bound ledgers can be processed quickly and efficiently. Crumbling damaged manuscripts must be handled with great care. That being said, we would expect an Area grant to produce material roughly in proportion to a Major grant, and perhaps derive some economies of scale. So perhaps 60K ‚Äď 360K images per project year would be likely.

  1. Is it typically in the range of a pilot project to create a project website that serves the local community (in the local language, mobile-first, designed to be accessible with patchy internet connections)?

Typically not for a pilot project. In cases that it is considered particularly important, a modest contribution could be made toward it. We look to the local archival partner to do much of this though.

  1. Is any training support offered to applicants as a part of this grant?

Look at our website to see if there has been a recent project near to where your proposal is based. The EAP office may be able to put you in touch with someone with local experience which may be useful.

We also plan on having future webinars covering various topics.

The handbook Remote Capture is also a good resource.

  1. Is EAP giving any legal support against illicit traffic of archival materials? Is there any guidance?

Sadly, this is not within the scope of EAP. Our ethos is that the material stays in the country of origin and that is why the digitisation is done in situ.

  1. On the preliminary application under ‚ÄėProject People and Organisations‚Äô, if applying through a host institution, there is no space to describe the experience and past achievements of the principal applicant or team? How do you gauge if the principal investigators have the experience to carry out the project? Is it okay for the principal applicant to complete Q10c and Q10d even if applying through the applicants host institution?

This is dealt with in more depth at the detailed application stage. In the preliminary application, if you are employed by the Host Institution, you only have to answer Question 9.

  1. I thought to apply for a pilot project for
  2. getting permissions from three archives I am in touch with
  3. evaluating the volume and character (hand-written/lithographs/etc.) of the manuscripts applicable for the major project
  4. locating more archives - public and private - that I know are there
  5. putting up the team of technicians and scholars to work for a major project

Does that make sense? Should I include portable scanner to digitize sample texts?

This is a classic pilot project. Since you mentioned you are looking at manuscripts, a portable scanner would not be appropriate, you would need a camera and portable tripod.

Look at the Digital Appendices for Remote Capture, which suggests model types.


  1. Is there any limitation as to the country of main applicant?

No, the important thing is where the material is located.

  1. What is the required form of indicating consent/ permission from foreign partners? A written and signed letter of consent in their language and then a translation? Will you honour informal translations or does it have to be a legally binding translation?

As part of the detailed application, we have Grant of Permission forms which you are most welcome to translate when showing them to foreign partners, but the English version would need to be signed and returned to the EAP office.

  1. What type of organisations/archival partners do not qualify as local institutions? For example: does a local non-profit with a collection of relevant material qualify?

It must be a non-commercial institution, it sounds as if the organization you have in mind would qualify.

  1. I am interested about how to discern what kind of project for which to apply. We have a website partially constructed. We are a local archive in Serowe, but our internet access is tenuous. We would probably need help make the archival material available from Serowe.

Please refer to Question 23.

  1. Thank you for your helpful advice.... Unfortunately I don't think my archive is eligible for the EAP. Does the British library have a service or a contact I can approach for advice on rehoming a modern archive?

Feel free to contact me at, also take a look at the Documenting Global Voices programme.

  1. Can we email individual panellists? We are working in Antigua and would love to talk to Andy.

I'm sure that Andy would be glad to provide help. Please email and we'll pass your request on to him.

  1. Among the accepted applications, is there a typical ratio - are the grants equally distributed among pilot, major and area, or is there a typical distribution in the rate of success?

This is the first time we are offering the area grant. The distribution varies year to year. To date we have had 220 major projects and 130 pilot projects.

  1. I have a question relating specifically to a collection of amateur films (travelogues and documentaries). This is the only surviving collection in the country of origin, so it will be quite valuable to researchers because it will dispel myths about pre-industrial filmmaking in this country. The owner transferred the rights to a team of filmmakers before passing away, but they do not have a way to properly store and digitize them. My question, more specifically, is whether I can submit an application to rescue these films, even though I don’t reside in the country of origin? I should add that this country doesn’t have the institutional framework or infrastructure to pursue this. The team has tried to find a way forward unsuccessfully, but I am able to bring this to fruition from Canada.

