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date: 24 March 2019

Digital Sources for the History of the Horn of Africa

Summary and Keywords

The Horn of Africa has an exceptional cultural heritage, starting with its manuscript sources, which are among the most important on the continent. It is a heritage that is rich but scattered throughout the region and not always easily accessible, prompting researchers to rely on cutting-edge technology. Since the 1970s, photography and microfilm have been key for preserving this especially valuable heritage. In the Horn of Africa, the “digital turn” has been the latest development in the close relationship between technology and research. For Ethiopian manuscript studies, the advent of digitization has meant more than simply improving old techniques. A new generation of projects is experimenting with innovative methods of research made possible by digital technology. The purpose is no longer just to provide digital copies of manuscripts but to explore the possibilities that computerization offers to study documents and other historical sources.

Increasingly competitive prices and low operating costs have made the digital revolution attractive even for African institutions, which, in recent years, have sought answers to the pressing needs of preserving and enhancing their historical sources. These technological developments have significantly broadened the range of sources investigated. While important, manuscripts represent only a part of the documentary heritage of the Horn of Africa. Numerous archives and a long-overlooked print culture offer equally interesting access points for studying the region.

The experience gained, though temporally circumscribed, has highlighted a number of more or less predictable problems. The projects to date, although they have often yielded only partial results, have highlighted the wealth of sources still present in the Horn of Africa and the way in which digital technology is making a valuable contribution to their preservation. Access remains perhaps the most critical issue. In the Horn of Africa, as in other African regions, digitization does not necessarily lead to Internet access.

Keywords: historical sources, digital humanities, manuscripts, preservation, colonialism, book history, Horn of Africa, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan

The Horn of Africa, as the German social anthropologist Günther Schlee notes, is only apparently a geographical term. The extent to which researchers can modularize its spaces, shrinking or expanding their boundaries as needed, betrays an arbitrariness that shifts the context from geography to politics.1 What define the most appropriate configuration of these spaces are often the issues under consideration. The countries covered here are Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan. The histories of these countries are closely interconnected, and all together they form the classical core of the Horn of Africa. Some doubts might arise from including the two Sudans. Historically, it is hard to imagine the Horn of Africa without the two Sudans, and this perception gains force when attention shifts to the issue of historical sources.2

The emphasis is on scholarly sources that exist in digital form and on African digital ventures. Unfortunately, much of the material reported here is not currently available online, and often, its only possible use is in-house. Although the cost of some phases of the digitization process has reduced considerably over the years, the management of the chain that leads a document from analogue to digital format and then to its inclusion on the Internet presents notable problems. For many African countries, it is still too costly and complicated to introduce and maintain content on the Internet.3 These difficulties have not prevented many countries in the Horn of Africa from seeing in digitization a way to solve the issues of preserving and accessing documents; hence, many institutions have gained experience in the field of digitization.

Ever since the origins of the Internet, there has been a need to bring some order into the tumultuous digital universe. The major African studies centers have long maintained directories of online resources about Africa. Over time, the exponential growth of online material (but also of what was removed) has made it hard to maintain these sites, many of which have discontinued updates. However, it is significant that the aim of one of the first Web directories devoted to Africa, Africa Research Central, was to improve access to primary African sources. When the site was presented in 1998, the idea was welcomed with great interest, and until 2004 Africa Research Central had a following among scholars.4 Currently, Africa South of the Sahara: Selected Internet Resources is the best directory of online resources on Africa.5 At a time characterized by the disinvestment in this type of resource, the Nordiska Afrikainstitutet [Nordic Africa Institute (NAI), Uppsala] has made the countertrend choice of editing A Guide to Africa on the Internet, an excellent up-to-date Web directory of research-oriented resources on Africa.6 There have been a few cases of efficiently managed and organized, and regularly updated, websites devoted to online resources of a particular Horn of Africa country. Sudan Internet Resources,managed by the Sudan Open Archive, is one of these.7

The amount of information contained on these websites, capable of offering fairly well-edited displays of materials stored in North America and Europe, allows the focus here to be on a series of digitization initiatives conducted mainly (but not exclusively) in the Horn of Africa and faced with the problem of protecting and enhancing portions of local historical heritage. These experiences are illustrated in three sections, according to document type:

  1. 1. Manuscripts

  2. 2. Archival materials

  3. 3. Printed sources

Some document types (manuscripts, audio-visual materials, newspapers, etc.) can be held in repositories that cut across these categories.

Ethiopia, which boasts more than 2,000 years of history documented in locally written sources, and which has never been colonized, cohabits with the two youngest states on the Continent, Eritrea and South Sudan. Somalia's implosion, often considered a typical example of a failed state, has created a self-declared state (Somaliland), an autonomous state (Puntland), and the Federal Republic of Somalia. Djibouti, independent since 1977, has based its stability on a delicate ethnic and political equilibrium. In this context, history and memory have been powerful tools for building a nationalist ethos and creating identities.8 For countries whose identity is a particularly sensitive issue, historical documents bear a crucial weight of proof, and their preservation is of primary importance.

All countries in the region have considered historical documentation as a key element in building a national identity. It is no accident that the new millennium has seen considerable resources allocated to strengthening the institutions responsible for collecting and organizing historical documentation, despite chronic budgetary problems. In 2006, the National Library and Archives of Ethiopia moved to a specially built site, relaunching its functions of collecting, cataloging, preserving, and making available the treasures of Ethiopia’s Literary Heritage.9 Also in Ethiopia, the prestigious Institute of Ethiopian Studies will soon move to a new site, construction of which is under way.

In 2007, in Khartoum, the new National Record Office (Dār al-Wathā'iq al-Qawmiyya) became operational. In Juba, in 2013, the South Sudan National Archive project was presented.10 The same year, Somalia undertook a project to rebuild its National Library.11 In downtown Hargeisa, the first floor of the Somaliland National Library is being completed, thanks to a fundraising campaign by the Somali diaspora abroad. In nearby Djibouti, in 2016, an agreement was signed with the Chinese government for the construction of the new Library and National Archives. The only country that did not have an official national archive and library, Eritrea, established as far back as 1979 its Research and Information Center of Eritrea (RICE), which became, in 1991, the Research and Documentation Center (RDC), an institute that functions as a de facto archive and national library, engaged in the comprehensive job of collecting and storing historical documents.


The territories that form Eritrea and Ethiopia have a unique written heritage. The use of writing is documented from the 1st millennium bce, and the arrival of Christianity in the second half of the 4th century ce further strengthened this tradition. Mostly written in the Ge‘ez language and in Amharic, the manuscripts kept in the churches and monasteries of the region are estimated to number about 200,000.12

The value of these documents has led to their dispersion. Scholars estimate that some 10,000 manuscripts have found their way outside of Ethiopia.13 Four libraries have particularly important collections: the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the British Library, the Vatican Apostolic Library of Rome, and the Staatsbibliothek Preußischer Kulturbesitz in Berlin. Generally, these collections can rely on inventories and studies that reconstruct the stages through which the various collections have formed.14 In most cases these sites have begun to digitize some of the manuscripts and, in different ways, offer access to the materials. There have been concerted efforts to create a general catalog of these manuscripts, most notably the Menestrel database, which has been difficult because new manuscripts are constantly coming forth from public and private collections.15 Starting in 2005, Steve Delamarter began scanning manuscripts from largely unknown North American collections. Within two years, the project digitized 245 codices and 294 magic scrolls, a number that has steadily increased since then.16 The drain of antiquities from Ethiopia has always been a serious problem, to the point that in the 1960s Stanislaw Chojnacki, the librarian and curator of the Museum of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, created a Committee for the Preservation and Restoration of Old Ethiopian Paintings, aimed at combating this practice.17 The problem of the dispersion of manuscripts remains serious, even though scholars have often admonished that a manuscript “extracted from its context, deprived of its function … becomes a simple museum or library object, namely a corpse subjected to aggressive philological examination or aesthetic attention.”18 Digitization could encourage a policy of restoring manuscripts to their original locations, although such practices are still quite rare.19

Since the late 20th century, microfilm has been the most widely used resource for archival preservation in sub-Saharan Africa.20 For Ethiopian manuscript studies, the most successful microfilming project has been that of the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library (now the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, St. John's University, Collegeville, Minnesota), which has microfilmed 9,238 manuscripts since the 1990s.21

Digital preservation has given a new impetus to such programs, and campaigns for digitizing collections are ongoing: for example, the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme has digitized several monastic archives in Ethiopia. In such projects, digitization is aimed mainly at preserving and circulating documents.

