Millions of images from the world’s endangered archives made available online

By Culture24 Reporter | 17 February 2015

The British Library is making over four million images from endangered archives all over the world available online

a photo of a pair of hands on a manuscript
A new manuscript arrives at Djenne publlic library© Sophie Sarin
Since being established in 2004, the Endangered Archives Programme has funded 246 projects in 78 countries worldwide, helping to preserve archives ranging from Palestinian newspapers held in the Al-Aqsa Mosque library in East Jerusalem to rock inscriptions in the mountain ranges of Libya.

Now the pioneering British Library project, which has been all over the world in search of archives at risk of being destroyed, neglected or physically deteriorating, is celebrating ten years of its vital work by making millions of digitised manuscripts freely accessible to the rest of the world through the programme’s website.

Supported by the Arcadia Fund, the projects is also launching a new digital publication called From Dust to Digital: Ten Years of the Endangered Archives Programme, which features a range of notable projects including an ongoing localised effort to archive Islamic manuscripts in Djenné, a sister town of Timbuktu in Mali during periods of violent civil unrest in the area.

a photograph of a man perching on the side of a straw house with a camera
Photographing the written legacy of North Eastern India's Ahom Kingdom. The manuscripts are written in Tai Ahom script, which is no longer used in daily life© Dr Stephen Morey
The culturally rich intellectual heritage of Mali joins an array of digitisation projects ranging from inscriptions, manuscripts and archival records to newspapers, photographs and sound archives.

“At a time when wars and civil emergencies too frequently put archives and library collections at risk, the work the Library does to support fellow institutions around the world during and after conflicts is becoming more urgent than ever,” said British Library Chief Executive Roly Keating.

“In the Library’s new vision, Living Knowledge, we stress the importance of our work in this field with our partners, and are therefore delighted to mark 10 years of the Endangered Archives Programme, which we run with the generous support of the Arcadia Fund, and to celebrate the vital work happening in almost 80 countries.”

Work during the past ten years has enabled communities all over the world where resources and opportunities to preserve archives are most limited to locate, preserve and digitise collections, providing local institutions and the British Library with digital copies.

More than four million images are available online via the Endangered Archives Programme website. You can follow the project’s progress on the Endangered Archives blog.

a photo of a group of water destroyed manuscripts
Manuscripts destroyed by water and insect damage in Mizoram, said to be the wettest place on the plant, in northwest India© Dr Kyle Jackson
a photo of two hands holding manuscripts
Talismans on how to be loved. Djenne, Mali© Sophie Sarin
a photo of scattered manuscripts
Documents found in the remote hills of Mizoran, India© Dr Kyle Jackson
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