Digitally Preserving the World's Most Vulnerable Manuscripts

A person stands in front of shelves of manuscripts and archival material

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Digital preservation of manuscripts from the world’s most threatened communities

Ever wondered how to safeguard vulnerable material from around the world?

Sam van Schaik explains how the Endangered Archives Programme funds communities around the world wishing to digitise archives that are in danger of destruction, neglect or physical deterioration. These archives take many forms, including rare printed sources, manuscripts, visual materials and audio recordings. While the original material remains in its local archive, the digitised copies are available to the world through the EAP’s website. 

In his lecture, Father Columba Stewart gives an overview of Hill Museum and Manuscript Library's work and of projects carried out in partnership with the Endangered Archives Programme. HMML was founded in 1965 and now has the world’s largest archive of photographs of manuscripts in dozens of languages, accessible through innovative online platforms. It has digitised more than 250,000 manuscripts from over 550 partner libraries around the world. Father Columba will talk about a major project to digitize the manuscript libraries of Timbuktu, which survived the jihadist attacks of 2013, and has been successful thanks to co-ordinated support from both HMML and EAP. HMML and EAP are in further discussions to help future projects in equally challenging locations, including the Gaza Strip.

After the two talks, there is an opportunity to ask questions about these two programmes and meet the speakers, followed by a reception.

This event is presented by the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) in collaboration with Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML). Both EAP and HMML are funded by Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, set up to support charities and scholarly institutions preserve cultural heritage, protect the environment and promote open access.

Father Columba Stewart OSB is the executive director of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at St John’s University, Minnesota. He is also a priest in the Benedictine tradition and a scholar of early Christianity. He was recently named the 2019 Jefferson Lecturer, the highest honour the US government bestows for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.

Sam van Schaik is the head of the Endangered Archives Programme at the British Library. He is a leading scholar of Buddhism, specialising on the study of early Buddhist manuscripts, and is the author of a number of books including Tibet: A History and The Spirit of Zen.


Name: Digitally Preserving the World's Most Vulnerable Manuscripts
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
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When: -
Price: Free Event: £0.00
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546