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British Library in £10 million programme to save worlds endangered archives
The Lisbet Rausing Charitable Fund is joining with the British Library to fund a £10 million programme to preserve the world’s endangered archives.
The Endangered Archives Programme is the largest of its kind ever undertaken in the world and will be administered by the British Library’s archives team in conjunction with a panel of international experts. The programme will be formally launched in the autumn and the first grants are expected to be made next year. Initial funding will enable the programme to run for about eight years, but it is hoped that this can be extended with the help of other beneficiaries.
The programme is a response to worldwide threats to historical and cultural records from wars, natural disasters, ignorance and neglect. Its aim is to preserve forever our knowledge of vital aspects of human society and activity. Grants will be used to help identify endangered records and re-locate them in institutional archives in the region to which they relate. The original material will therefore not be removed from its cultural home. However, such records will also be copied and the copies made universally available. A master archive of such copies will be maintained at the British Library, which will be able to supply copies to other libraries and research centres throughout the world.
Director of Scholarship and Collections at the British Library, Dr Clive Field, said:
This is an immensely exciting initiative which will unquestionably have a far-reaching and long-term impact on international research and scholarship. As a repository of world knowledge, through our universal collections and professional expertise, the British Library is proud and delighted to have been invited to house, administer and lead the programme. We congratulate the Lisbet Rausing Charitable Fund on its foresight in providing the funding, from which generations of scholars and archivists will benefit.
The donors, Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, added:
In many parts of the world, important cultural archives are under serious threat of extinction. We believe it is vital that these vulnerable cultural records are preserved to enable current and future generations to learn from the past. We must do it in a way that allows everyone access to the archival record and we are delighted that the British Library – one of the world’s leading archives – has agreed to be part of this important cultural project.
The Endangered Archives Programme follows a similar project established by the Lisbet Rausing Charitable Fund last year to document endangered languages around the world. The £20 million Endangered Languages Project is being administered by London’s School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) and has already distributed a wide range of grants. In its first two years alone, the programme has supported more than 40 languages throughout the world including two Mayan languages in Guatemala, Archi in the Caucasus, Siwi, an isolated Berber language of Egypt, and the Vures language of west Vanua Lava, Vanuatu.