My time at the African Studies Library

Victoria Falls, Zambia

My work at the African Library first began in late 2018 when I, along with a friend of mine, began volunteering at the library on a weekly basis. Jenni was quick to set us the task of organising the mammoth collection recently donated by Peter Sanders, a task that I was yet to realise would last me the next year and a half. Although fulfilling, the first years worth of work was limited in its success, due to the limited time we had available to visit the archive, however once I completed my A-levels I was incredibly fortunate to be invited back by Jenni to take on a position as a temporary Archive Assistant. This role has allowed me to not only complete the Sanders collection but also explore a far wider range of donated materials within the archive.

Mountain Village, Lesotho

Lesotho is a country that I had admittedly never heard of before starting my work on the Sanders collection. In this admission I am not alone as a great majority of those here in the UK know relatively little about this country’s complex history, British involvement, and its current standing. Therefore, the significant value of bringing this collection to light, which would promote future research into Lesotho, gave me an added sense of importance to my work as it would help future generations learn about the many wonders of the country. Through the process of sorting and organising Sanders’ library of books I found myself time and again engrossed by a mixture of captivating topics, from medicinal practices to mineralogy, which are a testament to the exciting history of Lesotho itself.

Personal documents of Meshack Matake

 

One piece in particular from Sanders’ collection stood out to me; the identity card of Meshack Matake. Upon opening the wallet I was met with “Died 12/2/56” hurriedly scribbled on the front page of the accompanying documentation. After further inspection I found a collection of small receipts and documents that mapped out Meshack’s day to day lifestyle in the years before his untimely death. Unfortunately, I struggled to find more information regarding Matake but hope to discuss this with Peter Sanders in the future to learn more about how he received this artefact and whether he knows anything more that could help us in understanding what happened to him. This was undoubtedly a more poignant part of the collection as it gave a deep insight into the lives of everyday Mosothos living in ‘Basutoland’ during its years as a British Crown colony.

Voting Disks, Lesotho

Another piece from the collection is a small bundle of voting disks that were once the centre stone of Lesotho democracy. This allowed for everyone, regardless of their ability to read or write, to participate in local elections as they could vote using the logos of political parties as a guide. It is insightful artefacts such as this that further allow us to relate to the way of life in Lesotho.

Harare, Zimbabwe

Although dealing with the Sanders collection made up a large part of my work, I also was fortunate to work on other donations within the library. Venturing through the various topics and locations covered by these collections was incredibly insightful for me. I would sometimes spend a day reading top secret government dossiers and then the next learning about the intricacies of university life in Uganda

Sanyu Babies’ Home Newsletter

Collections could be incredibly niche, such as the Hester Boron collection that focused mainly on the Sanyu Babies’ Home in Kampala to the far broader Winifred Brown donation that contained a variety of colourful travel brochures around Africa.

C-4 Argonaut, East African Airways

Since starting my work in November as an archive assistant I have managed to get through 46 of these boxes, leaving me with a far greater understanding of and appreciation for Africa’s rich and diverse history. Moreover I have learnt many invaluable skills in the process of documenting these collections, such as how to care for damaged documentation and how to categorise and organise files, which will serve me well in my future history studies.

I would like to thank Jenni for this amazing experience and hope to continue contributing to the library in the future.

 

– Harry Traherne

 

The Adventure Doesn’t Stop Now.

I have been volunteering in the Centre of African Studies Library since November 2016. Today, this incredible experience comes to an end and I wanted to share with you what it felt like to be part of this great journey.

When I first started, last November, everything seemed brilliant. Today, I still have the same feeling and, while I am trying to do my retrospection, I am looking all around me, trying to remember all the details that have kept me happy for months. It can be a chair scraping the floor, the sound of a keyboard, or a book being moved. It’s raining and we can hear the wind – and I will miss all of that. I was happy to volunteer a few hours every week ; it was not a lot, it was not a huge amount of time, but it felt like home every time I went into the Library, and it will still feel like home even after I leave.

During these few months, I met Dr. Audrey Richards whilst I went through her pamphlet donations, and her own research papers. I met her a second time when Dr. Ray Abrahams came to talk about her, as a friend. And this experience was revealing about what you can learn, the two very different ways to get to know someone ; with her written works, I felt close to the professional, the anthropologist who will never be forgotten. By talking with Dr. Abrahams, I felt I was discovering the human being behind these interesting thoughts.