The Hiob Ludolf Centre for Ethiopian Studies (HLCES) at the University of Hamburg has promoted a series of projects in which computer technology supports new methods of research and more complex textual analyses by providing scholars with tools for quantitative and qualitative data analysis. The projects launched thus far are based on multidisciplinary research teams, including archaeologists, book conservators, historians, linguists, and philologists, among others. Their aim is to promote information exchange and knowledge transfer through multidisciplinary teamwork and the organization of workshops and conferences. Particular attention is being paid to the systematic mapping of texts and their geographical distribution according to time, language, and regions. This new generation of projects will enable the field of Ethiopian studies to enjoy the many benefits of the digital humanities, with an array of tools for enriching document interpretation (Figure 1). These pilot projects have opened up new vistas for research but have not meant the end of more traditional methods; organizational complexity and the cost of such projects still limit their implementation to a few institutions.

Digital Sources for the History of the Horn of AfricaClick to view larger

Figure 1. ʿUrā Masqal, Tǝgrāy, Ethiopia, MS Ethio-SPaRe UM-039, ff. 12v–13r, Fragment of the History of the Patriarchate of Alexandria in the Aksumite Collection.

Courtesy of Hiob Ludolf Centre for Ethiopian Studies, Asien-Afrika-Institut, Universität Hamburg.

The research on Ethiopian manuscripts began with and has continued to focus on texts of the Christian tradition. However, over the years it has become clear that the Islamic communities in the Horn of Africa have also produced and circulated written texts. In Ethiopia alone, Muslims represent, according to the 2007 census, 33.9 percent of the population, a figure that many consider to be underestimated.22 As far back as the 1920s, Enrico Cerulli reported the existence of a written tradition within the Islamic community and published some short Islamic texts in Amharic. This endeavor has been embraced and developed by other scholars, including the University of Copenhagen’s recent project, which offers a comprehensive picture of the Islamic literary history of the Horn of Africa.23 In its form and approaches this project relies in many respects on the experiences of HLCES. The full inclusion of the Islamic tradition of the Horn of Africa is fundamental and fills a crucial gap in the history of the transmission of knowledge in the Horn of Africa. Digitization is the basis for a multidisciplinary analysis of texts, and it is significant that the IslHornAfr [Islam in the Horn of Africa] includes, in addition to manuscripts, printed texts, for the sake of achieving a more accurate reconstruction of the history of Islamic thought in the region.

Archival Sources

The wealth of archives in certain African countries and the growth of African history as a discipline, especially since the 1960s, have largely demolished the false preconception that most of the African countries are poor in archives and have demonstrated that there is a rich documentary and archival heritage in Africa.24

The years since the 1960s and 1970s have seen the cataloging of archive and bibliographic sources in various European countries.25 Inventories and source catalogs on Africa and the countries of the Horn have been published in Europe on a fairly regular basis and continue, albeit at a lower rate, to record new releases: Great Britain, France, and Italy, the former colonial powers in the Horn, have extensive official and personal archives of interest to scholars.26 The materials stored in Western archives have used digital technology in various ways: the Archivio Storico Diplomatico del Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale [Diplomatic Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MAECI)] in Rome, by placing inventories of African archive collections online, opted for a technically simple and unsophisticated solution, but one that has been of significant help for scholarly research.27 The Sudan Archive at the University of Durham Library opted for a more ambitious strategy and, since 2009, has allowed online consultation of a wealth of documents.28 In both cases, access is given to materials that are stored in the two archives. The philosophy of “Archive Somalia,” created in 2012 by the Centro Interdipartimentale di Studi Somali dell’Università RomaTre [Interdepartmental Center for Somali Studies at RomaTre University], differs: the collected documentation is the result of research conducted in various locations and gathered in this archive.29

Experience so far has clearly shown that only a part of digitized historical documentation ends up online. In many instances, the material produced remains available only for in-house consultation. This is usually linked to the need to exercise greater control over the circulation of digitized documents. In other cases, there are technical, organizational, and economic factors that make Web publishing problematic. Important digitization initiatives thus end up being supported by distribution channels that are not always up to par.30

Recently, the debate over the fate of colonial archives has highlighted the practices of selection, destruction, or migration of the most sensitive documents. If in the Horn of Africa it does not seem appropriate to speak of an actual Operation Legacy, the systematic destruction or hiding of colonial files run by the British Colonial Office, it is nevertheless true that there have been several instances of loss, destruction, displacement, and concealment of documents.31 This situation has reinforced the perception that, even in this region, little has survived of the archival heritage of the last two centuries, and what has remained is of limited historical interest. Yet from the field there continue to emerge clear signals that challenge such conclusions. Many scholars have confirmed from their experiences the existence of a wealth of public and private archives in many Horn of Africa countries. In 1981, Kjell Hødnebø published a report on the archives of the Anglo-Egyptian period in Equatoria (South Sudan).32 Between the 1970s and the 1990s, the University of Bergen and the National Record Office (NRO) of Sudan launched a series of projects for identifying and reproducing all kinds of manuscripts: land charters, letters, diplomatic correspondence, local court transcripts, landsale contracts, and the like.33 In Ethiopia some local archives have been rediscovered, including the archive of the Dessie Municipality (South Wallo) and the documents preserved in the private home museum of Abdullahi Ali Sherif in Harar.34

In Eritrea as well, numerous researchers have reported the existence of interesting archival collections. Among the most important are the archives, described by Irma Taddia, of the Commissariat of Akälä Guzai, which preserve tens of thousands of documents covering the period from the Italian to the Ethiopian domination.35 Documentation of another regional archive, in Sahel (after 1996, Northern Red Sea region), was published by Anthony D’Avray, who in 1943 was appointed political officer of the British Military Administration in the Sahel District.36 Other research has highlighted the presence of archives at the High Court of Asmara and the Islamic Court in Massawa.37

This wealth of local archival heritage is partly explained by the way the decolonization process worked. Italy, for example, lost control of Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia following a rapid military defeat that made it impossible to carry out at that time such a complex and expensive undertaking as the repatriation of archives. The “Archivio Eritrea” itself, preserved in Rome at MAECI, and representing, in size and importance, one of the most important archives for the history of Italian colonialism, was at first abandoned in Eritrea. In 1951, ten years after Italy’s withdrawal and subsequent to an accord with the British authorities, it was repatriated.38 Moreover, the archives have a crucial administrative function, which makes any transfer problematic because it tends to deprive an office of important tools for its proper operation. Registry, cadastre, and notarial archives, for example, are all structures that require the use of documents that cover long periods of time; the conservation and integrity of many archives have often been guaranteed by their usefulness.

