1. About the Collection (below)
Most of the Latin American material at the ISA was donated to the Institute by the Contemporary Archive on Latin America upon its closure in 1986, and consists of around 60 boxes of pamphlets, posters, government and NGO reports and miscellaneous journals. Although every country in the region is represented, there is a particularly rich collection of Chilean material covering both the build-up to and the aftermath of the 1973 coup, including election posters for Salvador Allende and pamphlets written by apologists for the Pinochet regime. Inevitably the collection is predominantly in Spanish and Portuguese, though there is a significant proportion of English language material.
The political archives held by the ICS encompass more than 270 boxes of material from over 60 countries, including current Commonwealth members, ex-members and even ex-colonies of other imperial powers. They mainly date from the 1960s and 1970s, and as a consequence for many countries they cover the hugely significant period of the transition to independence. The success of the Southern African Materials Project means that this region is particularly well represented, with materials from an extraordinarily wide variety of different political parties, trade unions and pressure groups having been preserved. There are also large collections for the other dominions, as well as for India and various Caribbean states.
Besides the interest the contents of these collections will have for researchers there is also the question of their nature as ephemera, which in many ways provides the most coherent justification for a cross-institute project of this type. Heretoforth the study of the importance of ephemera as a means of information dissemination has been largely neglected, and the wide range of different media available in the two political archives make them an invaluable resource for those seeking to redress this situation. For instance, it would be possible to study the way political parties from both Latin America and the Commonwealth used pamphlets, newletters and posters to convey different messages in different ways.
With the cataloguing complete all these materials can now be searched online, whilst contact has been made with as many of the organisations represented in the collection as possible with the intention of reactivating the collecting process.
Anyone interested in the project, or anyone with any experience of similar projects they wish to share should contact Danny Millum at email@example.com .
1. Background to the Project (below)
The Political Archives Project arose from a successful bid from the libraries of the Institutes of Commonwealth and Latin American Studies to the University of London's Vice-Chancellor's Development Fund. The purpose of the 2.5 year project, to begin in April 2003, was to catalogue political archive material held in the two Institutes and present it as a cohesive virtual collection. The initial specifications were as follows:
1.To employ a cataloguer for two years to catalogue the material according to international bibliographic standards and make it available on the School's public access catalogue (SASCAT). This will involve approximately 18 months work at ICS and 6 months at ILAS. Throughout this period, the cataloguer will also be responsible for noting material which should also be recorded as items of archival importance.
2. To employ an archivist for 4 months to oversee the addition of these marked archive records to the CALM database at ICS. This database would then link to that of the AIM25 project, which lists and promotes archives nationally. It will also form the basis of the searchable database for the project website. The implementation of software which will allow the CALM database to provide an online, searchable database.
3. The creation, with a consultant, of a project website, linked to that of each Institute. This will include a searchable database. The intention is to to become part of a network of resources for research in this area, linking the pages to, and being linked from sites such as:
4. A one day academic workshop to launch the project. It is envisaged that this will include speakers on resources for political research, the importance of ephemera, and the technical aspects of the creation of the website.
Whilst the main objectives listed above have been completed, some evolution also occured during the course of the project.
1. Following an initial overview of the collection it was decided that it would be counterproductive to mark and remove items on grounds of archival importance, in terms of the coherency of the collection and also because of the nature of the materials that were actually discovered. As a consequence it was decided that the appointment of an archivist would not be necessary.
2. It was instead decided to make archival level descriptions at collection-level, which was to be done by the project officer, whose contract was as a consequence extended for an additional six month period (using the funds previously set aside for the employment of an archivist).
3. Following a successful bid to the Joint Information Services Committee (JISC) extra funding became available to add collection-level descriptions to the Archives Hub as well as to AIM25 and CALM, and as this fitted with the initial remit of improving online access to the collections this additional archival work was accepted.
4. The need to develop the existing CALM database into a searchable online system, coupled with the increasing links between the various Institutes of the School of Advanced Study and the University of London Library meant that the project became involved with a working group which aimed to develop a unified online archival database.
5. The importance of re-activating these collections and the contacts that had produced them became particularly apparent, and as a consequence more time was set aside both for the collection of new materials and also for the formulation of a collection policy to ensure that this process continued after the end of the project itself. As most of these new materials were being acquired in electronic form it also became imperative that this policy took on board the experiences of other institutions' preservation policies for digital materials.
6. As part of the effort to promote the collections the project officer took part in the African Studies Association (ASA) Conference in September 2004, delivering a paper on the background to and effects of the process of selection of the materials in the collection. A similar paper was delivered in July 2005 at the Society of Caribbean Studies (SCS) Conference.
7. The project website was launched in July 2005 at the 'Political ephemera from the Commonwealth and Latin America' workshop, organised by the project officer and his supervisors from the ISA and ICOMM libraries. More details of the content of the workshop and the speakers who attended can be found here.
It is to be hoped that the information here will be useful not only in terms of describing this particular project, but also as an indication of how the objectives and deliverables of any project can change as it progresses. Further information about recent developments can be found here, whilst any queries should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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