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From Dust to Digital

From Dust to Digital: Ten Years of the Endangered Archives Programme

Edited by Maja Kominko
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Open Book Publishers
Pages: 722
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  • Book Info
    From Dust to Digital
    Book Description:

    Much of world’s documentary heritage rests in vulnerable, little-known and often inaccessible archives. Many of these archives preserve information that may cast new light on historical phenomena and lead to their reinterpretation. But such rich collections are often at risk of being lost before the history they capture is recorded. This volume celebrates the tenth anniversary of the Endangered Archives Programme at the British Library, established to document and publish online formerly inaccessible and neglected archives from across the globe. From Dust to Digital showcases the historical significance of the collections identified, catalogued and digitised through the Programme, bringing together articles on 19 of the 244 projects supported since its inception. These contributions demonstrate the range of materials documented — including rock inscriptions, manuscripts, archival records, newspapers, photographs and sound archives — and the wide geographical scope of the Programme. Many of the documents are published here for the first time, illustrating the potential these collections have to further our understanding of history.

    eISBN: 978-1-78374-064-2
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of illustrations
    (pp. xi-xxviii)
  5. List of recordings
    (pp. xxix-xxx)
  6. Notes on contributors
    (pp. xxxi-xxxvi)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. xxxvii-xxxviii)
    Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin

    We would like to thank Lisbet’s father, Hans Rausing, whose exceptional capability and great generosity enabled us to fund the Endangered Archives Programme and contribute to the preservation of vulnerable archival collections worldwide.

    The keepers of fragile, at-risk archives often do not have the means of preserving them. Faced with conflicts and their aftermath, natural disasters and epidemics, not even governments can afford to secure the survival of their archival heritage. And what of archives in private possession or those in small, struggling institutions? What of the heritage of minorities, whose position may be precarious in any case? What of...

  8. Preserving the past: creating the Endangered Archives Programme
    (pp. xxxix-xlii)
    Barry Supple

    When Arcadia was established in 2001, Lisbet Rausing was concerned to use its resources to protect and advance knowledge and to establish the means of preserving that knowledge. That aim was based on an appreciation of the importance of academic and professional expertise. But the essence of the fund’s purposes was the preservation and enlargement of cultural information and awareness in their broadest senses.

    These aims were initially embodied in the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme, which reflected the growing awareness of the threat to a core aspect of human culture. It was designed to support projects to record the nature,...

  9. The Endangered Archives Programme after ten years
    (pp. xliii-xlvi)
    Anthea Case

    Ten years on, the broad objectives of the Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) remain unchanged. The EAP continues to bring into the international research domain neglected, vulnerable or inaccessible archival materials relating to “pre-industrial” societies worldwide. It does so by providing relatively small grants to individual researchers to find and copy endangered or vulnerable material.

    The reach of the EAP has been global, supporting a remarkable range of dedicated people — not just professional archivists and academics but independent researchers and amateur enthusiasts of the best kind. Some six million pounds in 240 grants has now been given for archives from Argentina...

  10. What the Endangered Archives Programme does
    (pp. xlvii-xlviii)

    Once a year for the past decade an eminent panel of nine experts – librarians, archivists and academics – has met at the British Library to consider applications from individuals wishing to preserve vulnerable archival collections worldwide.

    The panel awards two types of grants. Pilot grants support initial exploration to locate and assess the state of endangered collections. These projects may serve as preparation for major grants which support the digitisation of collections. The digital images recorded by the EAP projects are deposited with local institutions and the British Library, which makes them available online. To qualify for a grant the material...

  11. Crumb trails, threads and traces: Endangered Archives and history
    (pp. xlix-lxviii)
    Maja Kominko

    Advocating the opening of the Imperial Archives of France to scholars, their director-general Léon de Laborde, argued in 1858 that government “has no better means to prevent the writing of bad books than to provide scholars with the means to write good ones”, and that opening the Archives would let “the light of history shine from its true source”.¹ The issue of what historians’ sources are and how they should be approached was debated from the beginning of history-writing, perhaps unsurprisingly considering that it underlies the fundamental question of what history is, and why and how it should be written.²...