I am currently working on documents about race relations in South Africa, and I had to organise the documents into different boxes by subject area to find my way back to some kind of understanding. In this case, I found out a lot about politics, struggling people fighting for their rights, and social balance.  The feeling you get when you deal with political statements and documents such as these is powerful ; you know that these documents went through other hands. Fighting hands, revolutionary hands, and idealist hands. Sadly, I will not be able to finish my work – but I hope these feelings will be shared by the one who will complete this collection.

Even if leaving the Centre of African Studies Library makes me deeply melancholic, I am raring to start my Internship in Schlumberger Center of Research, because I am sure to earn useful skills that will lead me where I want, and need, to be.

I am so grateful for everything I know, everything I’ve learnt and discovered, and for the brilliant people I had the pleasure to meet. I am lucky to have been guided by someone exceptional, who gave me the taste of a profession and who, in many ways and with a fine honesty, made me stronger and ready to build my career path. Also, I believe that volunteering has been the most beautiful experience I’ve ever had : so go outside, give a helping hand because you might discover many attributes about yourself you didn’t even know were there in the first place.

This experience is over, but the adventure doesn’t stop now.

What about you ?

Ophélia Labardacq

Ophelia B&W july 2017

The Dr Audrey Richards’ pamphlet collection – as detailed by Ophelia, volunteer @AfrStudiesLib

From the start, the huge amount of knowledge contained in the Audrey Richards’ donation boxes was obvious. As a new volunteer at the Centre of African Studies Library, I felt impressed (and a little bit nervous) when I first saw these papers, results of long years of research, and many different collaborations. In other words, it was a truly honorary pleasure to get to touch what I had in front of me and to discover Audrey Richards’ centres of interests.

The papers had to be listed and, if it was tricky at the beginning, I have to say I had the time of my life with these five boxes (Patrick Swayze was sadly elsewhere). Little by little, I felt I started to discover Dr. Audrey Richards, not only as the scientist we know within her books and research, but the person too : a person, with her very own interests and passions who kept for years papers and books which were sent to her. Going over her donation boxes made me feel special in a particular way, it was a chance to get to know someone who did so much in her life without even talking to her. It was like a big puzzle, and I wanted to gradually add its pieces. So yes, I was twitchy when I first started to open these boxes ; I was twitchy because I didn’t want to make any mistakes ; I was twitchy because eh, I was (and still am) a newbie so it was likely I would do something wrong. It took me some time, it took me some books, it took me some papers, to really understand what was going on and what I had in my hands. I was not meant to be an archives factory ; I was meant to see, to touch, to read and – most important – to enjoy that.

The first box I needed to catalogue was called MS RICH 2 (MS RICH 1 was fortuitously found soon after that). This box, along with the previous one, was an anthology of everything that didn’t really fit in the other boxes. From a chapter about Marriage in Northern Rhodesia to an article around Witchcraft and Sorcery, I think I had little stars in my eyes by the end of the day. What was brilliant was the diversity contained in one simple cardboard box; some papers were with annotations, some not, some were written in English, some were written in French… Two other boxes, South Africa and East Africa, were more structured in their composition as they were consolidated around specific parts of Africa. But fear not, they were as diversified as the first ones, touching a lot of different subjects (political, social, cultural). Another box, the last one, was called General ; although there were not any specific locations, all the articles and papers found inside were about customs and social systems.

Then, I had to write a short biography about Dr. Audrey Richards and had the opportunity to meet Dr. Ray Abrahams who knew her personally. I had the opportunity to go through his own boxes of donated materials and my very first “impressed-feeling” came back quickly. Meeting such a great Anthropological figure gave me goosebumps (and my cheeks were certainly blushing a bit).

Being a Volunteer at the Centre for African Studies Library is honestly the best professional experience I’ve ever had. It has given me the feeling of being part of something bigger, to help students and researchers by providing them with more resources.  Volunteering has given me more focus in my career path, and I think that everybody should have at least a taste of this great experience.

ophelia

Ophélia Labardacq is a volunteer at the African Studies Library, she will start an internship at the Schlumberger Institute in August, alongside starting her Masters in Library & Information Management at Sheffield.

