Endangered archives blog

News about the projects saving vulnerable material from around the world

09 August 2023

New online - July 2023

Recent online collections include zoological records from Kenya, documents from a Sufi shrine in India, manuscripts from Java, and records from monasteries of cloistered nuns in Lima. You can read a brief overview about these projects below, or go straight to the online collections using these links:

 

Preserving endangered zoological archival material in the National Museums of Kenya (EAP1122)

This project digitised zoological archival records from the Zoology department of the National Museums of Kenya. The records include field trip reports and catalogues that capture details such as species notes, the localities where samples were collected or recorded, and the sources or names of donors. The material spans four taxa: mammalogy, ornithology, ichthyology, and invertebrate zoology. Containing valuable research information on species taxonomy, natural history, and distribution, these records offer insights into historical animal species distribution, shedding light on habitat destruction and helping to map out the extent of species decline.

EAP1122-1-18-page1

Exploring the archives of cloistered nuns in colonial Lima (EAP1299)

This project digitised archives from the 17th to 20th centuries of two monasteries of cloistered nuns in Lima, Peru: the Monasterio de Santa Rosa de Lima and the Monasterio Jesus, María y José (Clarisas Capuchinas). Most of these documents shed light on aspects of daily life in colonial and early republican Peru, areas that have been minimally investigated. Due to the scarcity of sources, the lives of nuns and women in general during this period have been under-researched. It is hoped that the materials now digitised will stimulate ongoing and future studies, offering insights into religious and everyday life in late colonial and early republican Lima.

Eap1299_1_5

Documents in the Sufi shrine at Dhar (EAP1416)

The goal of this project was to digitise and examine documents related to the tomb complex of Kamal al-Din Chishti in Dhar, Madhya Pradesh, India. Kamal al-Din was a member of the renowned Chishti lineage of Sufis. After spending a period with Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi, he migrated to central India in the late 1200s and passed away in 1331. His descendants have overseen Kamal al-Din’s tomb for seven centuries. Following some known and published inscriptions from the 1400s, the earliest extant documents from the shrine originate from the late 1600s, bearing seals linked to the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (1658-1707). Subsequent documents correspond with the reigns of Bahadur Shah, Farrukhsiyar, Muhammad Shah, and Shah Alam II. The archive extends into the Maratha rule of central India, with examples persisting into the 20th century. Predominantly detailing property transactions and endowments, these documents offer invaluable insights into institutional history, charitable endeavours, officials, local geography, and land stewardship.

Eap1416_1_1

Identifying and Digitising Eastern Salient Manuscripts of Java (EAP1334)

This project digitised 97 manuscripts from 24 different owners or collections in the regions of Banyuwangi, Jember, Bondowoso, Situbondo, and Lumajang on the island of Java, Indonesia. The manuscripts cover the subjects of religion, history, culture, metaphysics, etc, predominantly written in Javanese and Arabic, but including some in Madurese, Indonesian and Malay.

Eap1334_9_1

30 May 2023

EAP Digital Lecture Series

Every now and then, researchers notify us of a conference talk focusing on content digitised by EAP projects. We are always thrilled to be told about these talks and it prompted us to create a digital lecture series of our own. We approached a handful of people, who we knew had worked on EAP content and they, very kindly, agreed to take part.  We have created two themes in the first instance: Narratives within the Archive and Manuscripts on Magic and the links to the individual lectures are below. The presentations are absolutely fascinating and we hope you enjoy listening to them.

Photograph of an archive

Narratives within the Archive

Dr Helga Baitenmann - Hidden Narratives of Indigenous Women in Nineteenth-Century Mexico

Dr Mégane Coulon - Life histories in mid-nineteenth century Freetown, Sierra Leone

Manuscripts on Magic

Eyob Derillo (PhD student) - Ethiopian amulet scrolls, talisman and divination

Professor Fallou Ngom - Healing, Divination, and Protection Techniques in Wolof and Mandinka Manuscripts

Dr Sam van Schaik - Buddhist Magic

Dr Farouk Yahya - Malay Magic and Divination Manuscripts from Indonesia

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the contributors and if you are using EAP content for your own research and would like to notify us, please email us at  [email protected].

03 May 2023

Sounds of the shellac!