    • 1. The “written landscape” of the central Sahara: recording and digitising the Tifinagh inscriptions in the Tadrart Acacus Mountains
      (pp. 1-30)
      Stefano Biagetti, Ali Ait Kaci and Savino di Lernia

      The archaeology of the Sahara in both historical and modern times remains, for the most part, inadequately investigated and poorly understood. However, the Fazzan in southwest Libya stands as a remarkable exception. In the last two decades, the University of Leicester¹ and the Sapienza University of Rome² have undertaken various research programmes that focus on the impressive evidence left by the Garamantian kingdom (c. 1000 BC-AD 700). These studies have provided groundbreaking data on the history of the Fazzan (Fig. 1.1), an area which was the centre of a veritable network of trans-Saharan connections that developed in Garamantian times and...


    • 2. Metadata and endangered archives: lessons from the Ahom Manuscripts Project
      (pp. 31-66)
      Stephen Morey

      Since 2011, the project EAP373: Documenting, conserving and archiving the Tai Ahom manuscripts of Assam has been, with the help of the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme, digitising and documenting the written legacy of the Tai Ahom.¹ It has done this in three ways: by photographing and cataloguing Ahom manuscripts, and archiving the resulting digital materials at the British Library; by archiving digital photographs with our partners at the Institute for Tai Studies and Research (Moran, India), Gauhati University (Guwahati, India) and Dibrugarh University (Dibrugarh, India); and by making images and metadata universally available online through the Center for Research...

    • 3. Unravelling Lepcha manuscripts
      (pp. 67-88)
      Heleen Plaisier

      Lepcha is a Tibeto-Burman language spoken in the Indian state of Sikkim, the Darjeeling district in West Bengal, the Ilam district in Nepal, and in a few villages of the Samtsi district in southwestern Bhutan. The Lepcha people are regarded as the native inhabitants of Sikkim, and most of the areas in which Lepcha is spoken today were once Sikkimese territory. The exact position of Lepcha within the clade of Tibeto-Burman languages is still unclear. The current number of Lepcha speakers is estimated to be around 30,000, but many Lepchas today never mastered the language fluently and give preference to...

    • 4. Technological aspects of the monastic manuscript collection at May Wäyni, Ethiopia
      (pp. 89-134)
      Jacek Tomaszewski and Michael Gervers

      Located in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is one of the most ancient civilisations in the world, a place where traditional culture, firmly fixed in the past, is continually challenged by the customs of the modern world. One of the treasures of this country is its manuscript culture, inseparably tied to the Christian tradition. There are thousands of churches in Ethiopia, and stored in nearly every one are parchment manuscripts which contain ancient and sometimes unknown religious texts. This rich cultural heritage is particularly vulnerable to damage, loss and destruction, and requires a variety of approaches for its preservation.


    • 5. Localising Islamic knowledge: acquisition and copying of the Riyadha Mosque manuscript collection in Lamu, Kenya
      (pp. 135-172)
      Anne K. Bang

      In Lamu, Islamic practice and intellectual traditions in the late nineteenth century were strongly marked by the foundation of the Riyadha Mosque, established by Ṣāliḥb. ‘Alawi Jamal al-Layl, known in East Africa as Habib Saleh (1853-1936).² He was a descendant of early migrants from Ḥaḍramawt, Yemen, who settled in Pate in the late sixteenth century. From there, the Jamal al-Layl family branched out to the urban centres of East Africa, including Zanzibar and the Comoro Islands. Being not only of Ḥaḍrami (and thus Arab) origin, but also claiming Sharifian descent (i.e. in direct patrilineage from the prophet Muḥammad), the male...

    • 6. In the shadow of Timbuktu: the manuscripts of Djenné
      (pp. 173-188)
      Sophie Sarin

      The ancient mud city of Djenné occupies an island in the Bani, a major tributary to the Niger River at the heart of the Niger inland delta in Mali. Although Djenné is less famous than its “twin sister” Timbuktu, which is situated 220 miles to the north on the edge of the Sahara desert, both cities have been important historical centres of trans-Saharan commerce and Islamic learning from the thirteenth century.² Djenné is protected by its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, due not only to its spectacular mud architecture, including the world famous mosque, but also to the...


