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The Endangered Archives Programme (EAP ) at the British Library Graham Shaw Head of Asia, Pacific & Africa Collections, BL JISC/CNI 6 th International.

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Presentation on theme: "The Endangered Archives Programme (EAP ) at the British Library Graham Shaw Head of Asia, Pacific & Africa Collections, BL JISC/CNI 6 th International."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Endangered Archives Programme (EAP ) at the British Library Graham Shaw Head of Asia, Pacific & Africa Collections, BL JISC/CNI 6 th International Conference York, 6 July 2006

2 2 2 Background to EAP The Endangered Archives Programme is modest in conception and rooted in practicality – it is not aimed at promoting theoretical advances in archival management or cutting-edge technology in digital preservation – it is about achieving quick results on the ground (Thanks to Tetra Pak) It is sponsored by the Lisbet Rausing Charitable Fund (see – NB LRCF does not invite bids for funding – it initiates its own LRCF has also sponsored the Endangered Languages Project at the School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London (see – the two projects complement each LRCF is providing £10 million to the BL over the next 8-10 years

3 3 3 Objectives of EAP To contribute to the preservation of mankinds documentary heritage, particularly in those regions of the emerging world where collections may be more at risk and where the availability of funding may be limited (i.e. principally not Western Europe and North America) To heighten awareness of the problem of endangered archives and so encourage other initiatives – both public and private - to combat their loss and destruction To help foster professional standards in the cataloguing, preservation, etc. of archives and so assist in safeguarding the longer-term availability and accessibility of heritage collections world-wide

4 4 4 Why Endangered Archives? (1) Documentary heritage reflects the diversity of languages, peoples and cultures. It is the mirror of the world and its memory. But this memory is fragile. Every day, irreplaceable parts of this memory disappear for ever. UNESCO Memory of the World Programme While the appreciation of the importance of archives may never have been greater, there is a growing awareness that archives around the globe are in danger. At the 2004 ICA Congress, 2,000 delegates from 116 countries discussed how better to preserve the worlds documentary heritage Archives are endangered both by the actions of mankind and by the forces of nature – fire, flood, earthquake, hurricane, etc. War may have catastrophic consequences for archives – as we saw on TV in documents scattered on the ground from the burnt- out National Library and Archives building in Baghdad

5 5 5 Why Endangered Archives? (2) There are problems of fragility and in-built obsolescence associated with the physical formats to which we have entrusted our documentary heritage Archives not kept under a proper legal system may be susceptible to neglect or destruction – political ideology can impact directly on archives – Archives are fundamental to ensuring the survival of truth, memory and justice. (ICA) Lack of professional training coupled with lack of resources can often pose a threat – the unintentional can be the most damaging – sheer neglect of documentary heritage for want of awareness of its significance And lastly perhaps the most insidious threat – gradual cultural homogenisation, aka the McDonaldisation of world culture

6 6 6 Not All Doom and Gloom At Timbuktu in Mali various projects have combined to preserve a large part of its important medieval Islamic heritage At the Great Mosque of Sanaa (Yemen) some of the earliest known vellum and paper Quran fragments have been recovered At the monastery of Tabo on the India-China border, an Austrian- led project has been piecing together manuscripts from an otherwise lost tradition of Western Tibetan Buddhism The Nepal German Manuscript Preservation Project has concentrated on the Sanskrit heritage of the country In Bangkok the Fragile Palm Leaves Project to preserve Buddhist manuscripts has been underway for a decade

7 7 7 What is EAPs Particular Scope? Preserving the worlds documentary heritage is an enormous and long-term task – EAP can only make a small contribution It therefore focuses on archives relating primarily but not exclusively to pre-modern/pre-industrial societies - the relevant time period will vary from society to society Any theme will be considered across arts and humanities, social sciences, and traditional sciences, technology and medicine Any regional interest will be considered, but particularly relating to non-Western societies – Asia, Africa, Latin America, etc. Private collections are a particular focus as at even more risk than those already in publicly accessible archives – but even national archives are being supported

8 8 8 How Does EAP Define Archives? EAP has taken the broadest possible interpretation of the term to embrace: Rare printed sources (books, serials, newspapers, ephemera) Manuscripts (in any language) Visual materials (drawings, paintings, prints, posters, photographs) Audio or video recordings and film Digital data Other objects and artefacts - but NB only where they are found in close association with a documentary archive

9 9 9 How Does EAP Achieve Its Objectives? Primarily by annual awards of research grants (up to a guideline of £50K p.a.) to individual researchers or librarians/archivists to locate significant collections, arrange their transfer to a suitable local archival home, make surrogate copies (microfilm or digital), and deliver those copies to the British Library Grants (up to £10K usually) are also available for pilot projects – to investigate the survival of archival collections in a discrete region, on a specific subject, or in a particular format, and to assess the feasibility of their recovery Initially also by annual awards of bursaries to enable overseas archivists and librarians (4 p.a.) to take up short-term work attachments at the BL (up to 6 months) in their area(s) of professional interest

