Modern Endangered Archives Program Announces First Global Roster of Digitization Projects

Projects will rescue and preserve important, at-risk cultural materials around the world

The Modern Endangered Archives Program (MEAP), administered by the UCLA Library, is proud to announce the first cohort of 12 funded projects. Launched in 2018, MEAP is funded by Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, and shares their commitment to preserving and documenting endangered archival material from around the world. MEAP was formerly called Documenting Global Voices.

Chosen from more than one hundred applications, the twelve projects document a wide range of endangered cultural materials from the 20th and 21st centuries, including print, photographic, film, audio, and ephemeral objects. Over the next two years, project teams will survey and digitize materials including regional films in India, photographs of everyday life in mid-20th-century Afghanistan, a set of notebooks that record oral traditions in East Timor, and a collection of plantation management documents that trace the economic, social, and migration history of Brazil. 

Film canisters. Printed with permission of Shabistan Film Archive.Once digitized, these materials will be made accessible for free on an open access basis at the UCLA Library website. They will expand and support research on human rights movements, history, film, language, war, and slavery. The digitized archives will enable communities to explore aspects of their cultural heritage and histories. The expertise built through the digitization process will empower communities to continue preserving their heritage.

Please see below for detailed descriptions of the inaugural cohort. Six additional projects were recommended for funding by MEAP’s expert review board, but have not yet been finalized. 

‘Arcadia is a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin. It supports charities and scholarly institutions that preserve cultural heritage and the environment. Arcadia also supports projects that promote open access and all of its awards are granted on the condition that any materials produced are made available for free online. Since 2002, Arcadia has awarded more than $663 million to projects around the world.


Twelve projects have been awarded MEAP grants:

Argentinean Human Rights Digital Library of Periodical and Non-periodical Publications

Host Institution: Memoria Abierta
Project Lead: María Celina Flores

Memoria Abierta is an alliance of nine Argentinean human rights organizations. Most of them were created during the last dictatorship (1976-1983) to denounce the violations committed during that period and to support relatives and victims. The Argentinean human rights movement, with its innovative strategies to fight oblivion and achieve justice, is known worldwide and referenced by other countries where human rights crimes have been or are being committed. Therefore, it is important that the history and documentation of the movement be publicly accessible. The publications written by the organizations themselves present a unique perspective that details the trajectory of each organization. We will digitize and make accessible these periodical and non-periodical publications of six human rights organizations.

Captain Zuzinha's Band: Digitization of Manuscripts Scores of Frevo from the Early 20th Century as World Heritage

Host Institution: Imago Institute
Project Lead: Diego Salcedo

The project will digitize and make accessible online 8,700 original manuscripts of frevo scores which register the origins of frevo as a popular music played by the Military Police during Carnival in the State of Pernambuco. In 2012, frevo was listed by UNESCO as representative of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Frevo has been a declared Expression of Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2007 by the Institute of National Historical and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN). This collection represents approximately six-hundred musical arrangements and, as the first formal record of Frevo's birth, documents the creation of this important manifestation of popular cultural expression in Brazil. The collection is located at the Memorial Denis Bernardes, in the Federal University of Pernambuco, which has established a partnership with Imago Institute to ensure that the collection will be preserved and curated to ensure long-term preservation and accessibility. 

Digitization and Preservation of Audio Recordings of Music and Oral Traditions in the Collections of Rupayan Sansthan, India

Host Institutions: Archives and Research Centre for Ethnomusicology, American Institute of Indian Studies
Project Lead: Dr. Shubha Chaudhuri

The Archives and Research Center for Ethnomusicology at the American Institute of Indian Studies will digitize a collection of recordings on audio cassettes from 1980 to 2003. These contain music and oral traditions such as ballads, oral epics and storytelling of hereditary musician castes of the desert region of Western Rajasthan. These hereditary musicians belong to some of the most marginalized communities and the traditions recorded are fast disappearing. The collection represents the research and documentation carried out by Komal Kothari, whose pioneering work put the music of Western Rajasthan, especially that of the Langa and Manganiar communities, on the world music map.

Digitizing the Justino Valentim Collection of Vaihoho Sung-Poems, Lautem, Timor-Leste

Host Institution: Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, University of Melbourne
Project Lead: Dr. Kim Dunphy

This project supports the preservation of critically endangered Vaihoho sung-stories of the Fataluku people of Timor-Leste. Vaihoho are considered the Fataluku’s most valued repertoire, as the major form of their continuing oral tradition. Cultural leader Justino Valentim (deceased) recorded a significant amount of Vaihoho material, which is currently stored in exercise books and hard-drive in his family home. To reduce the risk of this collection’s loss and to make it accessible to the Fataluku, the wider Timorese community and the global public, this project will digitally record and archive the collection. Project partners include the Valentim family, the NGO Many Hands International, the University of Melbourne and the Timor-Leste Government.

Documenting Barbadian Voices from Emancipation to Independence

Host Institutions: Barbados Archives, HeritEDGE
Project Lead: Amalia Skarlatou Levi

This project will digitize material currently housed at the Barbados Department of Archives. The material consists of published ephemera, magazines, and newspapers that span 1837-2010s (the bulk from the 1950s to 1995). They offer a sweeping overview of politics, business and industry, women’s movements, religion, education, social and cultural life, legislature, health, agriculture, sports, Caribbean news, personal announcements (marriages, births, deaths). The materials cover defining decades for the history of Barbados that led to its transition from being a colonial territory to an independent state in 1966, and that helped shape the Barbadian national consciousness.