With a full public launch of the new BL Sounds website just around the corner, EAP would like to highlight this month’s blog relating to two sound projects that have been catalogued, and share some phonograph record treasures and images of singers and musicians from South America and Azerbaijan.

If you are a collector of all things vinyl you may have one or two of these squeezed between the sleeves. Affectionately known as 78’s, these two collections of shellac discs have been transferred to digital for research, inspiration and enjoyment. Although the quality of a few recordings is quite weak every piece of audio has one or more stories to tell.

Valparaíso’s musical heritage (EAP359)

The Valparaíso’s musical heritage collection holds shellacs dating from 1910 to 1959 and primarily contains folk songs and folk music dances, like the renowned foxtrot, waltz and tango to, possibly, the less popularised dances of Western Europe; cuecas and corridos. The cueca is known to Chileans as their national dance because of its cultural, social, and historical relevance – it’s one of the most popular music genres in Chile. However, under General Pinochet it went from a sign of freedom and fun to a sign of oppression and force. But since Chile’s return to democracy 44 years ago, la cueca has lost much of the stigma that it had during the dictatorship. The themes on cueca songs are very diverse, but all are incredibly poetic. The lyrics are usually romantic, and often related to the hardships of the poorest in big cities. Other audio treasures include the tonada – a folk music style of Spain, boleros, and Mexican corridos, which is a form of musical folk ballad that has been a typical expression of Mexican life. They are a way of documenting the experiences of people who often have no other voice. Whereas the bolero, the dance and music is centred on themes of romantic love.

These discs were produced by various record labels, which, at the time, were the top of their game; Victor (incl. RCA Victor), Columbia, Odeon Records and Decca, to name but a few.

With a multitude of dynamic singers and musicians from this collection, I would like to highlight an artist that is one of the earliest female folklore names of the 20th century before the appearance of referential artists in history. Singer-songwriter Derlinda Araya was one of the first to record Chilean folklore. In the 1930s she began a successful career as a radio singer and since 1935 she recorded several albums. Her voice and the panache of her interpretation is very present. Eloquent, emotionally expressive and inspirational, which precisely earned her that popularity, embodied in dozens of records. Here's a recording of Derlinda accompanied with her guitar, singing 'Mi cantar'.

Download Mi Cantar

Derlinda Araya
Derlinda with her guitar. Photo credit, and for more information: https://www.musicapopular.cl/artista/derlinda-araya/

I would like to draw your attention to a rendition of ‘Night and Day’ written by American composer and lyricist, Cole Porter. This has been covered by many an artist over the years. Here, Noche y Día is performed by Chilean vocalist Humberto Lozán and accompanied by the Jackie Kohan Orchestra. It’s always a pleasant surprise when you find a song you’re fond of that is sung in another language, as you can pick up the words to it and their correct pronunciation.

Download Noche y Dia

Pages of Azerbaijan (EAP124)

What first struck me about this collection was the intriguing design of the record labels. The visual imagery of most discs have survived, with just a handful that have been vulnerable to fading and deterioration over the decades. The creation of the artwork is aesthetically pleasing – pretty and effective. No doubt some labels played a relevant role in the distribution sales of the discs. As the EAP cataloguer, when the labels were missing, it proved difficult to identify exactly who the artists were and when the music was recorded.

98_DISQ_2
CEAP124/98 side 2

The other interesting find I had while cataloguing this project, were the images of the musicians and singers, such as this Azerbaijani folk singer below:

Jabbar Garyaghdi oglu
Jabbar Garyaghdi Oglu

You can see the intricacy and craftsmanship of not only the instrument but the garments he is wearing. Immaculate!

However, what captured my imagination was listening to and discovering a variety of instruments. Each recording gave me a thought process and insight into the ideas and imaginations of the instrument makers. For example; the kamancheh, which appears to combine systems of a violin and a cello, as it is bowed with the right hand in a palm-up position and held vertically with an endpin rod (or spike). Here you can hear the kamancheh, with the accompaniment of a tar, and singer and daf (drum) musician, Islam Abdullayev.