    • 7. The first Gypsy/Roma organisations, churches and newspapers
      (pp. 189-224)
      Elena Marushiakova and Vesselin Popov

      In the 1970s, a young and provocative German scholar, Kirsten Martins-Heuss, shocked the academic public with her statement that Gypsy Studies is “a science of the plagiarist”.¹ It cannot be denied that there are still some grounds for such a critique. In the history of Gypsy (now known as Roma) movements and organisations, inaccurate data and interpretations often make their way from book to book without attempts at verification — for example, scholars refer to the Gypsy Conference in Kannstadt (Germany) in 1871, an event that never actually took place.² However, it is not always inaccuracy on the part of scholars...

    • 8. Sacred boundaries: parishes and the making of space in the colonial Andes
      (pp. 225-258)
      Gabriela Ramos

      The all-encompassing influence of the Catholic Church in Spanish America is a compelling reason to collect, preserve and study ecclesiastical records in any Latin American country. Church archives house documents that allow us to learn the history of people of all walks of life throughout the centuries. Ecclesiastical archives often provide us with the only clues to the lives of many anonymous men and women.

      The Spanish Crown legitimised its sovereignty over the New World through its commitment to convert its inhabitants and future subjects to Christianity. To accomplish this end, significant changes were brought upon the indigenous population. Using...

    • 9. Researching the history of slavery in Colombia and Brazil through ecclesiastical and notarial archives
      (pp. 259-292)
      Jane Landers, Pablo Gómez, José Polo Acuña and Courtney J. Campbell

      This chapter addresses the history of slavery and development in two of the most African locales in colonial South America: the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of modern Colombia and northeastern Brazil. Both modern nations have recognised the historical and civic neglect of the “black communities” within their borders and now offer them legal and cultural recognition, as well as, at least theoretical, recognition of ancestral communal land ownership.¹ The endangered archives digitised under the auspices of the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme enable researchers, as well as these neglected populations, to know more about their often hard to discover past.²...

    • 10. Convict labour in early colonial Northern Nigeria: a preliminary study
      (pp. 293-330)
      Mohammed Bashir Salau

      Scholars have developed a lively and fruitful interest in the history of slavery and other forms of unfree labour in early colonial Northern Nigeria. Paul E. Lovejoy and Jan Hogendorn have investigated how various measures implemented by the colonial government resulted in the “slow death of slavery”;² Chinedu N. Ubah has examined how the end of slave trading came about in three stages;³ Alan Christelow has emphasised how Emir Abbas of the Kano Emirate dealt with cases involving emancipation and redemption;⁴ and Ibrahim Jumare has looked at how the 1936 proclamation marked the beginning of the last phase of domestic...

    • 11. Murid Ajami sources of knowledge: the myth and the reality
      (pp. 331-376)
      Fallou Ngom

      Ajami, the practice of writing other languages using the modified Arabic script, is a centuries-old tradition, deeply embedded in the histories and cultures of Islamised Africa.² With roots intertwined with those of the first Quranic schools of Africa, Ajami remains important in rural areas and religious centres where the Quranic school is the primary educational institution.³ African Ajami traditions go as far back as the sixteenth century to the early days of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa.⁴ They emerged as local scholars understood that they needed to write in local languages texts that could be read, recited and chanted in order...

    • 12. Digitisation of Islamic manuscripts and periodicals in Jerusalem and Acre
      (pp. 377-416)
      Qasem Abu Harb

      This chapter provides an overview of three digitisation projects supported by the Endangered Archives Programme (EAP). The first, EAP119, digitised the collection of historical periodicals in al-Aqṣá Mosque Library in Jerusalem (Al-Quds) in 2007.² Two subsequent projects recorded manuscripts in al-Jazzar Mosque Library in Acre (‘Akka) (EAP399 in 2010) and al-Aqṣá Mosque Library in Jerusalem (EAP521 in 2012).³ After tracing a short history of the two libraries and outlining the development of the early Arabic press in Palestine, this contribution makes the case for the urgency of digitisation and provides a brief account of the digitisation process along with the...


    • 13. A charlatan’s album: cartes-devisite from Bolivia, Argentina and Paraguay (1860-1880)
      (pp. 417-444)
      Irina Podgorny

      In 1998, when we began to reorganise the historic archive of the Museum of La Plata in Argentina, manuscripts, letters and photographs all started to resurface from different departments of the institution. Missed, lost, misplaced, forgotten, discharged or withdrawn from everyday use, they had been rescued from the dustbin by diligent staff members. When the historic archive opened to the public, many of them realised that the memorabilia they had kept on the shelves and desk drawers of their offices could finally have a permanent home. They donated these remnants of past scientific practices to the archive, knowing they would...