Such heterogeneous heritage, often scattered over a wide territory, has begun to be the focus of various digitization projects. Since 2011, the International Institute of Social History (IISH, Amsterdam) has inaugurated in Addis Ababa an African Desk with the mandate of preserving social history documents from Africa. Mainly concerned with the issues of labor and social history in contemporary Africa, IISH has digitized the workers’ archive of the Bahir Dahir Textile Factory in Ethiopia in cooperation with Bahir Dar University.39 A similar project has been launched for the Dire Dawa Railway workshop.40 In Amsterdam, IISH hosts a large collection of documents relating to the Communist Party of the Sudan and the Sudanese Republican Brothers. In 2004, IISH received a new set of documents from the Communist Party of the Sudan, Cairo Department (1970–2003), and from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA, 1990–2003), both of which are being digitized.41 Archival documents of the Sudanese trade unions have been the focus of two projects sponsored by the British Library Endangered Archives Programme.42

Radio and television programs have been an important means of communication for all the countries of the Horn of Africa. In many cases this documentation has been preserved and, because of the instability of many of the audiovisual media, their digitization has been prioritized. The Research and Documentation Center (RDC, Eritrea) has been at the forefront of digitization of audio-visual records; since the late 1990s, it has been migrating analogue records to digital ones. The audiovisual collection of the RDC includes the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front radio programs (1979–1991) and part of the Eritrean Liberation Front broadcasts. In 2012, the University of Bergen signed a letter of intent with the Sudanese Ministry of Information for preserving and digitizing the audiovisual archives of the Sudan Region and Television Corporation, which date back to the 1940s.43 In Somalia, the Radio Mogadishu audio archive (established in 1951) has survived the upheaval of civil war, and its approximately 35,000 reels have begun to be digitized.44

Some archives and libraries hold rich collections of audiovisual materials. Since 2008, the Sudan Archive of the University of Durham has started digitizing its collections. All cinefilms in its possession are already being digitized, and work on its massive 50,000-image photographic archive is in progress.45

The Horn of Africa has been at the center of recurring political crises, vast humanitarian operations, and numerous development projects. The documentation produced has been enormous and, as pointed out, in many cases has considerable research value.46 The digital archive of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Washington, DC) has published a series of documents on the Ogaden War (1977–1978).47 The idea of preserving the materials produced by Operation Lifeline Sudan (1989–2005) was at the center of the Sudan Open Archive, designed and implemented by the Rift Valley Institute (RVI). Over the years, other documents have been added to this original nucleus, making it one of the most interesting and rich achievements on the current scene.48 The Library of Congress, with Crisis in Darfur 2006 Web Archive, further developed this line of research by giving access to a collection of nongovernmental organization (NGO) websites, which in 2006 dealt with the crisis in Darfur.49 This initiative represents a rare example of Web archiving (the retaining of digital copies of websites) in the Horn of Africa. By treating “born-digital” materials, this type of online archive is likely to become more and more common.

Print Culture

Starting in the 1920s, Ethiopian studies began to focus on the print culture of Ethiopia and Eritrea. What aroused the interest of scholars were locally printed works of special historical and literary interest. Among the first to study this production was Enrico Cerulli, who began to publish on a regular basis reports on publications in Ethiopia.50 Luigi Fusella and, later, Lanfranco Ricci continued this monitoring work up to the early 1950s.51

Stephen Wright, after working at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, was the first librarian at the National Library of Ethiopia and the appointed Ahmaric book librarian at the newly created Library of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies (1961). To Wright we owe the first bibliography of books printed in Ethiopia and Eritrea before the Italian occupation of 1935–1936.52 The term incunabula used to refer to these books has been criticized, but it has the undoubted merit of conveying the preciousness and uniqueness of these printed documents. The idea of cataloging this heritage was resumed and completed by Stefan Strelcyn, who in the 1970s considerably increased the number of identified titles.53 Kiflom Tseggai further updated Wright’s and Strelcyn’s results. Conceived in the 1980s but never published because of various hardships, Tseggai's bibliography is now available on the Web.54

Because materials were published in limited editions and distributed through very different channels, it is not easy to trace their history in the Horn of Africa.55 However, the effort is repaid by the information provided by Tseggai’s bibliography and by its ability to highlight the social and cultural changes that have swept through Africa from the second half of the 19th century until today. The rarity of these materials makes them excellent candidates for digitization. This is what happened in Eritrea, where, between 2009 and 2011, the University of Pavia and the Research and Documentation Center of Asmara (RDC) carried out a project to digitize Eritrea’s print heritage from 1867, the year of the first printed document, to 1941, the year Italian domination ceased (Figure 2).

Digital Sources for the History of the Horn of AfricaClick to view larger

Figure 2. Research and Documentation Centre, Tiro a Volo’s Repository, Asmara. July 2016.

Photo courtesy of Massimo Zaccaria.

The over 110,000 digitized pages and approximately 750 titles identified have been deposited with the RDC and the Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche e Sociali dell’Università di Pavia [Department of Political and Social Sciences of the University of Pavia]. The original project planned for their publication online, but the mass of discovered documents limited the activities to digitization alone. As in many other instances, the stages that take a document from acquisition to online publication proved too expensive for institutions facing continual material and organizational impediments. However, Eritrea remains the only country in the Horn that can boast a precise mapping of its print production, at least until 1941, and that has scanned a good part of this heritage (Figure 3).56

Digital Sources for the History of the Horn of AfricaClick to view larger

Figure 3. Libro di Lettura in Lingua Tigrè Trascritto con Caratteri Italiani per Ordine del Governo della Colonia Eritrea. Parte prima—Chĕtab nai higa Tĕgre ĕb fĕdelat italian letcheteba Meri le’atḥattemeiu. Qedam chĕfĕl, [Tigre language reading book transcribed with Italian characters by order of the Government of Colonia Eritrea].

Photo courtesy of Massimo Zaccaria.

Although the Electronic Sudan Library has not achieved this level of exhaustiveness, it is nevertheless interesting. The website gathers digital copies of publications preserved at the University of Khartoum’s Sudan Library. The materials placed on the Internet largely consist of texts published in Sudan that are often unavailable outside the country. The success of the initiative will depend on its ability to augment regularlyy a collection that now comprises 403 monographs.

The Digital Somali Library at Indiana University in Bloomington offers access to 137 Somali-language books chiefly published in the 1970s and 1980s. It also provides full access to a unique collection of seventy Somali posters.

The bibliographies of local printed works were soon followed by the history of print in Horn of Africa countries. At least for Sudan and Ethiopia, we have fairly precise reconstructions, and there is no lack of in-depth studies of certain periodicals, genres, and periods.57 One of the problems of these is perhaps their very dynamism. The increase in literacy, the proliferation of print shops, and in some cases, the reduction of press restrictions have favored the exponential growth of the publishing market. Monitoring this market remains problematic; in many cases, book buying trips are still the best way to keep updated on a rich but often anarchic production, as some studies in the local publishing market show.58 Special attention has also been paid to the study of the Islamic print culture in Ethiopia, a line of study begun by Hussein Ahmed and brought forward by Alessandro Gori.59

In recent years, some Horn of Africa scholars have begun to follow closely the work done on these sources in West Africa, which has proved to be a very fruitful and inspiring experience.60 It is very likely that the attention paid to these sources will also stimulate a greater interest in their digitization.

