Endangered Archives

The Endangered Archives Programme

The Programme's aim is to contribute to the preservation of archival material that is in danger of destruction, neglect or physical deterioration world-wide. This is achieved principally through the award of grants in an annual competition. The grants provide funding to enable successful applicants to locate relevant endangered archival collections, to arrange their transfer to a suitable local archival home where possible, to create digital copies of the material and to deposit the copies with local institutions and the British Library.

  • The Programme is entirely re-active and dependent upon researchers, archivists and librarians with an interest in a specific subject, region or culture to apply for grants for particular collections-related projects. The Programme does not have the role or resources itself to identify or approach institutions with collections that may be endangered.
  • To be considered for funding under the Programme, the archival material should relate to a ‘pre-modern' period of a society's history. There is no prescriptive definition of this, but it may typically mean, for instance, any period before industrialisation. Equally, we expect the endangered archival material normally to be located in countries where resources and opportunities to preserve such material are lacking or limited. Archival material is widely defined by the Programme to include newspapers and periodicals, audio and audio-visual material, photographs, rare printed books and manuscripts.
  • The Programme is keen to enhance local capabilities to manage and preserve archival collections in the future and it is essential that all projects include local archival partners in the country where the project is based. The cost of professional training for local staff is encouraged within proposals, whether it is in the area of archival collection management or technical training in digitisation. Grantholders can organise training sessions for their team using local or overseas experts for specific purposes, or targeted staff could be sent on a relevant training course.
  • The original archival material will not leave the country of origin except in exceptional cases when it is required to do so temporarily for specific conservation or copying purposes. Even then, this will only be permissible with the written approval from the relevant governmental authority and the material will be returned to the country of origin once the reason for its temporary removal has been fulfilled. At least two surrogate sets of all material copied are made – one to be deposited at the British Library and the other to remain in the country of origin at the designated archival partner institution to facilitate access by local researchers.
  • The Programme is not intended for the purpose of digitising en masse documents held by an official archive. Indeed, applications from national or regional institutions are only funded where the resources of that country are scarce and the significance of the endangered material is particularly high. Even then, it is expected that only a prioritised section of the collection will be the focus of an EAP project, although of course the project team will be able to continue to use the EAP-funded equipment once the grant has come to an end. The majority of funded projects are focused on the collections of private individuals or non-governmental institutions.
  • Equipment funded by the Programme will remain in the country of the project at the end of the grant for future use, either with the host institution (if based in that country) or the local archival partner (if the host institution is not local to the country),. Such equipment can include scanners, digital cameras, computers and associated consumables.
  • The grants are normally administered by host institutions. Although this may be an overseas academic or archival institution, applications are particularly encouraged from host institutions based in the project country. The EAP office is happy to give advice and support in developing a successful proposal if this is required. Grants can also be awarded to an individual Independent Researcher, in situations where the applicant does not have a current association with a suitable institution. In such cases, the Independent Researcher must be able to demonstrate a good track record in the management and delivery of projects.
  • Digitisation is the preferred means of copying under the Programme and it is important that the digital images that are created are in a format to facilitate their long-term preservation. Hence, for textual or photographic material, the Programme requires the creation of TIFF images. Although the British Library will receive a copy of the preservation TIFF images, this will not be regarded as the archival master copy. It is intended to act only as a back-up copy, with the archival master copy normally being deposited in an archival institution in the country of origin.
  • Copyright in the material will remain with the copyright holder, and permission to use the copies for purposes other than research would need to be sought from the copyright holder.
  • All applications for grants under the Programme are considered by an International Advisory Panel. This comprises eight members, six of whom are a mix of academics and archivists representing different disciplines and/or areas of the world. The Panel is chaired by the Principal Adviser to Arcadia and the British Library also has one representative.

What grants are available?

Major projects - individual researchers may apply for grants to locate relevant collections, to arrange their transfer to a suitable local archival home where possible, and to deliver copies to the British Library and a local institution for the benefit of researchers worldwide.

Pilot projects - the Programme would particularly welcome applications for pilot projects to investigate the survival of archival collections on a particular subject, in a discrete region, or in a specific format, and the feasibility of their recovery.

Grants will be made annually. The funds requested for the project should be fully justified in terms of the work that is proposed. It is envisaged that a major project will be in the region of £50,000 and a pilot project, £10,000.