We have had several projects where the applicant is outside the country of origin, but it would be important for at least one of the rights owners to be a co-applicant. If you are invited to the detailed application, you would be strongly advised to include the grant of permission forms signed by all of the team members (copyright owners).

  1. In the country of origin there is no institutional framework that can administer the type of collection that needs to be rescued/digitized (all options have been exhausted). Can it be administered from a different country, and then share the digitized archives with the country of origin?

Please refer to question 35.

08 October 2018

The British Library: the Place where Vastness and Warmth Meet

We are extremely excited to have Rihana Suliman join the EAP team for a year. Rihana is a Chevening Fellow  and will be promoting the Programme in the Middle East and North Africa. During the coming months, Rihana will share her experiences by writing regular blog posts. Below are her impressions of a very busy first week at the British Library.

Welcome knowledge. Welcome curiosity. Welcome imagination. These are some of the words any passer-by would find at the gates of the British Library. However, it is by stepping inside the Library that one is able to taste and enjoy the truth such phrases hold.

Image 1 resizedWelcome billboard along Midland Road

Talking about the highlight of my first week at the British Library would be a difficult task indeed, as every encounter could be considered so whether it was interacting with people and staff or in terms of discovering spaces, reading rooms, facilities, collections and all that the Library offers.  

My first day started with a tour in the largest public building constructed in the UK in the 20th century. I was introduced to the Library’s various floors and also to its basements which extend to the depth of 24.5 metres. There I got to see the process of sending a book from the storage to the reader, the Sound Archive which preserves sound recordings from 19th-century cylinders to CDs and DVDs, the British Library’s partnership with Google which aims to digitise up to 40 million pages of printed books, pamphlets and periodical from 1700 to 1870, and thousands of other books, maps and magazines.

The real privilege for me was arriving to the UK in time for the opening of the Library‚Äôs photographic exhibition entitled: ‚ÄėBeyond Timbuktu: Preserving the Manuscripts of Djenn√©, Mali‚Äô. This is the first EAP display to be held at the British Library and it is a celebration of the four projects the EAP had conducted in Djenn√©. These projects in the town of Djenn√© have preserved over 150,000 images and a collection of 8,300 manuscripts making a copy of them available online. Understanding the importance of Djenn√©, the richness of its collection of manuscripts and the complexity of its socio-political culture in the past and present was provided through a panel discussion held on 1 October that shed light on the ‚ÄėMasterpieces of Mali: Djenn√© and its Manuscripts‚Äô. 

Image 3 resizedThe Djenné that runs along the second floor gallery until 6 January 2019

It was fascinating to see how thought provoking the talks were and how people responded with eagerness, wanting to know more by asking questions about this project and other future projects to be carried out by the Endangered Archives Programme.

Mali2 resizeSophie Sarin, grant holder for the Djenné projects, giving her speech at the private opening

The EAP is one of these programmes which has a magnetic charm ‚Äď one can‚Äôt help but fall in love with it at first sight. I have to admit that this was exactly the case with me. It would be no exaggeration to add that the more I get to know EAP and its future plans, the more I fall in love with it. I am very proud to be part of a programme that has so far supported more than 350 projects in 90 countries worldwide. I can‚Äôt help but wonder how this year will unfold especially when the first week with the Digital Scholarship Team has been this exciting and enlightening.

Rihana 3 resized Rihana Suliman

03 October 2018

A survey of archival material in small Jewish communities in rural areas of Argentina

We are very pleased to have a guest blog written by Dr Efraim Zadoff describing the importance of project he is about to start in Argentina. (EAP1100)

In the last decade of the 19th century and in the first decades of the 20th century, waves of Jewish immigration to the Americas brought around 200,000 Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean basin to Argentina. Most of them crossed the Atlantic for personal reasons, running from antisemitism, poverty and social instability, and settled in Buenos Aires and other large cities in the country.


Tens of thousands of settlers, as a part of a project of agricultural colonisation organised by the Jewish Colonisation Association (JCA) founded by Maurice de Hirsch, set up home in the Argentinean Pampas. Other groups followed similar routes as individual and independent entrepreneurs and settled in existing small cities and villages or established new ones. Many of them built their homes far from urban centres.


