The beauty of the city of Durham is incontestable…
…it is therefore often included among the top destinations for visitors of England. However, it was not the touristic attractions that brought us here these two days, rather the treasures hosted by the Palace Green Library…
…and specifically the Sudan Archive. It is one of the most famous special collections of the University of Durham, perhaps the third most ancient University in England, and housed inside the Castle of Durham.
We have of course no ambition to present any sort of contents or highlights from this richest archive on modern Sudan; it would have been such a huge task, that even the online catalogues of Durham University itself only give a brief account of the total collection. Moreover, the University Library gives no such permission and even the copyrights of the material studied by a scholar are very strictly defined. Therefore, no part of Henriette’s research can be presented here…
Nevertheless, we find this visit to Durham as the best opportunity to give a brief introduction for our readers to the Sudan Archive. So, in the coming few lines we will explain first and foremost how Durham came to obtain this rich archive and why an archaeologist would be interested in consulting modern records.
“The Sudan Archive was set up in 1957 by Richard Hill, a lecturer in Near Eastern history at the University of Durham, previously attached to the Sudan Government Railways and to the University College of Khartoum.
The archive contains principally private papers of British subjects who lived and worked in the Sudan during the period of the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium (1898-1955). In October 2005, the Sudan Archive was ‘designated’ by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council as having outstanding national and international significance.”
(quote from http://www.dur.ac.uk/resources/library/library_history_recent2.pdf)
And finally, here follow the reasons that archaeologists would be interested in such an archive:
1. because among the notes of colonial magistrates and administrators, there are many that refer to archaeological sites, cultural heritage, and its management.
2. because they offer insights to the social structure of the local communities that are the inheritors of the past an archaeologist studies and in the locality of which the sites themselves either lie forgotten or are integrated in the nowadays settlement.
3. because there is an immense richness of photos documenting the conditions at sites that later development altered or made disappear.
4. because there are many comments on the sites visited by travelers of times long gone.
Sai Island is among these sites and you can find a reference to the related file from the online archive at this link:
We hope that at some other venue we will present more details of the interesting discoveries Henriette made during this exiting day of work at the Sudan Archive at Durham!