04_DISQ_QATAR_BAYATI

Islam_Abdullayev _Shirin_Akhundov _Levon_Garakhanov
Left to right: Islam_Abdullayev (daf), Shirin_Akhundov (tār), Levon_Garakhanov (kamancheh). Source

We hope that on reading this blog post you will be inspired to delve into a selection of EAP sound projects from around the world.

Remember, you will be able to access these on the new BL Sounds website. It is an exciting time to try out the new Universal Player. Have fun!

30 March 2023

PhD Placement focussing on Manuscripts from West Africa

As a PhD placement student at the British Library, I had the privilege of being part of the Endangered Archives Programme. It allowed me to dive into the rich history and culture of West Africa through its manuscripts, and to play a role in making these unique works accessible to a wider audience. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with such a talented and supportive team. Initially, I had planned to participate in the PhD placement scheme full-time, but due to unforeseen circumstances, I had to switch to part-time. The team was incredibly supportive and understanding throughout my journey, making the transition smooth and hassle-free.

Nahida Ahmed sits at a restaurant table and smiles at someone out of view
Nahida Ahmed

My initial meetings were with Jody Butterworth (EAP) and Mariam de Haan (Lead Curator Africa), who introduced me to EAP's work in Mali. I was then connected with Sophie Sarin (project holder for the projects in Djenné and Timbuktu) and Saadou Traore (who catalogued the several thousands of manuscripts). I was also introduced to Lucy Hinnie, who trained me on Wikipedia. Through Lucy, I also had the opportunity to attend the University of Edinburgh's "Women in Red" Wikithon online. The aim of this is to highlight and update Wikipedia pages about notable women who were not yet featured on the platform. The idea was also to highlight the rich content of the manuscripts on various pages dedicated to Mali on Wikipedia as well. Whilst this was one of the main aims of the placement, we found out that the Wiki entries would be more suited in the local languages and it was difficult to highlight primary sources on Wikipedia as the encyclopaedic nature of the platform requires context and other reliable published sources talking about the manuscripts. Since this was not the case, we decided to publish a blogpost on the British Library’s website instead.

My PhD placement focused on highlighting digitised manuscripts from West Africa for a West African as well as worldwide audience. Robert Miles, from the EAP team, provided me with the list of “most viewed” manuscripts from Djenné, Senegal and Nigeria, which was helpful in choosing manuscripts to be included in my report. The chosen manuscripts relate to everyday West African Muslim practices such as prayers for getting along with a superior, interpreting dreams, sayings of the Prophet, astronomy, geomancy, prayers for carrying a baby to term and even prayers for cursing the wicked. 

Exploring the manuscripts was an exciting adventure. I was fascinated by the different handwriting styles and unique topics exclusive to West Africa. At first, it was challenging as I had to get used to the anomalies in the authors and scribes' writing styles. For instance, most writers of the manuscripts put the dot of the Arabic letter "fa”/ ف ) under the alphabet instead of above it, and the letter "qaaf/ “ق that usually had two dots on top sometimes had one and at other not even one! I found this to be a consistent  characteristic in all the manuscripts I studied. Another noticeable characteristic common among all the manuscript was  the traditional Muslim opening phrase, Basmalah, which praises Allah and his prophet Muhammad, the equivalent of doxology in Christian practice.

The manuscripts were unique in their own way, and no two were exactly alike. Despite not having page numbers, order of the pages was maintained in some by copying the word of the next page at the bottom of the preceding one. Additionally, some of the text highlighted the name of Allah and Muhammad in red ink. There was also the use of Ajami script, tables and sometimes figures in some manuscripts. For example, "Fā’idat ḍarb al-tis‘at ‘alā al-Shaykh Muḥammad al-Ghazāliy: Esoterics", which I could not decipher due to time constraints and hope that someone else researching the collections will be able to do so in future. I hope that my efforts will help others who are interested in learning about the rich history and literary culture of West Africa.

My report on the manuscripts explored can be found on the EAP website, along with my notes of any anomalies and illegible and ambiguity within the texts. Both these documents will also be added to the Library's digital repository and will hopefully be of interest to future researchers. 

Nahida Ahmed is currently undertaking a PhD titled "Sociolinguistic Study of Wakhi in Urban Areas" at SOAS. The EAP team would like to thank Nahida for all her work over the past few months - it has been an absolute joy having her with us.