Maurice de Hirsch (1831-1896) 

The Jews organised communities and organisations, which served them in their cultural, social, economic, religious and educational needs.

As part of their activities, their institutions produced written material, which included protocols, correspondence, reports and bulletins. This material reflects a chapter of the Argentinean and the Jewish past, in which a wide sector of immigrants managed to survive in an unknown, and sometimes, hostile environment, and succeeded in their labour and professional integration in their new country.

Many Jews left the small villages and concentrated in larger towns or cities, motivated by their children's educational needs, and by economic, professional and social growth.

These archival collections should contain important sources, not only of this period of Argentinean and Jewish history, but also for the history of migrations of cultural minorities from Europe to the Americas at the end of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century.

My pilot project will make a systematic survey of the existing archival material that reflects the past of the Jewish communities and organisations in the southern areas of the Buenos Aires province (600-700 km south of the capital). This survey will provide the needed information about the existing material, will instruct the people holding the material how to keep it and avoid its loss, and will offer the opportunity to produce digitised security copies of the material and enable its accessibility for the research.

I am expecting to find material produced since the end of the 19th century, which may include: minutes of board meetings, correspondence, publications, original photos, etc., of synagogues, community organisations, schools and other educational institutions, financial and production cooperatives of the agricultural settlements; maps of colonisation, etc.

I anticipate finding material in small and medium Jewish communities in southern areas of Buenos Aires province, in cities such as: Bahía Blanca, Tandil, Mar del Plata, Tres Arroyos; and also in towns and villages perhaps in Rivera, Médanos, Coronel Suárez.

The actual situation of the archival material in these places is unknown and some of it may have been lost.

Efraim Zadoff cropped

Dr Efraim Zadoff is an independent scholar and consultant for the Latin America at the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People (CAHJP), Jerusalem, Israel. Promoter of the establishment of the Documentation and Archive Institutions Net of the Jewish Communities in Latin America (RED ‚Äď Red de Entidades de Documentaci√≥n de las Comunidades Jud√≠as de Am√©rica Latina -, in connection with The National Library of Israel and CAHJP.

24 September 2018

Call for applications now open

Do you know of any collections that are currently at risk and need preserving? The Endangered Archives Programme is now accepting preliminary applications for the next annual funding round ‚Äď the deadline for submission of preliminary applications is 12 noon 19 November 2018 and full details of the application procedures and documentation are available on the EAP website.

DCL 0003Digitising in Cuba

The Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) has been running at the British Library since 2004 through funding by Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, with the aim of preserving rare vulnerable archival material around the world. The Programme awards grants to relocate the material to a safe local archival home where possible, to digitise it, and to deposit copies with local archival partners and with the British Library. These digital collections are then available for researchers to access freely through the British Library website or by visiting the local archives. The Programme has funded over 350 projects in 90 countries world-wide and has helped to preserve manuscripts, rare printed books, newspapers and periodicals, audio and audio-visual materials, photographs and temple murals.

There three main types of grant:

  • Pilot projects investigate the potential for and/or feasibility of a major grant. A pilot can also be a small digitisation project. They should last for no more than 12 months and have a budget limit of ¬£15,000.
  • Major projects gather and copy material. This type of grant may also relocate the material to a more secure location/institution within the country. These projects usually last 12 months, or up to 24 months and have a budget limit of ¬£60,000.
  • Area grants will be awarded for larger scale projects. They are similar to a major grant, but larger in scale and ambition. Applicants must demonstrate an outstanding track record of archival preservation work and be associated with an institution that has the capacity to facilitate a large-scale project. The EAP will only award a maximum of two area grants in each funding round. They can last for up to 24 months and have a budget limit of ¬£150,000.

A further type of grant will be introduced in 2019:

  • Rapid-response grants can be used to safeguard an archive which is in immediate and severe danger. These grants are intended for the most urgent situations where a delay in the decision process could result in extensive damage to the material. These grants are not subject to the time restrictions of the yearly EAP funding cycle and can be applied for at any time. They must last for less than 12 months and have a budget limit of ¬£15,000.

If you know of an archive in a region of the world were resources are limited, we really hope you will apply. If you have any questions regarding the conditions of award or the application process, do email us at