Western African Manuscripts Crowdsourcing Project

Hosted by the British Library

Open for applications until 1 November 2022

The West African Manuscripts Crowdsourcing Project Fellowship is aimed at individuals from Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal

This fellowship will be hosted by the Endangered Archives Programme (EAP). The Programme is of international prominence in its mission to preserve documentary heritage at risk of destruction, neglect or physical deterioration. EAP funds projects from all over the world, to create digital copies of collections and deposit these both locally and within the British Library.

The Chevening Fellow will develop a community crowdsourcing project to improve the discoverability of approximately 10,000 digitised West African manuscripts in Arabic script. The EAP team is keen to ensure these manuscripts are assigned Arabic titles within the Library’s catalogue, making them more accessible to local communities. There is a current imbalance between titles being in original script, English or non-standard transliterations. The Library’s Digital Research team will provide guidance to the Fellow on all aspects of setting up and overseeing the crowdsourcing elements of the project.

The Fellow will oversee and promote the crowdsourcing project, drawing upon their already established contacts and developing new ones. The Fellow’s understanding of West African manuscript culture and interested communities will bring expertise, support and guidance to the project, harnessing contributions from the crowdsourcing project and preparing the integration of the new data into the Library’s catalogue.

 

About the British Library

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and a public-facing cultural institution. We care for collections that encompass all fields of knowledge and a wide range of formats in hundreds of languages, covering 3,500 years from some of the earliest written records to the digital collections of the present day. This rich and diverse resource presents countless opportunities to support traditional and digital research and cultural engagement with scholars and organisations across the globe.

British Library Chevening Fellows are based at our St Pancras site in London and benefit from a unique research and professional development experience. They are embedded in their host department, but also in the Library’s wider postgraduate research community. The fellowship projects that we offer enable new types of research, inform strategy and foster international collaboration, and we deeply value the insights and expertise that Chevening Fellows bring.

 

The Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) seeks to preserve cultural heritage and make it available to as wide an audience as possible. To achieve this EAP provides grants to applicants to digitise and document archives. ‘Endangered’ means material that is at risk of loss or decay, and is located in countries where resources and opportunities to preserve such material are lacking or limited. ‘Archives’ refers to materials in written, pictorial or audio formats, including manuscripts, rare printed books, documents, newspapers, periodicals, photographs and sound recordings. It is one of the Programme’s key principles that the original material remains in the country in which it is located. EAP has funded over 450 projects in 90 countries resulting in almost 11 million images and 25 thousand sound recordings being made freely available online (https://eap.bl.uk/search). The Programme is supported by Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.

 

Key Responsibilities

  • Set up a crowdsourcing project for West African manuscripts using Zooniverse (guidance will be provided)
  • Promote the crowdsourcing project within West Africa as well as relevant institutions outside of the region
  • Engage with the community of contributors
  • Help promote the project more widely through blog articles and collection highlights on the Library’s webpage, to encourage further engagement with the collections

 

Deliverables

  • Create at least 5,000 titles in Arabic, to be incorporated into the Library’s catalogue
  • Create a step-by-step guide on setting up a crowdsourcing project
  • Create a document about lessons learnt, with opportunity to develop insights into an article and/or a presentation for the UK Libraries & Archives Group on Africa (SCOLMA)
  • An article about the project on the Asian and African Studies blog or in an external newsletter/journal
  • A show & tell session/staff talk

 

Development Opportunities

  • Behind-the-scenes experience of curatorial work at a national library and major cultural institution in the UK
  • Staff-level access to unique British Library collections and research resources including access to staff training courses, workshops and talks
  • In-depth understanding of the work of the Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) and opportunity to work closely with British Library staff, in particular with the Digital Research and the EAP teams
  • Opportunity to enhance spoken and written English through work practice and collaboration with colleagues
  • Networking opportunities across the British Library and a range of external networks in the UK and internationally, including attendance at the UK Libraries & Archives Group on Africa (SCOLMA) conference
  • Specialist crowdsourcing training and opportunity to promote the project and engage audiences through a range of communication and networking channels

 

Benefits

  • 12-month period of project-based activity at the British Library
  • Living expenses for the duration of the fellowship
  • Return economy airfare from home country to the UK
  • Up to £1,000 from the British Library for approved project-related expenses
  • Access to a programme of cultural events and activities organised by the FCDO and the Chevening Secretariat
  • Access to a highly regarded global network of over 50,000 Chevening Alumni

 

Candidate Requirements

Essential

  • Fluency in reading Arabic/Ajami script
  • Demonstrable knowledge of Islamic manuscript culture
  • Strong computer skills and familiarity with Excel spreadsheets
  • Excellent written and spoken English
  • Familiarity with using social media

 

Desirable

  • Interest in Digital Humanities
  • Understanding of cataloguing metadata
  • Written French

 

Individuals must be residents in their home country at the time of making their application.

This fellowship is open to candidates from Mali/Niger, Nigeria and Senegal

For all other eligibility criteria, please refer to the Chevening website: https://www.chevening.org/fellowship/british-library/

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