23 March 2023

New online - March 2023

This month we would like to highlight five new collections that have recently been made available online. They have come from South Africa, India, Nepal and from Georgia.

The first project we would like to showcase is EAP1190. This was a completely new type of project for EAP. The archive consists of rare astronomical material from the Boyden Observatory, which is located near Bloemfontein, some 1,000 km from Cape Town. It is where the Centre for Astronomical Heritage NPC (CfAH) and the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) are located. The collection contains log books, meteorological records and much more, but it is the photographs of the night’s sky and astronomers at work that has caused a buzz within the EAP office and the examples below, will clearly show why we are all taken by this project’s outputs.

Black and white photograph depicting a lunar eclipse

EAP1190/1/7/5 Total lunar eclipse (1946 June 14)

Photograph of a man looking through the eyepiece of a telescope. He reclining in a chair

EAP1190/1/5/2 Solon Bailey with the 24-inch Bruce Telescope

The second project, EAP1296, was a further project conducted by Dr Shanker Thapa that focussed on Buddhist manuscripts from five private Vihāras (Buddhist monastery or temple) and Guṭhīs (a religious, community-led organisation) in the Kathmandu Valley. Many of the manuscripts are unknown to outsiders. Some of the earliest existing Sanskrit manuscripts are to be found in Nepal. This growing collection, held within private collections, is helping build a better understanding of the history of Buddhism.

Two pages of a Buddhist manuscript. On the top page there is an illustration of a diety in the centre.

EAP1296/1/1 The Buddhist Perfection of Wisdom Sutra

The first of the Indian projects that we would like to highlight this month, is EAP1300. It consists of Santali periodicals published between 1890 and 1975 in eastern India. Written practices in Santali were initiated by Christian missionaries in Eastern India during early 19th century in the form of printed periodicals. The topics within these publications cover linguistics, folklore, folk songs and specific cultural forms.

Cover page of the periodical. It shows to young Indian boys, one is holding a large cross.

EAP1300/1/1 Ḍhạrwạḱ

The other project from India, comes from northern Kerala and focussed on manuscripts in Mattool (EAP1390). The manuscripts and lithographs highlight the Malabari Islamic networks that have evolved over centuries of trade and cross-cultural exchange. Such as these two pages, from two manuscripts, one that deals with medicine, the other is a collection (majmūʻ) of devotional poems and prayers (mawlid).

A page in Arabic script, using both red and black ink

EAP1390/1/1 Kitāb al-Raḥmah fī al-Ṭīb wa-al-Ḥikmah

A printed page, with the Arabic script being within oval and circular lozenges.

EAP1390/1/4 Majmūʻ al-Mawlid

And finally, another project that shows the breadth of content the Programme supports, is this project based at the State Silk Museum in Georgia (EAP1306). The museum digitised a collection of photographs relating to silk production and again, hours could be spent browsing through these captivating photographs.

Three women in traditional long dresses and head scarves are spinning silk. Two stand and one is sitting on the floor.

EAP1306/1/5/1/1 Silk thread reeling (1898-1910)

A group of women are outside, standing and squatting. They are all involved with spinning silk.

EAP1306/1/5/1/6 Silk thread reeling (1895)

 

 

03 March 2023

New online - February 2023

This month we would like to highlight five new collections that can be accessed via the EAP website. Two of these are from India, with the others from Mali, Mongolia, and Brazil.

Creating a digital archive of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century criminal and notarial records in Mamanguape, São João do Cariri, and João Pessoa, Paraíba, Brazil (EAP853)

EAP853_Pub006

This project digitised four collections of criminal and notarial records in Paraíba, Brazil. They should prove to be a great resource for studies of slavery and abolition, orphans and wards of the court, crime, and property ownership in the Brazilian Northeast. The four collections digitised are:

EAP853/1 Fórum Miguel Levino de Oliveira Ramos, Comarca de Mamanguape ‎ (1846-1918)
EAP853/2 Arquivo do Fórum Judicial da Comarca de João Pessoa ‎ (21 Mar 1855-27 Mar 1909)
EAP853/3 Arquivo do Memorial do Tribunal de Justiça da Paraíba ‎ (1778-1893)
EAP853/4 Arquivo do Fórum Nivaldo Farias Brito, Comarca de São João do Cariri ‎ (17 Sep 1782-11 Apr 1921)

The records consist mostly of legal proceedings from criminal, civil, and commercial courts. They include deeds of sale, powers of attorney, inventories, criminal lawsuits, eviction orders, and many other records created in the jurisdictions. More detailed information is available on each of the four collections catalogue records.

