In 2002, CRL digitized all 16 microfilm reels composing an important repository of West African primary sources: the Malian Arabic Manuscript Microfilm Project (MAMMP). These reels were first microfilmed in the late 1970s with the support of the National Endowment for Humanities (RC-*0771-78, 1977-1980). These documents were collected in state repositories in France (Bibliothèque National de France), Senegal (Archives nationales), and especially in private collections in Mali. Yet, despite the significance of the materials, after 40 years the MAMMP manuscripts are still underutilized. Only David Robinson’s classic The Holy War of ‘Umar Tall (Clarendon Press, 1985) and my recent Sultan, Caliph, and the Renewer of the Faith: Aḥmad Lobbo, the Tārīkh al-Fattāsh, and the Making of an Islamic State in West Africa (Cambridge University Press 2020) have substantially employed manuscripts from MAMMP.
The MAMMP manuscript corpus presents challenges for researchers due to the inaccurate order of the reproductions, low quality of some of the original pictures, and most importantly the lack of proper organization and metadata (the only existing handlist, microfilmed and digitized as reel 16, is partially handwritten and partially typed, and is incomplete and inaccurate). In response to these issues, I am seeking CAMP support to fund this project. I aim to make these manuscripts accessible by doing the following:
1) reorganizing the corpus by removing the pictures that are not readable and those that are available online on other platforms (namely reel 1: selected manuscripts from West Africa from the Bibliothèque National de France in Paris, which are now accessible online via the website https://gallica.bnf.fr);
2) collating the manuscripts in proper order; and
3) providing basic metadata for each document (in Appendix 1, I have a sample spreadsheet for the manuscripts).
Given the complexity and scope of the project, which involves c. 10,000 digitized manuscript frames in Tiff format, I am seeking funds for a phase one of the entire project, which will entail three phases to achieve completion. Phase one will involve work on the set of 5 reels 8:1-5, a coherent sub-group of manuscripts collected in Central and northern Mali by the late professor William A. Brown (University of Wisconsin), which comprises c. 3,500 digital manuscript frames mainly dating to the 19th century. Although I will further look for funding for subsequent phases of the project, and anticipate involvement of colleagues at the Univeristy of Illinois Library (in particular, Laila Hussein Moustafa, Associate Professor and Middle East & North African Studies Librarian, and Atoma Batoma, Adjunct Associate Professor and African Studies Librarian), at the end of phase one a self-contained set of manuscripts will be made available to scholars. Through phase one I will also establish the workflow to carry out organizing the rest of the collection, including prioritizations, creating more metadata, and establishing quality controls. If funded, I anticipate a project start date of January 2021.