Endangered archives blog

News about the projects saving vulnerable material from around the world

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

13 August 2018

Football in the Endangered Archives

As the English football season has just begun, I thought I would have a look to see what we have in the collections that was football related. When you have a collection of over 6.5 million images it's hard to keep track of what's actually in the archive. With the old EAP online platform, it would have been quite a frustrating experience. You would have had to search the Library’s Archives and Manuscripts catalogue first and then try to find the relevant image on our website, sometimes having to scroll through hundreds of other images first before finding the desired one. With the ability to now search directly from our website, you can easily find related images, however it does highlight the need for good quality metadata. These images are only discoverable if someone has been able to describe them properly, adding keywords and other relevant information that researchers may look for.

With this in mind, I searched for football, soccer, futbol etc., and was pleasantly surprised to find many great photographs I thought were worth sharing. Most of the images come from the Haynes Publishing Company Archive in Argentina, with others from Bulgaria, Cameroon, Guatemala, India, and Mali, truly showing the global appeal of the sport. The Argentinian ones in particular are quite spectacular and give an idea of the popularity of the game in the country! There are images of spectators crammed into stadiums, and others show fans being dangerously hoisted up the outer wall of the stadium in a desperate attempt to watch the game. As always, follow the links to see the full size versions and discover what else is in the archive.

CrowdsEAP375 - Crowds watching games in Argentina



EAP375 - Supporters trying to get a better view

Sneaking inEAP375/1/1/110 - Sneaking in to watch Argentina play Uruguay. Argentina won 3-0. 15 August 1935

  EAP054_1_89-dvd132_069_LEAP054/1/89 - Mid-action shot. Jacques Touselle photographs. Cameroon

EAP054_1_138-dvd109_074_LEAP054/1/138. Jacques Touselle photographs. Cameroon

EAP165_1_9-165_YASNORIE_P09_027_LEAP165/1/9. Guatemala

  EAP165_1_9-165_YASNORIE_P09_002_LEAP165/1/9. Guatemala

EAP166_2_1_11-EAP166_MPP_1921-22_346_LEAP166/2/1/11 - HMS Renown football team, 1921-1922. Visit to India, Nepal and the far east of HRH the Prince of Wales

EAP449_2_22_Pt_1-EAP449_Jan-60_16129_LEAP449/2/22 - Photographic Archives of Abdourahmane Sakaly. Mali.

EAP737_4_3_1-EAP_737_Coll4_E_GP_B01_281_LEAP737/4/3/1 - Alagappa College of Physical Education football team, 1958. Karaikudi

EAP675-4-1-108EAP675/4/1 - Football team from Vlach (Romanian speaking) community in the town of Belene, North Bulgaria

UltraEAP375/1/1/110 - No description provided. Possibly an Argentinian ultra leader rallying the crowds

Posted by Rob Miles

03 August 2018

Digitisation of The Barbados Mercury Gazette

This week we have a guest blog post from Amalia Levi who is currently working on the EAP1086 project to preserve and digitise The Barbados Mercury Gazette.

In late 2017, the Barbados Department of Archives was awarded an Endangered Archives Programme grant for the digitisation of The Barbados Mercury Gazette, the first EAP grant that Barbados has received. The grant application process was the result of an international collaboration through the efforts of Barbados Archives Director Ingrid Thompson, Brock University Professor Lissa Paul; archivist Amalia S. Levi, and University of Florida Digital Scholarship Librarian Laurie Taylor.

1.WorkshopDec12k        Participants engaging with The Mercury Gazette during the collaborative workshop on December 12, 2017.

The Barbados Mercury Gazette is an important primary source that sheds light on a tumultuous period in the history of this former British colony. The volumes housed in the Archives (1783-1839) cover the years leading up to the 1816 slave revolt on the island, the first of such large-scale slave revolts in the West Indies that eventually led to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. The grant will facilitate different kinds of research into the island‚Äôs past.

The grant has funded the purchase of equipment that after the completion of this project will remain at the Archives and will be used for other digitisation initiatives, and work by the digitisation team, consisting of project leader, Amalia S. Levi; project assistant, Lenora Williams; and Archives assistant, Jennifer Breedy.