Digitisation and preservation of rare historical sources of Mongolia written in the 19th and early 20th centuries (EAP927)

Eap927-structure

This project digitised c. 3000 rare, unpublished documents in seven different sub-collections, held by the Institute of History and Ethnography at the Mongolian Academy of Sciences (MAS). The majority are typewritten copies of 19th century-early 20th century materials created in the 1940s-1950s by scholars copying them into Uyghur Mongolian or Cyrillic script. The documents illustrate the events of the Manchu empire (lasted until 1911), Mongolian sovereignty (1911-1921), Chinese-Russian-Mongolian connections, and the start of socialism (from 1921 on).

You can view the catalogue records here.

Survey and Creation of the Digital Documentary Resources in Nilgiri and Coimbatore (1850-1970) (EAP1274)

Eap1274-project-page-image_0

The four collections digitised in this project consist mostly of photographs dating from the late 19th to mid 20th centuries. Other records digitised include newspaper clippings, postcards, and other documents. The four collections available are:

EAP1274/1 Collections of Rao Bahadur C.M. Ramachandran Chettiar of Coimbatore ‎ (1925-1953)
EAP1274/2 Annual Meeting photographs of the United Planters' Association of South India‎ (1893-1953)
EAP1274/3 Collections of Nilgiri Documentation Centre (NDC) ‎ (1st half of the 20th century)
EAP1274/4 Badaga Family Collection ‎ (Mid 20th century)


EAP1274/1 contains photographs of various temples in India, portraits of celebrities, and newspaper cuttings related to temples and monuments. The EAP1274/3 collection includes the records of Dr. Philo Irudhayanath, and Mr. A. Dharmalingam who founded the Nilgiri Documentation Centre in the 1940s, and created a collection of photographs related to the Nilgiris.

Documenting royalty through the changing political culture in Kongu Nadu, South India, 1400-1950 (EAP1160)

EAP1160-Idayakottai Zamin - resize_0

This project carried out a survey of records from various locations in Kongu Nadu, in addition to digitising notebooks and registers from one of them – the Idayakottai Zamin Collection. The records address a variety of issues of Idayakottai Zamin and their estate, and include acquittance rolls, complaints, land accounts, minutes books, temple accounts and leases. Many of the documents are related to the social history and financial activity of the Idayakottai Zamin, their participation in municipal administration, and association with various government departments and officials.

You can view the catalogue records here.

Recovering the rich local history of Kita (Mali) through the salvaging of its archival heritage (EAP1085)

Eap1085-1-415-1-crop

This is a continuation of the EAP820 project which carried out a survey (and sample digitisation) of archives of the Kita Cercle in Mali. The project revealed a larger number of records in poor condition and in need of digitising resulting in this follow-on project with more material preserved digitally.


Kita played a crucial role in the French colonisation of western Mali, partly because of it being the location of one of the earliest colonial railroad stations in the country. The Cercle was the main colonial administrative authority and created a tremendous amount of information on social and economic life in the region. Records digitised include those related to political affairs; state surveillance; meteorological reports; decrees, ordinances, and circulars; administrative records and correspondence.

You can view the catalogue records here.

19 December 2022

New online - November 2022

This month we are highlighting the following three projects that have recently been made available to view online. 

Creation of Historical Photography Archive at the History Department of Khartoum University

EAP1073-publicity-project-image-90

This project carried out a survey of private photography collections in Sudan and included the digitisation of images from one of these, the Ali Muhammad Osman Collection. This collection is made up of personal photographic material from his childhood, his teenage years in which he experimented as a photographer and sought connections with other photographers, and into his early adulthood in which he went to university and studied visual arts, joined the scouts and briefly the military, and traveled across Sudan. 319 photographs were digitised in total.