Discussion of the Literature

The literature on digital sources for the history of the Horn of Africa is still in its infancy. The debate on the contribution of computer science to Ethiopian studies was initiated by Manfred Kropp in the early 1990s and has shown a growing vitality in the 2010s, when several digitization projects have been undertaken.61 A first series of contributions highlighted the possibilities of conserving and accessing documents offered by digitization. Explorations were made of the possible beneficiaries and the applications of digital technologies in the various regional contexts.62 Without significantly contributing to the debate on the ethical aspects of the digital revolution in Africa, the experience gained so far in the Horn of Africa highlights the central role played by local institutions.63 The most common, fairly predictable, but relevant recommendation is to turn digital initiatives into effective partnerships with African scholars and cultural operators.64

Local newspapers represent a crucial source for researchers, and have been the objects of particular attention in other parts of Africa, leading to the formation of a substantial corpus on microfilm. In the Horn, the attention given to the local press has encouraged the appearance of studies dedicated to the origin of the local press and newspapers, but lacking still is a precise map of what has appeared over the years in most of the countries.65 Nevertheless, the Sudan Government Gazettes (1899–1970) and the Bullettino Ufficiale della Colonia Eritrea (1892–1941), two invaluable source of information, have been fully digitized (Figure 4).66

Digital Sources for the History of the Horn of AfricaClick to view larger

Figure 4. A rare copy of Yäṭor Wäre [War news], a journal, in Amharic, was edited by the Italian Legation in Addis Ababa in 1916–1918.

Photo courtesy of Massimo Zaccaria.

Especially interesting are reports about the digitization campaigns undertaken, contributions that allow one to grasp some of the difficulties associated with the particular conditions in which the job of digitizing takes place and that illustrate possible solutions. Tomaszewski and Gervers discuss this in their article on digitizing the monastic manuscripts of May Wäyni (Ethiopia), as does Steve Delamarter in his article on the digitization campaign he coordinated of Ethiopian manuscripts held in public and private libraries in North America and Europe.67 As for Islamic manuscripts, there are four field mission reports about southwestern Ethiopia, Djibouti, Tadjoura, and Awsa written within the framework of the Islam in the Horn of Africa project.68

The process of reconstituting and digitizing the Eritrean print heritage (1867–1941) was illustrated by Massimo Zaccaria in an article included in the volume marking the fiftieth anniversary of SCOLMA (the UK Libraries and Archives Group on Africa).69 Although not always easily accessible, there are very interesting articles by African experts on current experiences in the Horn of Africa. For example, Yohannes Abraha focuses on the studies in Eritrea carried out by the Asmara Research and Documention Center (RDC); another critical overview and evaluation of the many digitization activities of the RDC was presented by Michael Kiflom during the 2016 International Conference on Eritrean Studies (ICES).70 In 2015, the RDC launched the “RORA Eritrean Digital Library,” a platform for digital resources aimed at distributing academic resources to Eritrean institutions of higher education.71 This is a package of educational resources in digital format (courses, lectures, conversations, documentaries, e-books, and digital offline archives); in the hands of the RORA historians, it becomes a tool for getting a better understanding of some of the ideological reference points of the current Eritrean government. On various occasions, Teklemichael T. Wordofa has illustrated and discussed the digitization activities carried out by Addis Ababa University, which has created a Digital Library.72

Some academic journals have paid particular attention to digitization issues in Africa. Over the years, African Research and Documentation, the journal of the UK Libraries and Archives Group on Africa, has taken a keen interest in exploring the relationship between digitization and African studies. Equally important is History in Africa, a journal dedicated to methodological matters about African history that regularly features articles on African archives and sources. Another interesting forum of discussion for digital resources about Africa is the African Journal of Library and Information Sciences.

Two volumes, although not specifically focused on the Horn of Africa, represent an important starting point for the study of digital sources in Africa. The first was edited by Terry Barringer and Marion Wallace and was published under the aegis of the UK Libraries and Archives Group on Africa, which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with this undertaking.73 The twelve essays in this collection offer analyses of the impact of the “digital-turn” on African studies. The second was published to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme and provides an overview of the program’s approach, accomplishments, and impact. Both offer comprehensive and state-of-the-art introductions to the issue of digital sources and African studies.74


The author is indebted to Andreas Admasie (University of Pavia, IISH Amsterdam), Alessandro Bausi (University of Hamburg), Stefano Bellucci (University of Leiden; International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam), Monia Czech (Università di Roma Tre), Sara Fani (University of Copenhagen), Michele Petrone (University of Copenhagen), Saleh Mahmud Idris (National Commission for Higher Education, Eritrea), and Alessandro Volterra (Università di Roma Tre) for their invaluable assistance.


International Conference on African Digital Libraries and Archives (ICADLA).

Since 2009, ICADLA has represented the major African conference on the use of digital technologies for the preservation and access of African cultural and heritage materials. The first conference was held in Addis Ababa in 2009; the papers presented at the four editions of ICADLA are stored on WIRdDSpace, the Institutional Repository of the University of Witwatersrand.


Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF), Département des Manuscrits.

BNF possesses one of the richest Ethiopian Manuscript Collections worldwide. A digitization program is ongoing.

Ethiopic Manuscript Imaging Project (EMIP).

Started in 2005 by Steve Delamarter, the project has the goal of contributing to the preservation and digitization of Ethiopia’s manuscript heritage. To date the project’s website gives access to 350 codices and 340 magic scrolls. EMIP’s website is hosted by the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, the richest resource for the study of Ethiopian manuscripts: more than 11,000 manuscripts are stored in microfilm and digital formats. The library hosts an Ethiopian Study Center curated by Dr. Getatchew Haile.

Hiob Ludolf Centre for Ethiopian Studies, University of Hamburg (HLCES).

Created in 2002, HLCES conducts and coordinates a wide range of projects on the Horn of Africa’s manuscript tradition. The following list includes only projects with a digitization component.

Beta maṣāḥǝft. Die Schriftkultur des christlichen Äthiopiens und Eritreas: Eine multimediale Forschungsumgebun (Beta maṣāḥǝft).

Started in early 2016, this long-term project aims at creating a virtual research environment that will be used to study the manuscript tradition of the Ethiopian and Eritrean Highlands.

Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies (COMSt).

This project was implemented in the period 2009–2014 and aimed at facilitating an interdisciplinary dialogue between scholars of oriental manuscript studies.

Cultural Heritage of Christian Ethiopia, Salvation, Preservation, and Research (Ethio-SPaRe).

Funded by the European Research Council, the project ran from 2009 to 2015. The project fostered information exchange and knowledge transfer, and within its framework a number of conferences and workshop were organized. The project team visited over one hundred sites and digitized over two thousand codices.

From Translation to Creation: Changes in Ethiopic Style and Lexicon from Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages (TraCES).

Funded by the European Research Council, the aim of this five-year project (2014–2019) is to promote a new approach to the study of Ethiopian written heritage using the advances of digital humanities. The project is based on a digitally based corpus of critically established texts and aims to create the first electronic Web-based dictionary of Classical Ethiopic (Ge‘ez).

Islam in the Horn of Africa. A Comparative Literary Approach (IslHornAfr), University of Copenhagen.

This five-year project (2013–2018) has been funded by the European Research Council and aims at the study of the Islamic literary traditions in the Horn of Africa. Texts circulating among Muslims in the Horn of Africa region are identified, listed, and described in a specifically developed database. It considers primarily the manuscript tradition but also printed texts, which are systematically digitized.

Ménestrel. Médiévistes sur le net: Sources, travaux et références en ligne: Ethiopie médiévale.

This ongoing project lists libraries preserving Ethiopian manuscripts; it is organized geographically.

Primary Sources

Archivio Somalia, Centro Studi Somali, Università degli Studi RomaTre.