We have organised two workshops during the planning phase of the project. In December 2017, the first workshop brought together scholars of literature and history, and practitioners in archives, libraries, and museums in a brainstorming session. The goal was to better contextualize and define the significance of The Gazette to populate its finding aid. You can read more information about the workshop here.  Through interaction and discussion, workshop participants added valuable context to The Mercury Gazette and its potential as a primary source for research on slavery. Discussions aimed to go behind colonial narratives and unpack questions of power, authority, and the silences of the archival record. Furthermore, participants explored opportunities for future research and scholarship through this grant. You can find more on these discussions here.

2.WorkshopDec12g        Participants engaging with The Mercury Gazette during the collaborative workshop on December 12, 2017.

After the equipment arrived at the Archives we organised a second workshop, which was held over two days on July 11 and July 12, 2018 and was aimed to provide digitisation training. The first day was open to archivists, librarians and professionals working in institutions on the island, and 23 people attended. The second day was dedicated to the core project team. Training was provided by two members of the University of Florida Libraries digitisation services team: Laura Perry, Digital Production Manager, and Jake Goodson, Special Formats Imaging Assistant. For the complete program, see here.

The morning session of Day 1 included introductions and presentations about the grant, the importance of The Mercury Gazette and an overview of the digitisation process and metadata creation. The afternoon session was dedicated to hands-on training. Participants had the chance to hear and learn about every step of the digitisation, including setting up the equipment, lighting, imaging, and quality control. The first day training was provided in the Archives’ events room to accommodate attendees. During the second day the equipment was set up in the room that has been specifically allocated for digitisation, which is secure and where natural light is controlled, and training was provided there. You can see more pictures and read information about both days.

3.July12e        University of Florida team Laura Perry and Jake Goodson provide digitization training to workshop participants on July 11 and July 12, 2018.

As Barbados Archives Director Ingrid Thompson noted in her introductory remarks, the grant has been ‚Äúa learning experience in terms of the details required and the process itself. When you look at how the whole program is structured, it‚Äôs not only the application process, but the process of finding the personnel and expertise required. Because for me it‚Äôs not only important to receive the grant, but also the outcome and the results. We hope that this experience will allow us to apply for more grants in the future.‚ÄĚ Thompson also commented on the teamwork required to make the application possible: ‚ÄúLissa was the one who passionately advocated for the newspaper‚Äôs scholarly importance. Lissa was introduced to me by Amalia, with whom I was already in contact through her work with the Jewish archives on the island.‚ÄĚ Ingrid Thompson also invited scholars to initiate discussions in order to prioritize material for digitisation or processing.

In her remarks, Project Leader Amalia S. Levi noted the potential of the digitisation of The Mercury Gazette to foster and facilitate new forms of scholarship on the history of Barbados and of the enslaved. She discussed how archival practices end up locking marginalised populations out of the archives and create gaps and silences in the historical record, and ways to mitigate that. She concluded her presentation with examples of initiatives, particularly digital humanities projects with spatial and network components, that can provide novel ways to locate marginalised voices in The Mercury and bring them to light.

4.July12b        University of Florida team Laura Perry and Jake Goodson provide digitization training to workshop participants on July 11 and July 12, 2018.

After the training workshop, Project Assistant Lenora Williams discussed her excitement to be part of this process as a junior heritage professional and shared her thoughts: ‚ÄúAs the Project Assistant, I will be one of the main persons involved in the day to day digitising. After the first week of digitising after the workshop I can say all the demonstrations by Laura Perry and Jake Goodson have prepared me to fulfill my role in the project. They were able to give me an understanding of each step in the process and the general objectives of each.  I found it very helpful to be able to access professionals in the industry who have the experience working with several types of materials. Most importantly the hands-on training inspired me to approach my duties with a confidence that reading a manual may not be able to cover. So as I continue to learn more about the contents of this resource I am digitising, conservation methods and the new software I am being exposed to, I will always be grateful to those who provided this opportunity and those who made the workshop the success that it was.‚ÄĚ

As the project gets under way, we will share more about the process itself, as well as the information gleamed through the pages of the Barbados Mercury Gazette through regular blog posts and conference presentations.

5.July11g        University of Florida team Laura Perry and Jake Goodson provide digitization training to workshop participants on July 11 and July 12, 2018.