Yale University Library


Arcadia Projects

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Islamic Fundamentalist
Al Cantío de un Gallo
Day Mission
Arcadia: Supporting Digitization Projects at the Library

In 2009 Arcadia , a UK grant making fund whose mission is to protect endangered culture and nature, made a considerable investment in Yale by providing discretionary financial resources to facilitate and expedite the University Library’s progress with several distinctive and important digitization projects. In January 2010, a team comprising Library area studies curators, technology specialists, and the Associate Librarian for Collections & International Programs met to develop a strategy for deploying the Arcadia funds, during which time they considered a vast number of proposals and recommendations for digitizing and making electronically accessible a range of important and exceptional materials.  Following a comprehensive review of an impressive host of possibilities, the team determined that a portion of Arcadia’s gift will be directed in 2010-2011 to digitizing materials from four unique Library collections.

Selected for their demand by expert scholars in their fields, the digitization of these materials would allow for worldwide access, making significant content usable not only by the cognoscenti, but also by students, researchers, and the interested public.  These collections contain hitherto untapped resources and the Library is now positioned to impact measurably the preservation of and access to truly significant aspects of our world’s History.  The 2010-11 digitization projects include:

  • Djibril Tamsir Niane audiotapes documenting Guinean oral traditions (MS 1935).

This unique collection, cataloged by the Library’s Manuscripts and Archives department as MS 1935, includes 63 reel-to-reel tapes of noted Guinean scholar, Professor Djibril Tamsir Niane.  Made in the 1970s, the tapes include field recordings, interviews, ceremonies and practices of several groups, in particular the Baga and Maninka. The resulting material is the only significant body of historical audio data on indigenous history and culture collected between 1958 and Sekou Touré’s death in 1984.  It was impossible for outside researchers to work in Guinea until after Touré’s demise in 1984, so the Niane collection represents virtually the only research on Guinean history and culture between the period of French administration and the end of the 1980s. 

  • Al Cantío de un Gallo radio program audiocassettes (MS1960).

This singular collection, cataloged by the Library’s Manuscripts and Archives department as MS 1960, consists of 602 sixty- and ninety minute cassette tapes of a ten-year-long radio program that Carlos Franqui and Alfredo Melero broadcast into Cuba, largely from Florida and Central America, in the late 1980s through the 1990s, via a clandestine radio station called “La Voz del CID.” The radio program, which was called “Al Cantío de un Gallo,” contains mostly general news events (political, economic and social), interviews, and some music. This collection allows the kind of historical studies that are not confined to the written word, but begin to push the possibilities of using records from other media as real historical tools.

  • Islamic fundamentalist audiotape collection (MS1880).

This collection, cataloged by Yale’s Manuscripts and Archives department as MS 1880, came to the Library via a complicated path, beginning in a residential compound in Kandahar, Afghanistan.  Early in this decade, a CNN producer offered Professor David B. Edwards (Director of the Williams Afghan Media Collections at Williams College) about 1,500 tapes originally made or found in that residence.  The CNN producer, in conjunction with a local Afghan assistant producer, had saved the tapes from being taken and re-sold in the market as re-usable tape.  CNN donated the tapes because the topics discussed, including religion, philosophy, and politics, would be worthy subjects of research and study in a scholarly setting.  Yale Library will make these tapes available online in 2011.

  • Joel Sumner Smith: Yale Library's 18-19th century founding collection of books and serials on Slavic Studies.

The Yale University Library was the first in America to collect Slavic materials systematically, thanks to Joel Sumner Smith, its Associate Librarian in the late 19th century.  Smith was one of the first great curators of major Slavic research collections in North America.  His Catalogue of Books, Slavica in the library of Yale University, was published in Leipzig by Breitkopf and Härtel in 1896.  The catalogue contains 908 titles in an estimated 7,000 - 10,000 volumes, representing the most important works in Slavic studies at the time – all of which will be made available online.

  • Day Missions Collection: Annual Reports.

Developing from a core of materials donated by Professor George Edward Day in 1892, the Day Missions Collection at the Yale Divinity School Library is now known as the preeminent North American collection for documentation of the history of missions and the development of Christianity throughout the world. Its holdings include not only institutional histories, missionary biography, the annual reports of missionary societies, periodicals, and works prepared by missionaries for the use of the peoples of mission fields, but also related literature in areas such as ethnology, geography, comparative religions, and linguistics. The Library is focusing the digitization efforts on early annual reports that provide information about educational, medical, and religious work in various countries. These will be made available online in late 2011.

Niane reel before digitization

One of the reel-to-reel tapes from the Niane collection before digitization