    • 14. Hearing images, tasting pictures: making sense of Christian mission photography in the Lushai Hills district, Northeast India (1870-1920)
      (pp. 445-486)
      Kyle Jackson

      If today the sky were to thunder and the local church bell to peal in the mountaintop village of Aithur in Northeast India’s Mizoram state, the resident Christian Mizo villager would simply pack an umbrella to church. However, a century ago the same soundscape would have held radically different meaning for most listeners.² Thunder was not a sonic shockwave devoid of transcendental meaning, but rather evidence of the god and healer Pu Vana — Grandfather of the Sky — as he dragged a bamboo plate about the heavens. The church bell would have rung out in direct contravention of the village headman’s...

    • 15. The photographs of Baluev: capturing the “socialist transformation” of the Krasnoyarsk northern frontier, 1938-1939
      (pp. 487-530)
      David G. Anderson, Mikhail S. Batashev and Craig Campbell

      The craft of photography played an important role in the construction of early Soviet society. In western Europe and the Americas, the early Soviet period is associated with repressions and the blacking-out and forced amnesia of portraits and other representations.² It is less known that photographers and photographic equipment were widespread, not only capturing faces for identity documents and staged, instructive scenes, but also giving glimpses of a new society and new subjectivities coming into being. The photographs of the period should not be read merely as superficial political instruments, although they were also undoubtedly used that way. We argue...

    • 16. Archiving a Cameroonian photographic studio
      (pp. 531-546)
      David Zeitlyn

      In 2005, I helped to organise an exhibition of the work of Joseph Chila and Samuel Finlak, two Cameroonian studio photographers, at the National Portrait Gallery, London.¹ This arose from my then twenty-year involvement as a social anthropologist working in Cameroon. Chila later introduced me to his “patron”, Jacques Toussele, who had taught him photography in the early 1960s (Figs. 16.1-16.4). Together we made several visits to “Photo Jacques” in Mbouda, Western Province, and I was shown the pile of boxes containing what I now know to be approximately 45,000 medium format negatives and some uncollected prints: the legacy of...


    • 17. Music for a revolution: the sound archives of Radio Télévision Guinée
      (pp. 547-586)
      Graeme Counsel

      I first travelled to West Africa in 1990. With little money and even less experience I crossed the Sahara via Morocco and spent a few weeks in Mauritania before returning home. This brief voyage had given me just a glimpse of the region, but it was sufficient to drive my determination to return. I was compelled to go to West Africa because of my interest in the origins of the Blues, and my research led me on a journey to trace its roots via the trans-Atlantic slave trade from Africa to the New World.¹ Through my research I had discovered...

    • 18. Conservation of the Iranian Golha radio programmes and the heritage of Persian classical poetry and music
      (pp. 587-616)
      Jane Lewisohn

      TheGolha(“Flowers of Persian Song and Music”) radio programmes broadcast on Iranian National Radio for 23 years from 1956 through 1979 comprised approximately 850 hours of programmes. They were made up of literary commentary with the declamation of poetry, and featured singing with musical accompaniment interspersed with solo musical pieces. The programmes were the brainchild of Davud Pirnia, a one-time Assistant Prime Minister, enthusiastic patriot and scholar who harboured a deep love for Persian culture and its rich literary and musical traditions.²

      The foremost literary, academic and musical talents of the day offered Pirnia their collaboration and support, and...

    • 19. The use of sound archives for the investigation, teaching and safeguarding of endangered languages in Russia
      (pp. 617-634)
      Tjeerd de Graaf and Victor Denisov

      In Russia many old sound recordings remain hidden in archives and in private collections where the quality of preservation is not guaranteed. This chapter presents the results of two projects concerning the safeguarding and preservation of endangered-language sound recordings in Russia, and discusses several other endeavours relating to these historical materials. We focus on the activities and outcomes of our Endangered Archives Projects, EAP089: Reconstruction of sound materials of endangered languages in the Russian Federation for sound archives in Saint Petersburg, and EAP347: Vanishing voices from the Uralic world: sound recordings for archives in Russia (in particular Udmurtia), Estonia, Finland...

  17. Index
    (pp. 635-652)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 653-655)