For more information on this archive collection, visit the “Featured Archive Collection” box on our LibGuide.

 

Major newspaper archives – trial access

ejournals@cambridge

Trial access is now available until 20 March 2017 to historical newspaper archives :

Daily Mail – http://infotrac.galegroup.com/default/cambuni?db=DMHA

The Telegraph – http://infotrac.galegroup.com/default/cambuni?db=TGRH

Financial Times – http://infotrac.galegroup.com/default/cambuni?db=FTHA

British Library Newspapers (adding access to collections III, IV, V; the University currently has access to collections I and II) – http://infotrac.galegroup.com/default/cambuni?db=BNCN

Please note that all these collections are accessible through Gale (Artemis) Primary Sources:

http://infotrac.galegroup.com/itweb/cambuni?db=GDC

Please send your feedback on these archives and what this access means to you to   ejournals@lib.cam.ac.uk    Thank you.

MARRIED IN A COLLEGE CHAPEL. – For the first time for over two centuries a marriage was celebrated yesterday in the chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge.  The contracting parties were Miss Gertrude Maud Butler, daughter of Dr. H. Montagu Butler, the master of Trinity, and Mr. B. M. Fletcher, of Dorking.  The Bishop of Ely officiated.

Daily Mail (London, England),Thursday, December 19, 1901, Issue 1768, p.

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New @AfrStudiesLib resource: Extracts 1876-1901 concerning Uganda

The Centre of African Studies Library is pleased to announce that a ‘Description’ and detailed ‘Finding Aid’ are now available for the following archived resource via the library’s Libguide:  http://libguides.cam.ac.uk/africanstudies/archives 

The ‘Intelligencer’ was an annual publication pertaining mostly to missionaries and their activities published in London by the Church Missionary Society. As a source of reprinted private letters or extracts of official public statements, newspaper articles and parliamentary debates, their value to historians of religion or perhaps to the historiography of imperialism are significant.

A.M. MacKay_and_Stanley.png

Letter from Alexander Murdoch Mackay inspired by the legendary exploits of Dr. David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley; reprinted in the Church Missionary Intelligencer (May 1890, p.318).  The section is entitled ‘Alexander Mackay in Memoriam’ and was written soon after his passing away on February 4th, 1890, near the southern shores of Lake Victoria.  He had died from a malarial fever.

What has recently been named ‘Extracts concerning Uganda’ were originally compiled by the late Professor D. A. LowThey were selected by him for their connection to the region that would become the British Uganda Protectorate in 1894 and are distinguished by their unique collection of material from historical sources spanning a significant period in the history of Uganda. This resource consists mostly of reprinted correspondence (often with introductions and commentaries by the various editors) and begins with a proposal for one of the earliest of the organized missions to the area around Lake Victoria.

Professor D.A. Low was the Emeritus Smuts Professor of History of the British Commonwealth at the University of Cambridge.  During his academic career, he published many works on imperialism (and the nationalist struggles that followed) including the following:

Low, D.A. (2009) Fabrication of Empire: the British and the Uganda Kingdoms, 1890-1902 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

His collection of extracts is thus valued and have been preserved in the Centre of African Studies Library archives.  They are an extremely useful resource available to students and researchers upon request.  Indeed, I was recently required to delve into this wonderful collection myself when researching and compiling the associated ‘description and finding aid’ for library users.  The roller-coaster ride of events contained within certainly proved enlightening:  a steady stream of observations and proposals rapidly appeared to gain momentum, building quickly to an ominous river in my mind as I followed the turbulence of Ugandan history; through those Western eyes at least.  Although they only form part of the story, some of the letters are written with a certain passion and wit that excites the imagination or perhaps the latent adventurer that may lurk within us all: and it was interesting to note that the words of those first courageous men – that had accepted the fateful recommendation of Henry Morton Stanley to save the Kingdom of Buganda, ‘Pearl of Africa’ – are later joined by a trickle of female voices, clamouring to be heard.

Guest Blogger: David Radcliffe

(David currently works for the Centre of South Asian Studies Library via Cambridge University’s Temporary Employment Service.  He is also currently a volunteer at the Centre of African Studies Library.)