El gran film del Uruguay - Colección Carlos Alonso / The Great Film of Uruguay - Carlos Alonso Collection

Host Institution: Universidad Católica del Uruguay
Project Leads: Felipe Bellocq, Macarena Fernández, Carolina Curti

This project will contribute to audiovisual heritage preservation through an inspection and assessment of the "Alonso Collection," owned by the Archivo Nacional de la Imagen y la Palabra (SODRE). The collection consists of forty-five rolls of nitrate film, shot in a documentary style in different cities throughout the countryside between 1920 and 1940. The original materials, located in the vaults of Cinemateca Uruguaya (Uruguayan Cinematheque), have only been partially preserved and not yet studied or cataloged. By creating a catalog of the celluloid items, the project team will assess a significant part of Uruguay’s cultural heritage that unfortunately has not been properly addressed due to a lack of research and material resources.

Exploring Regional Engagement with Film in India through a Collection of Celluloid Ephemera

Host Institution: Shabistan Film Archive
Project Lead: Dr. Vaibhav Singh

This project aims to explore a rich collection of celluloid film reels dating from the 20th century that are at great risk of destruction: lost to dereliction at labs, out of use due to obsolete technology, and prone to recyclability for their scrap value. The content of this material includes narrative cinema from regional film industries, documentary reels and home movies, along with less well represented and traditionally undervalued matter such as film trailers, commercials and advertisements. This project aims to bring to light the diverse regional histories of film in post-independence India and to systematically explore digitization of film reels.

Labor, Livelihood, and Immigration in a Brazilian Plantation: the Archives of Ibicaba Farm (1890-1970)

Host Institution: Institute for Economic and Social History at the Georg-August-University Göttingen
Project Lead: Dr. Bruno Witzel de Souza (Germany), Leonardo Antonio Santin Gardenal (Brazil)

Ibicaba Farm, located in the countryside of São Paulo, played an outstanding role in Brazilian history. It was there that the first experiments with European bonded labor were conducted, in a process related to the abolition of slavery and the insertion of Brazil into the Age of Mass Migration. This project provides the inventory and digitizes the farm’s archives from its second administration, when an immigrant family became the farm’s proprietor (1890-1970). By safeguarding these unique and unexplored sources, the project fosters our understanding of labor relations in Latin American plantations and their socioeconomic, cultural and political dynamics.

Our History is Our Force: Protecting Haitian National Patrimony

Host Institutions: Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC) at Florida International University, Institut de Sauvegarde du Patrimoine National (ISPAN)
Project Lead: Dr. Hadassah St. Hubert 

The Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC) has partnered with Institut de Sauvegarde du Patrimoine National (ISPAN), founded in 1979, to protect Haitian national patrimony. ISPAN secured the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for the Palace of Sans-Souci and Citadelle Henri built in the early 19th century after Haiti’s independence from France. dLOC and ISPAN will digitize ISPAN’s archive. ISPAN has undertaken numerous research studies and investigations that have created an archive containing extensive documentation on archaeological explorations, architectural designs, research publications from Haitian scholars, and photographs concerning Haiti’s monuments, structures, and cultural and historical sites throughout Haiti.

Preserving and Creating Access to a Unique Photo Collection on Afghanistan

Host Institution: Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University (ACKU)
Project Lead: Rashmi Dangol

ACKU aims to digitize, catalogue and provide open access to users for a unique collection of photographs created by Dr. Louis Dupree and his wife, Nancy Hatch Dupree. The photographs document Afghanistan from about 1950s until recently. These historically important images are invaluable for scholarly work as they document the country from the prewar era to post-conflict. Once available online, the photographs will take users on a virtual trip of the country where they can study the nature, architecture, culture and history of Afghanistan.

The Ricardo Montejano Collection: Social movements and Mexican rural and native cultures

Host Institutions: Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (FONCA), Fonoteca Nacional
Project Lead: Dr. Marina Nunez Bespalova

This project aims to preserve 3,300 audio recordings that document Mexican social movements and indigenous cultures through the voices of social activists, peasants, native (indigenous) Mexicans, musicians, traditional physicians, and guardians of traditional culture. The original field and studio recordings were collected throughout Mexico by Ricardo Montejano between 1970 and the present and represent the political and cultural realities of the Mexican people. Once digitized, these recordings will illuminate a history of social movements and indigenous knowledge throughout contemporary Mexico.

Saving, Digitizing and Providing Access for Educational and Research Purposes to Albania’s Photographic and Graphic Art Collections of its Archival Motion Picture Legacy 

Host Institution: Albanian National Film Archive aka Arkivi Qendror Shtetëror i Filmit (AQSHF)  
Project Lead: Iris Elezi

The Albanian National Film Archive (AQSHF) holds in its care a vast collection of photo negatives that chronicle the growth and the technological development of the Albanian film industry from 1946 to the 2000's. AQSHF has selected 18,041 items from their photographic and graphic art collections for digitization to safeguard their legacy into the future, and open them up to scholars, researchers and the public. The curated selection includes costume and set design sketches, animation slides and production stills, allowing one to trace the genuine journey of Albanian visual artists, still unknown but deserving of preservation and study.



Top image: Printed with permission from Memoria Abierta
Bottom image: Printed with permission from the Shabistan Film Archive