Created in 2012, the digital archive provides access to a wealth of information about Somalia and the Somali region. The archive has digitized 4,332 documents, including books, articles, audiovisual materials, and photographs.

British Library Endangered Archives Programme (EAP).

Aimed at preserving archival materials in danger of destruction, EAP (founded by Arcadia Foundation) encourages the creation of digital copies of documents. A set of copied materials is deposited at the British Library. Over the years, ten projects have been implemented in Ethiopia and two in the Republic of the Sudan.

Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa University.

Established in 1963, the Institute conducts and coordinates research on the history of Ethiopia. The IES’s manuscript and archives section possesses a rich collection of documents from government offices, monasteries, churches, mosques, and public and private libraries located all over the country. Part of this rich cultural heritage has been digitized: the Ethiopic Manuscript Imaging Project has digitized the Arabic collection; in 2008–2010, the Endangered Archive Programme (EAP286/1/2) digitized more than 650 texts. All materials are available online through the EAP website.75

Sudan Archive Digitisation Project, Durham University’s Sudan Archive.

Founded in 1957, the Sudan Archive at Durham collects and preserves papers of people who served or lived in the Sudan. Since 2008, the Sudan Archive has started digitizing materials across all its rich collections.

Rift Valley Institute.

Sudan Open Archive (SOA).

Created in 2004, SOA offer access to digital copies of books, documents, and literature about the Sudanese region.

South Sudan National Archive Project.

Initiated in 2008, the project is designed to conserve, reorder, catalog, and digitize the historical government records of South Sudan.

Printed Sources

Digital Somali Library, University of Indiana in Bloomington.

Launched in 2006, the Digital Somali Library provides online access to 137 Somali books and to a unique collection of seventy Somali posters.

Research and Documentation Centre (RDC), Asmara.

RDC has conducted interesting digitization projects aimed at the preservation of its collections. Audiovisual records have been digitized along with the complete collection of local printed documents for the period 1867–1941. Only in-house consultation is allowed.

University of Khartoum Repository.

The repository of the University of Khartoum provide access to many digital sources, among them 11,377 electronic theses and dissertations and 409 books coming from the Sudan Library of the University of Khartoum.

Further Reading

Adawa Hassan, Ali, ed. Histoire et Archives de Djibouti et de sa region. Perspectives et enjeux. Paris: l’Harmattan, 2016.Find this resource:

Barringer, Terry, and Marion Wallace, eds. African Studies in the Digital Age. DisConnect? Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014.Find this resource:

Bausi, Alessandro. “La tradizione scrittoria etiopica.” Segno e Testo 6 (2008): 507–557.Find this resource:

Bausi, Alessandro, Alessandro Gori, and Denis Nosnitsin. Essays in Ethiopian Manuscript Studies. Proceedings of the International Conference Manuscripts and Texts, Languages and Contexts: The Transmission of Knowledge in the Horn of Africa Hamburg, July 17–19, 2014. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2015.Find this resource:

d’Alòs-Moner, Martinez. “Traces, a Project for the Digital Study of Classical Ethiopic (Ge’ez) at the University of Hamburg.” Ethiopian Renaissance Journal of Social Sciences and the Humanities 2, no. 2 (2015): 99–101.Find this resource:

Ficquet, Éloi, and Aïssatou Mbodj-Pouye. “Cultures de l’écrit en Afrique: Anciens débats, nouveaux objets.” Annales HSS 4 (2009): 751–764.Find this resource:

Gori, Alessandro. “Between Manuscripts and Books: Islamic Printing in Ethiopia.” In The Book in Africa: Critical Debates. Edited by Caroline Davis and David Johnson, 65–80. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.Find this resource:

Kanyengo, Christine Wamunyima. “The Digital Age and African Studies Scholarship: Promoting Access and Visibility on Information Resources.” African Research and Documentation 118 (2012): 33–43.Find this resource:

Krätli, Graziano. “Between Quandary and Squander: A Brief and Biased Inquiry into the Preservation of West African Arabic Manuscript.” Book History 19 (2016): 399–431.Find this resource:

Limb, Peter. “The Digitization of Africa.” Africa Today 52, no. 2 (2005): 3–19.Find this resource:

Limb, Peter. “The Politics of Digital ‘Reform and Revolution’: Towards Mainstreaming and African Control of African Digitisation.” Innovation: Journal of Appropriate Librarianship and Information Work in Southern Africa 34 (2007): 18–27.Find this resource:

Lusini, Gianfrancesco. “Documenti e biblioteche: Riflessioni sulla salvaguardia del patrimonio filologico dell’Eritrea e dell’Etiopia.” Annali. Istituto Universitario Orientale Napoli 67 (2007): 93–104.Find this resource:

O’Fahey, Rex Sean. Arabic Literature of Africa. Vol. 1: Writings of Eastern Sudanic Africa to c. 1900. Edited by Rex Sean O’Fahey with the assistance of Muhammad Ibrahim Abu Salim. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1994.Find this resource:

Putnam, Lara. “The Transnational and the Text-Searchable: Digitized Sources and the Shadow They Cast.” American Historical Review 121, no. 2 (2016): 377–402.Find this resource:

Rorissa, Abebe, Teklemichael T. Wordofa, & Solomon Teferra. “Initiatives in Digitization and Digital Preservation of Cultural Heritage in Ethiopia.” Annual Review of Cultural Heritage Informatics, 2012–2013 (2014):117–130.Find this resource:

Sato, Shohei. “‘Operation Legacy’: Britain’s Destruction and Concealment of Colonial Records Worldwide.” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 45, no. 4 (2017): 697–719.Find this resource:

Tewalde, Kiflom Tesfamariam. “War and Record Keeping Practices in Eritrea.” African Research and Documentation 84 (2000): 27–32.Find this resource:

Tomaszewski, Jacek, and Michael Gervers. “Technological Aspects of the Monastic Manuscript Collection at May Wäyni, Ethiopia.” In From Dust to Digital. Ten Years of the Endangered Archives Programme. Edited by Kominko Maja, 89–133. Cambridge, UK: Open Book, 2015.Find this resource:

Tschabrun, Susan. “Africa Research Central: A Clearing House of African Primary Sources.” African Research and Documentation 87 (2001): 11–18.Find this resource:

Wion, Anaïs, and Paul Bertrand. “Production, Preservation, and Use of Ethiopian Archives (Fourteenth-Eighteenth Centuries).” Northeast African Studies 11, no. 2 (2011): vii–xvi.Find this resource:

Zaccaria, Massimo. “Writing Letters from the Libyan Front.” In Themes in Modern African History and Culture. Festschrift for Tekeste Negash. Edited by Lars Berge and Irma Taddia, 223–240. Padua: Edizioni, 2013.Find this resource:

Zaccaria, Massimo. “Recovering the African Printed Past: Virtually Re-membering a Dispersed Collection in Eritrea.” In African Studies in the Digital Age: DisConnects? Edited by Terry Barringer and Marion Wallace, 148–162. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014.Find this resource:


(1.) Günther Schlee, “Redrawing the Map of the Horn: The Politics of Difference,” Africa. Journal of the International African Institute 73, no. 3 (2003): 344–345.

(2.) Especially meaningful in this regard is Rex Sean O’Fahey’s “Sudanese (and Some Other) Sources for Eritrean History: A Bibliographical Note,” Sudanic Africa 12 (2001): 131–142.

(3.) Peter Limb, “Islamic Africa: A Select, Annotated Webography,” Islamic Africa 5, no. 1 (2014): 92.