181

Documenting and Copying (Estampage) Sluice Inscriptions: A Case Study of Pudukottai

Eap1293-combined3

This project visited 60 sites in Tamil Nadu to document inscriptions found on the sluices used in ancient irrigation tanks for water management. The inscriptions can help researchers to understand the history, irrigation techniques, water management, social structure, rituals and many other cultural aspects associated with the sluices.

Eap1293-combined1

Safeguarding for Posterity Two Private Collections of Palm-Leaf Manuscripts from the Tamil Country

Eap1294-1-8

This project catalogued and digitised two collections of palm-leaf manuscripts in Tamil Nadu: the Kalliṭaikuṟicci and Villiampākkam collections. 186 Sanskrit, Tamil, and Manipravala manuscripts from the 18th-19th centuries were digitised in total and include works on: theology, philosophy, poetry, medical texts, temple rites, Śaiva praise verses, vedic, Pāninian Grammar, Śrīvaiṣṇava treatise, Śrīvaiṣṇava poetry, Dharmaśāstra, Citrakāvyam, Kāvya, Mīmāṃsā, vedic, Pramāṇa, Vyākaraṇa.

Eap1294-1-8a

16 November 2022

New online - October 2022

This month we are highlighting the following four projects that have recently been made available to view online. 

The Historical Archive of the Institute of Charity "Hermandad De Dolores" (Fraternity of Sorrows), Santiago De Chile [EAP1289]

EAP1289_1_4_25

The Instituto de Caridad Hermandad de Dolores (Institute of Charity Fraternity of Sorrows), is the oldest institution of private charity in Chile, which has offered free medical services in the city of Santiago since the 19th century. It was founded in March 1815, by a group of patriots who were imprisoned on Juan Fernández Island during the Chilean War of Independence, among them, Juan Egaña, Manuel de Salas and Manuel Blanco Encalada. After the conflict, they returned to Santiago and fulfilled their promise to form an association aimed at helping the poorest people of the city. The archive of this institution, composed of more than 300 manuscripts, traces its history from the 19th century to the present day. In this project, 100 volumes corresponding to the first half of the 20th century (1900-1950) have been digitised. Their content helps illustrate a Chilean society still in the making, especially regarding medicine, women's participation in the public sphere and the lack of State policies related to charity and the poor.

The Manuscript Collection of Issa Iskandar al Maa’luf, Beirut [EAP1423]

EAP1423-GenPhoto

This project catalogued and digitised the Isa Iskandar al Ma’luf historical Manuscript Collection, written between the 18th and the 20th centuries. Stored in a much-neglected storage condition for around 60 years, the collection, which was suffering from chemical and physical deterioration, is now located at the American University of Beirut libraries. A total of 101 manuscripts of different subjects were cleaned, preserved, rehoused in new acid free boxes, properly labelled, catalogued, and scanned. The manuscripts are essential for the study of cultural, social, and religious history of the Middle East. The collection includes recently received manuscripts dated between the 16th century and the early 20th century, which cover numerous topics, including: astronomy, literature, history, genealogy, logic, mathematics, medicine, music, religion, and others.

The Manuscripts Collection of the Great Omari Mosque Library, Palestine [EAP1285]

Eap1285-1-1-2_2

The library of the Great Omari Mosque is considered one of the most important and oldest national libraries and archives in Palestine. Its collection of manuscripts covers a variety of Islamic sciences, and the humanities. The collection describes important and rare manuscripts, for examples: the valuable literary (Diwan) of the poet Ibn Zuqqah Al-Ghazzi and Fatwas of the Scholar Tamrtashi Al-Ghazzi. 211 manuscripts have been digitised and cover topics such as: Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence); Hadiths of the Prophet Mohammed; Sufism; Arabic grammar and dictionaries.

The Kita Cercle Colonial Archive, Mali [EAP1085]

Eap1085-1-5-1-2

Kita is one of the most ancient colonial districts in Mali (1880) and played a crucial military role in the conquest of Western Mali after French colonisation. It was also one of the very first colonial railroad stations. Thus the Cercle, the main administrative authority since colonisation, collected a tremendous amount of information about the social and economic life of the region over the twentieth century. This project is a continuation of an earlier and smaller project that carried out a survey of the colonial archives (EAP820). This larger project digitised a wide range of records including those about political and military affairs; science and the arts; navigation; finance and administration; and many other subjects.