Jaffna Protestant digital archive project

The Tamil Protestant community of the Jaffna Peninsula has left an indelible mark on Sri Lanka’s modern history. These sources contribute to how we understand ritual, textual, and embodied Christianity in Sri Lanka and South India. However, considerable amount of printed and manuscript materials held in private collections were lost to war‐related phenomena.

During the island’s British period (1796‐1948), the encounter between Jaffna’s Tamil literati and Protestant missionaries from England and the United States produced a deluge of printed material. Enabled by the establishment of the peninsula’s first printing presses, remarkable amounts of Jaffna‐based Tamil printed material circulated through the region, from myriad Protestant religious tracts, and the island’s first Tamil‐language newspaper, to important Saivite publications that helped catalyse the so‐called Hindu Revival. The most significant challenge to the preservation of these works has been Sri Lanka’s civil war. A considerable amount of printed and manuscript material was held in private collections lost to war‐related displacement, migration, and the widespread destruction of family homes. The project was a pilot survey project. The team surveyed ten institutional and three private archives in the region, which revealed 20,000 pages of manuscript. The project digitised 7,153 pages from five collections. The project trained two Programme Co-ordinators and two Programme Assistants in digitisation, as well as 20 Jaffna university students, librarians and community members. The project created a catalogue of all material found.

Project Details

Location: Sri Lanka, Southern Asia, Asia Organiser(s): Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) Project partner(s): Columbia University Funder(s): Arcadia Funding received: £10,012 Commencement Date: 09/2015 Project Status: Completed
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