(4.) Susan Tschabrun, “Africa Research Central: A Clearing House of African Primary Sources,” African Research and Documentation 87 (2001): 11–18. The initiative also included a mailing list (H-AFRESEARCH), which has been discontinued. Africa Research Central is still online, although its last update was made in 2004.

(5.) Also worthwhile is Columbia University’s collection of African Studies Internet Resources. The website is maintained by Yuusuf S. Caruso, African studies librarian at Columbia. Since 1997, it has been the African studies website for the World Wide Web’s Virtual Library.

(6.) The Nordic Africa Institute has also compiled and published a very interesting guide about African studies: Studying Africa. A Guide to Sources (3d ed., 2014).

(7.) The list includes a total of 276 websites organized into categories; see Sudan Open Archive.

(8.) Richard Reid, “War and Remembrance: Orality, Literacy, and Conflict in the Horn,” Journal of African Cultural Studies 18, no. 1 (2006): 89–103.

(9.) Katarzyna Hrycko, “An Outline of the National Archives and Library of Ethiopia,” Aethiopica 10 (2007): 92–105; and Anaïs Wion, “The National Archives and Library of Ethiopia: Six Years of Ethio-French Cooperation (2001–2006)”; the article is available on Open Archive Repository HAL-SHS.

(10.) The National Archive of South Sudan was formed in 2005, in Juba. In 2010, the British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA) and the Rift Valley Institute (RVI) brought digitization equipment to Juba and offered training in digitization techniques. In 2013, Michigan University and RVI assisted in implementing a further phase of the digitization project. For a description of the documents and information on restoring the archive see Douglas Johnson, “The Revival of the Southern Sudan’s Archives,” Sudan Studies 43 (2011): 28–36. Other relevant documents for the history of South Sudan are kept in the Sudan Archive of Durham and at the University of Bergen.

(11.) On the destruction of libraries and archives in Mogadishu during the 1990s, see Hibaq Nur, “Bibliocaust of Somali Libraries: Retelling the Somali Civil War,” paper presented at IFLA WLIC (2017).

(12.) Sergew Hable Selassie, Bookmaking in Ethiopia (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1985), 35; and Alessandro Bausi, “Writing, Copying, Translating: Ethiopia as a Manuscript Culture,” in Manuscript Cultures: Mapping the Field, ed. Jorg B. Quenzer, Dmitry Bondarev, and Jan-Ulrich Sobisch (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014), 46.

(13.) Gianfrancesco Lusini, “Documenti e biblioteche: Riflessioni sulla salvaguardia del patrimonio filologico dell’Eritrea e dell’Etiopia,” Annali. Istituto Universitario Orientale Napoli 67 (2007): 98.

(14.) For example, for the Abbadie collection at the BNF, see Claire Bosc-Tiessé and Anaïs Wion, “Les manuscrits éthiopiens d’Antonie d’Abbadie à la Bibliothèque national de France: Collecte, copie et étude,” in De l’Abyssinie au Pays basque, voyage d’une vie, ed. Jean Dercourt (Biarritz, France: Atlantica, 2010), 77–116.

(15.) Robert Beylot and Maxime Rodinson, Répertoire des bibliothèques et des catalogues de manuscrits éthiopiens (Paris: Centre National de la Recherché Scientifique, 1995); and Anaïs Wion, Marie-Laure Derat, and Claire Bosc-Tiessé, “Les manuscrits éthiopiens sur ‘Ménestrel,’” Gazette du Livre Médiéval 48 (2006): 62.

(16.) Steve Delamarter, “More Ethiopian Manuscripts in North America,” SBL Forum 5, no. 9 (2007); and Steve Delamarter, “Catalogue and Digitization for Previously Uncatalogued Ethiopian Manuscripts in England and North America,” in Proceedings of the 16th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, ed. Svein Ege, Harald Aspen, Birhanu Teferra, and Shiferaw Bekele (Trondheim: NTNU, 2009), 1305–1316.

(17.) Richard Pankhurst and Rita Pankhurst, “In Memoriam Stanislaw Chojnacki (1915–2010),” Aethiopica 14 (2011): 218.

(18.) Lusini, “Documenti e biblioteche,” 96.

(19.) In 2010, Steve Delamarter, after digitizing a rare psalter, encouraged the owner of the psalter, made for Ethiopian emperor Menelik II, to hand it back to Ankober Municipal Museum; see Nancy Haught, “Precious Ethiopian Psalter Will Take Its Rightful Place,” Oregonian, August 5, 2010. In 2016 the Howard University Divinity School returned an ancient manuscript to Debre Libanos Monastery; see Adelle M. Banks, “Howard Divinity School Returns Sacred Ethiopian Manuscript to Orthodox Monastery,” Washington Post, January 20, 2016.

(20.) Patrick Ngulube, “Preservation Reformatting Strategies in Selected Sub-Saharan African Archival Institutions,” African Journal of Library, Archives, & Information Science 12, no. 2 (2002): 117–132.

(21.) The first 5,000 items have been cataloged and published in a ten-volume compilation prepared by Dr. Getatchew Haile: Haile, ed., A Catalogue of Ethiopian Manuscripts Microfilmed for the Ethiopian Manuscript Microfilm Library, Addis Ababa and for the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library, Collegeville (Collegeville, MN: Hill Monastic Manuscript Library, 1993). Haile and Steve Delamarter are also involved in the series Ethiopic Manuscript, Text and Studies, which is publishing the catalog of the Ethiopic Manuscript Imaging Project.

(22.) Éloi Ficquet, “The Ethiopian Muslims: Historical Process and Ongoing Controversies,” in Understanding Contemporary Ethiopia. Monarchy, Revolution, and the Legacy of Meles Zenawi, ed. Gérard Prunier and Éloi Ficquet (London: Hurst, 2015), 94–95.

(23.) A. J. Drewes, “Amharic as a Language of Islam,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 70, no. 1 (2007): 1–62; and IslHornAfr: Islam in the Horn of Africa. A Comparative Literary Approach.

(24.) For a general introduction to the topic, see the entry “Archives and Libraries,” in Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, Vol. 5, ed. Alessandro Bausi (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2014), 250–252.

(25.) In the 1970s, UNESCO sponsored a project entitled Guides to the Sources of History of Africa that was carried on by the International Council of Archives. The project began in 1963 with the aim of covering European and American sources for the history of Africa and resulted in the publication of nine volumes.

(26.) See, for example, Alessandro Volterra, “The History of Italian Colonial Africa: Available Public Sources,” in Colonialism and National Identity, ed. Paolo Bertella Farnetti and Cecilia Dau Novelli (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars, 2015), 6–46. Lukian Prijac has announced the forthcoming publication of a Guide des sources de l’histoire de Djibouti et de l’Ethiopie dans les archives et bibliothèques de France.

(29.) In September 2017, the Somalia Archive allowed access to 4,332 documents: articles (1,030), audios (252), book chapters (393, unedited documents (115), images (1679), books (818), and videos (44).

(30.) The Centro di Studi Somali dell’Università di RomaTre recently digitized a selection of as many as 38,247 documents preserved at the Archivio Storico dello Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito di Roma, on Italian colonial troops. A book has been published on the project: Alessandro Volterra, Progetto ascari/Mrmirewi Srehat ‘Askre (Rome: Efesto, 2015). The digitized documents can currently be obtained only by contacting the author.

(31.) Shohei Sato, “‘Operation Legacy’: Britain’s Destruction and Concealment of Colonial Records Worldwide,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 45, no. 4 (2017): 697–719; David M. Anderson, “Mau Mau in the High Court and the “Lost” British Empire Archives: Colonial Conspiracy or Bureaucratic Bungle?” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 39, no. 5 (2011): 699–716; and James Lowry, ed., Displaced Archives (Abingdon on Thames, UK: Routledge, 2017).

