Endangered Archives

EAP618: Unique ethnographic photograph archive at risk, Sofia, Bulgaria

Dr Elya Tzaneva, Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Musuem
2013 award - Major project
£20,662 for 12 months

Archival partner: Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Musuem

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Project Overview

This project will digitise 5,564 photographs and negatives of ethnographic and historical objects, reflecting pre-industrial Bulgarian history and culture. The scholarly Archive of the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum, Bulgarian Academy of sciences is the oldest storage of data of Bulgarian pre-industrial and early modern traditional culture. The rich and unique Ethnographic Archive consists of several collections with heterogeneous materials: written documents (mainly fieldwork recordings, but also manuscripts, books, printed materials, maps, and periodicals), photographs, sound recordings - rich audio and visual collections.

Thanks to the earlier project EAP103, a significant part of the photographic documentation has already been preserved through digitisation. That project was focused on one particular part of this Archive – the old photographs, negatives and glass plates. In total 3,865 glass plates, 1,911 old photographs and 4,684 negatives were digitised as a result of EAP103.

This project will continue digitising the collections, particularly focusing on three important parts of the Ethnographic Archive:

  • After completing EAP103, the Institute received as a donation an additional private collection of 739 photographs and negatives, kept in very poor storage conditions and in need of urgent preservation. These photographs illustrate elements of traditional spiritual culture: ritual masks, rituals breads, agricultural and horticultural activities, calendar customs, a completed collection of folk costumes and traditional architecture.
  • Digitisation of the content of the "Old Albums", which includes portrait photographs created in the first established photo studios in 1906-7 (the famous Studio of Karastoyanovi), and earlier (for example, by a private photographer in 1886). Most of them are with descriptions on the back which provide some important details. Some of the albums carry the metal sign of the Bulgarian royal family. They were given to the Museum by the members of the royal family by the beginning of the twentieth century.
  • Digitisation of 4,639 old negatives, dated according to the date of their creation from 1905 up to the 1940s.

Project Outcome

The records copied by this project have been catalogued as:

  • EAP618/1 Rositza Angelova Photographs
  • EAP618/2 Photograph Albums
  • EAP618/3 Negatives

The catalogue is available here.