10 10 EAP and Preservation versus Access Ultimately EAPs emphasis is on access rather than preservation EAP does not fund the physical conservation of original materials on any large scale (except the minimum necessary for good-quality copying to be achieved – whether that be microfilming or digital photography) If we funded original conservation then our grant (though generous) would not stretch very far – EAP would fail to achieve the sponsors declared aim of raising awareness re: the dangers to mans cultural diversity world-wide We set minimum technical standards of copying – most of it is done in the field by academics – not by trained digitisers from a library or archives background – we take a pragmatic approach

11 11 What Are the British Librarys Responsibilities under EAP? To administer EAP on a day-to-day basis – to introduce modifications as appropriate - and to oversee its future development To receive and retain the surrogate copies of all the collections rescued under EAP – our operating principle is that no original archival material should leave its home country To document those collections and make them freely accessible to researchers (on-site initially, selectively through the web possibly later) To seek partnerships with library and archival consortia world- wide to facilitate the dissemination of those collections into the international research domain

12 12 What Has Been Achieved So Far? EAP was successfully launched in October 2004 An International Advisory Panel of academics and archivists was established to evaluate proposals and award research grants 4 criteria set against which research proposals judged: urgency of the archival situation / vulnerability of materials / research significance of collection(s) / feasibility of what is proposed Bursary programme also set up – 4 bursary holders (2 from India, 1 from Turkey, 1 from Poland) completed their attachments in BL Project pages set up on the BL web-site – explaining what grants are available and how to apply following the guidelines provided and using on-line forms

13 13 Analysis of Grant Applications Received in Year 2 63 preliminary grant applications received, 27 rejected and 36 invited to submit full proposals (year 1 figures were 51 / 17 / 34) Region of applicant: 7 based in North America, 12 UK and Western Europe, 4 in Asia, 4 in South America, 1 in Australia and Micronesia, 2 from Africa, 4 from Eastern Europe and Russia, and 2 from Middle East, 0 from Central America & Caribbean (year 1 figures were 11 / 11 / 4 / 2 / 2 / 2 / 1 / 1 / 0) 10 proposals focussed on collections in Asia, 11 in Africa, 1 in UK and Western Europe, 4 in South America, 4 in Eastern Europe, 1 in Micronesia, 2 in Central America & Caribbean, 3 in Middle East (year 1 figures were 12 / 8 / 6 / 4 / 2 / 2 / 0 / 0) Most applications are based around manuscript and archives collections – but photographs and sound are also featuring well

14 14 What Kind of Collections is EAP Helping to Preserve? Archives of minority peoples in China & Chile 20 th -century political papers in Liberia, East Timor & Yap Photographic collections in Iran, Laos, Siberia & Argentina Newspapers and periodicals in Urdu & Nepali Sound archives in the Balkans, Russia & Iran Church archives in Tanzania & Ecuador Manuscripts in Marathi (India), Tibetan (Bhutan & China) & Indonesian Official records in National Archives of Georgia, Tuvalu & St Nevis

15 15 What Changes Have We Made? The web-pages have been enhanced – with details and images of projects supported – also summaries of EAP provided in French, German, Spanish, Russian and Arabic All documentation – guidelines, terms and conditions, application forms - revised in light of the first years administrative experience Biggest change: the separate bursary strand has been scrapped – due to difficulties encountered both in processing non-EU bursary holders and in securing placements within BL BUT the aim of assisting professional capacity-building has not been abandoned – now to be incorporated into the research grant strand to encourage the employment and training of local staff

16 16 What Do We Need To Do Next? Improve the balance within EAPs world-wide reach with more targeted promotional activities – certain academic constituencies are well aware of EAP (e.g., Sub-Saharan Africanists, South Americanists, Tibetologists) – others are not yet (e.g. Middle East and Caribbean specialists) Develop the EAP web-pages further – listing the collections received at BL once the projects supported send in their results and possibly mounting some material on the web Build up EAPs institutional links so that access is internationalised – already preliminary negotiations with the Center for Research Libraries, Chicago – Link with UNESCOs Memory of the World now established through the International Advisory Panel membership

17 17 How You Can Help Principally by spreading the word about the Programmes existence to all your academic contacts, web discussion lists, library users, enquirers, and librarian/archivist contacts – and putting them in touch ( By letting us know of any collections that are endangered for whatever reason – both those in public institutions but particularly those in private ownership AND By watching EAPs web-pages at for news of award timetables and any changes in scope as EAP The call for the third round of research grant applications will be made in September 2006

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