(32.) Kjell Hødnebø, “A Report on Some Archives in Equatoria Province, Sudan,” History in Africa 8 (1981): 327–332.

(33.) See: Anders Bjørkelo and Mustafa A. Ali, “A Sudanese Merchant’s Career Based on His Papers. A Research Project,” History in Africa 17 (1990): 31–40; Rex Sean O’Fahey, “The Archives of Shōba: Part One,” Islamic Africa 1 (1990): 71–83; and Rex Sean O’Fahey, “The Archives of Shōba: Part Two,” Islamic Africa 2 (1991): 79–112.

(34.) Hussein Ahmed, “Archival Sources on the Yemeni Arabs in Urban Ethiopia: The Dessie Municipality,” History in Africa 27 (2000): 31–37; and Belle Asante Tarsitani and Simone Tarsitani, “Integrating Local Knowledge in Ethiopian Archives: Music and Manuscripts in the Collection of Abdulahi Ali Sherif,” African Study Monographs, Supplementary Issue 41 (2010): 5–18. In 2012, the EAP financed a project to preserve this collection of audio recordings (EAP602).

(35.) Irma Taddia, “The Regional Archive of Addi Qäyyeh, Eritrea,” History in Africa 25 (1998): 423–425; for the military documents of this archive see Alessandro Volterra, “Le carte militari coloniali italiane conservate nell’Archivio eritreo di Mendefera,” Bollettino dell’Archivio dell’Ufficio Storico 12, no. 23–24 (2012): 7–19.

(36.) Anthony D’Avray, ed. (annotated in collaboration with Richard Pankhurst), The Nakfa Documents. The Despatches, Memoranda, Reports, and Correspondence Describing and Explaining the Stories of the Feudal Society of the Red Sea Littoral from the Christian-Muslim Wars of the Sixteenth Century to the Establishment 1885–1901 of the Italian Colony of Eritrea (Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz, 1999).

(37.) Francesca Locatelli, “The Archives of the Municipality and the High Court of Asamara, Eritrea: Discovering the Eritrea ‘Hidden from History,’” History in Africa 31 (2004): 469–478. See also Alessandro Volterra, “La giustizia coloniale in Eritrea: Tra diritto comune e diritto consuetudinario (con in appendice un repertorio del materiale conservato presso alcune istituzioni eritree con sede ad Asmara),” Africa (Rome) 63, no. 1 (2008): 82–107; and Jonathan Miran, “Islamic Court Records from the Nineteenth-Century Massawa: A Source for Social and Economic History,” paper submitted for publication in the Proceedings of the First International Conference of Eritrean Studies, Asmara, 22–26 July 2001; unfortunately, the proceedings were never published.

(38.) Vincenzo Pellegrini and Anna Bertinelli, Per la storia dell’amministrazione coloniale italiana (Milan: Giuffrè, 1994), 102.

(39.) “Ethiopian Workers’ Archive Being Digitized.” The number of workers’ files digitized is 4,221, and the project ran until April 2016.

(40.) As of this writing, IISH has conducted a sample digitization of the personal files (850 files, around 20 percent of the entire archive). The project will probably have a second phase that will see the involvement of the French Centre of Ethiopian Studies and Dire Dawa University.

(41.) “The Communist Party of Sudan (1970–2003),” On the Waterfront 9 (2004): 9–11.

(42.) Siddig Elzailaee, EAP156 and EAP218: Endangered Archives of Sudanese Trade Unions (1899–2005) (London Metropolitan University, 2007–2008). Some 10,000 digital images were taken and published on the Sudanese Unions’ Documentation Centre.

(43.) “Digitizing Sudan’s Television Archive,” February 29, 2012.

(44.) The project, launched by the Ministry of Information of the Federal Government of Somalia has been funded by AU/UN Information Support Team, the French Government, and other donors; see AU/UN IST, “Radio Mogadishu Archive Digitization,” July 11, 2013.

(45.) The Sudan Archive at Durham, Durham University, UK. For an introduction to the photographic holdings of the archive see M. W. Daly and Jane Hogan, Images of Empire. Photographic Sources for the British in the Sudan (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2005).

(46.) Christine Kanyengo Wamunyima, “The Digital Age and African Studies Scholarship: Promoting Access and Visibility on Information Resources,” African Research and Documentation 118 (2012): 33–35.

(47.) Horn of Africa Crisis. Wilson Center Digital Archive, Washington, DC.

(48.) Sudan Open Archive. Digital Access to Knowledge about Sudan, Arshīf al-Sūdān al-Maftūḥ.

(49.) Library of Congress, Crisis in Darfur 2006 Web Archive.

(50.) Enrico Cerulli, “Nuove idee nell’Etiopia e nuova letteratura amarica,” Oriente Moderno 6, no. 3 (1926): 167–173; and Cerulli, “Pubblicazioni recenti dei Musulmani e dei Cristiani d’Etiopia,” Oriente Moderno 8 (1928): 429–432.

(51.) Luigi Fusella, “Recenti pubblicazioni amariche in Abissinia,” Rassegna di Studi Etiopici 5 (1946): 93–102; and Lanfranco Ricci, “Pubblicazioni in amarico di questi ultimi anni,” Oriente Moderno 30, no. 10–12 (1950): 186–198.

(52.) Stephen Wright, Ethiopian Incunabula (Addis Ababa: Commercial Printing Press, 1967). The bibliography lists 224 titles and does not include books printed in Italian, newspapers, and periodicals.

(53.) Stefan Strelcyn, “‘Inculables’ Éthiopiens des principales bibliothèques romaines (Supplément à Stephen Wright, Ethiopian Incunabula 1967),” Rassegna di Studi Etiopici 25 (1971–1972): 456–519. Strelcyn added a further 231 books to Wright’s list; another 165 titles were added by Strelcyn, “‘Inculables’ Éthiopiens de la collection Faïtlovitch (Université de Tel-Aviv) et de l’Istituto Orientale di Napoli,” Rassegna di Studi Etiopici 27 (1978–1979): 63–121.

(54.) (Abba) Kibrom Tseggai, “Ethiopian Incunabula. In Continuation to the Findings of S. Wright and S. Strelycn [sic].” Reverend Kibrom Tseggai was able to add 114 additional titles to the lists prepared by Wright and Strelcyn.

(55.) A very interesting contribution about book culture in Ethiopia during the 16th and 17th century is represented by Kristen Windmuller-Luna, “Guerra com a ligoa: Book Culture and Biblioclasm in the Ethiopian Jesuit Mission,” Journal of Jesuit Studies 2 (2015): 223–247.

(56.) Massimo Zaccaria, “Recovering the African Printed Past: Virtually Re-membering a Dispersed Collection in Eritrea.” In African Studies in the Digital Age. DisConnects? ed. Terry Barringer and Marion Wallace (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014), 160.

(57.) Ḥusayn ‘Abd al-Qādir, Tārīkh al-ṣaḥāfa fī al-Sūdān (Cairo: al-Nahḍa, 1967). See, for example, Al-Nūr Dafa‘a Allah Aḥmad, Al-Ṣaḥāfa al-ḥizbiyya wa al-waḥda al-waṭaniyya fī al-Sūdān, 1945–1969 (Omdurman, Sudan: Markaz ‘Abd al-Karīm Mīrghanī al-Thaqāfī, 2012).

(58.) To avoid this problem, since 1962, The Library of Congress has set up a network of overseas offices with the mandate of acquiring, cataloging, and preserving research materials unavailable outside of Africa. Most of the Horn of Africa is covered by its Nairobi Office; only Sudan is served by its Cairo office. For the Sudanese book market during the 1990s, see Medani Mohamed M. Ahmed, “The Development of the Book Sector in the Sudan: Characteristics and Challenges,” in Current Studies on the Sudan, ed. Medani Mohamed H. Ahmed (Omdurman, Mohamed Omer Beshir’s Center for Sudanese Studies), 334–387; and Éloi Ficquet, Shiferaw Bekele, “Le marché du livre éthiopien à l’épreuve de la diversité,” Politique Africaine 99 (2005): 83–96.

(59.) Hussein Ahmed, “Al-‘Alam: The History of an Ethiopian Arabic Weekly,” in Proceedings of the Eleventh International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa, April 1–6 1991, ed. Bahru Zewde, Richard Pankhurst, and Taddesse Byene (Addis Ababa: Institute of Ethiopian Studies, 1994), 155–165; “Islamic Literature and Religious Revival in Ethiopia (1991–1994),” Islam et Sociétés au Sud du Sahara, 12, no. 1 (1998): 89–108; “Recent Islamic Periodicals in Ethiopia (1996–1998),” Northeast African Studies, 5, no. 2 (1998): 7–21; “Islamic Literature in Ethiopia: A Short Overview,” Ethiopian Journal of Languages and Literature, 8 (1998): 25–37; and Hussein Ahmed, “The Coming of Age of Islamic Studies in Ethiopia: The Present State of Research and Publication,” in Proceedings of the 16th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, ed. Svein Ege, Harald Aspen, Birhanu Teferra, and Shiferaw Bekele (Trondheim, Norway: NTNU, 2009), 449–455. Alessandro Gori, “Contemporary and Historical Muslim Scholars as Portrayed by the Ethiopian Islamic Press in the 1990s,” Aethiopica 8 (2005): 72–94; and Alessandro Gori, “Between Manuscripts and Books: Islamic Printing in Ethiopia,” in The Book in Africa: Critical Debates, ed. Caroline Davis and David Johnson (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 65–80.

(60.) I refer to the Écritures africaines et sociétés coloniales dossier edited by Éloi Ficquet and Aïssatou Mbodj-Pouye and appearing in Annales: Histoire, Sciénces Sociales 64, no. 4 (2009), and then to the dossier edited by Anaïs Wion, Sébastien Barret, and Aïssatou Mbodj-Pouye, L’écrit pragmatique africain published in Afriques: Débats, methods et terrains d’histoire 7 (2016).

(61.) In the 1990s, Manfred Kropp designed the Thesaurus Linguae Aethiopicae website, one of the first attempts at digital philology applied to Ethiopian studies: Manfred Kropp, “Äthiopisch und der Computer,” Forschungsmagazin der Johannes Gutenberg-Universiutät Mainz 8, no. 2 (1992): 47–53; and Manfred Kropp, “From Manuscripts to the Computer: Ethiopic Studies in the Last 150 Years,” in The Edward Hincks Bicentenary Lectures, ed. Kevin J. Cathcart (Dublin: University College Dublin, Department of Near East Languages, 1994), 117–135.

(62.) Rafaa A. Ghobrial and Sami M. Sharif, “Sudanese Memory Institutions and Digital Technologies,” International Journal of Sudan Research 1, no. 1 (2010): 9–28.

(63.) In this regard I refer the reader to the groundbreaking works of Peter Limb, “The Digitization of Africa,” Africa Today 52, no. 2 (2005): 3–19; and “The Politics of Digital ‘Reform and Revolution’: Towards Mainstreaming and African Control of African Digitisation,” Innovation: Journal of Appropriate Librarianship and Information Work in Southern Africa 34 (2007): 18–27. See also Michele Pickover, “Patrimony, Power, and Politics: Selecting, Constructing and Preserving Digital Heritage Content in South Africa and Africa,” paper presented at IFLA WLIC 2014—Lyon—Libraries, Citizens, Societies: Confluence for Knowledge.

(64.) Lusini, “Documenti e biblioteche,” 97.

(65.) See, for example, Heather Sharkey, “A Century in Pring: Arabic Journalism and Nationalism in the Sudan, 1899–1999,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 31, no. 4 (1999): 531–549; and for Ethiopia, Richard Pankhurst, “The Foundations of Education, Printing, Newspapers, Book Production, Libraries and Literacy in Ethiopia,” Ethiopia Observer 6, no. 3 (1962): 241–290.

(66.) The almost complete set of the Sudan Government Gazettes is available at the Sudan Archive in Durham. The complete set of the Bullettino Ufficiale della Colonia Eritrea is deposited at the Research and Documentation Centre of Asmara.

(67.) Jacek Tomaszewski and Michael Gervers, “Technological Aspects of the Monastic Manuscript Collection at May Wäyni, Ethiopia,” in From Dust to Digital: Ten Years of the Endangered Archives Programme, ed. Maja Kominko (Cambridge, UK: Open Book, 2015), 89–133; and Steve Delamarter, “The SGD Digital Collection: Previously Unknown and Uncatalogued Ethiopian Manuscripts in North America,” SBL Forum 5, no. 2 (2007) (Society of Biblical Literature).

(68.) Sara Fani, IsIHornAfr 1st Field Mission Report (17 Novembre–12 December 2014); Michele Petrone, Adday Hernàndez López, Books and Networks in South Western Ethiopia. Report of the Second Mission of the Islam in the Horn of Africa Project (30 January–4 March 2016); IslHornAfr—3rd Field Mission Report, Djibouti (31st January–8th February 2016); Michele Petrone, Digitization of the Drewes Collection in Leiden (12–14 September 2016); Michele Petrone, The City of Tadjoura Collection (Djibouti 2017); and Sara Fani, IsIHornAfr 6th Field Mission Report. Awsa (ET), 2017. The six reports are available at Islam in the Horn of Africa: A Comparative Literary Approach.

(69.) Zaccaria, “Recovering the African Printed Past,” 148–162.

(70.) Yohannes Abraha, Digitization a Means for Preserving and Disseminating Documentary Heritage (Asmara, Ethiopia: Research and Documentation Centre, 2005); Yohannes Abraha, Digital Preservation: The Experience of the Research and Documentation Centre (RDC) (Asmara, Ethiopia: Research and Documentation Centre, 2011); and Michael Kiflom, “Sustainable Digitisation of Valuable Collections Owned by the Eritrean Research and Documentation Centre”; the paper has been accepted for publication in the forthcoming conference’s proceedings that may appear in 2018.

(71.) RORA: Eritrean Digital Library, Catalogue of Selected Digital Materials (Asmara, Ethopia: Research and Documentation Centre, 2015).

(72.) Abebe Rorissa, Teklemichael T. Wordofa, and Solomon Teferra, “Initiatives in Digitization and Digital Preservation of Cultural Heritage in Ethiopia,” in Annual Review of Cultural Heritage Informatics: 2012–2013, ed. Samantha K. Hastings (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), 117–129.

(73.) Terry Barringer and Marion Wallace, eds. African Studies in the Digital Age: DisConnects? (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014).

(74.) Maja Kominko, ed. From Dust to Digital: Ten Years of the Endangered Archives Programme (Cambridge, UK: Open Book, 2015).

(75.) See Alessandro Gori, Anne Reourd, Jeremy Brown, and Steve Delamarter, The Arabic Materials of the Ethiopian Islamic Tradition (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2014).