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EAP089 Project on Endangered Archives

Safeguarding and preservation of sound materials of endangered languages in the Russian Federation for sound archives in St.Petersburg. A research project supported by the British Library's Programma on Endangered Archives.

You can download the Final Report for the Endangered Archives Programme (as a pdf file).













1          Grant details

Name of grant holder


Tjeerd de Graaf



Project title


Safeguarding and preservation of sound materials of endangered languages in the Russian Federation for sound archives in St.Petersburg




Type of grant


Major Research Project



Start date


1 September 2006



End date


1 November 2008




2          What was the aim of the work supported by this grant?

At present, many old recordings still remain hidden in private archives and places where the quality of preservation is not guaranteed. Within the framework of our project, we got access to several such, mainly private collections, copied them on modern sound carriers, made a catalogue available and published part of the material, together with the related recordings in Saint-Petersburg. Copies of the entire collection were provided to the British Library. Local scholars were involved in the preparation of the project and got support for this from colleagues in Saint-Petersburg, Austria and the Netherlands.


The availability of copies obtained in this way is of utmost importance, providing a source of authentic linguistic material for linguists specializing in languages spoken by minorities in the Russian Federation. These languages are themselves endangered and it is important not only to obtain all existing sound material, but also to make new recordings of those speakers of these languages who are still alive. We are combining the project proposed for the preservation of the historical existing sound recordings with the participation of these last informants. They are able to assist with the description of the material and to act as informants for linguists and other scholars studying their language.



3          What have you achieved? 

At the end of the project period the following private collections have been digitized, stored in the digital sound archives of St.Petersburg, copied on various digital sound carriers and used as samples for the British Library. The digital samples are provided in wav format and the following survey of the produced collections summarizes their contents and size:


EAP089-1 (collection №555)

Albina Kh.Girfanova’s collection of Udeghe language and folklore                               23.7 GB


EAP089-2 (collection №559a)

Marina D. Lublinskaya’s collection of Samoyed language and folklore                         28.6 GB


EAP089-3 (collection №562)  

Krasnoyarsk State Pedagogical University collection of Siberian Russian                     12.3 GB


EAP089-4 (collection №563)  

Yevsei I. Peisakh’s collection of Krymchak folklore                                                       10.6 GB


EAP089-5 (collection №564)  

Peter Y. Skorik’s collection of Kerek folklore                                                               0.875 GB


EAP089-6 (collection №565)

Ivan M. Steblin-Kamensky’s collection of Tadjik and Wakhi language and folklore     14.7 GB


EAP089-7 (collection №566)

Аlexander L.Grünberg’s collection from Afghanistan                                                      127 GB


Total time and size: 111 hours 17 min. 47 sec. -  217.8 GB

Medium of copies: HDD Rovermate MS-25E1 SATA WAV

Medium of original material: open reel tapes (OR) or cassette tapes (CC). Speed: 4; 9,5; 19.

(46 open reel tapes and 95 compact cassettes)


Language(s): Azerbaijan, Balochi, Chagatay, Chatror, Dari (Farsi-Kabuli), Enets, German, Kati, Kerek, Mendzon, Nenets, Nganasan, Parachi, Pashai, Pashto, Russian, Shugni, Tajik, Udeghe, Vaygali, Wakhi (Vakhan)


The greater part of these private collections was recorded on magnetic tape (open reel OR and cassette CC), mainly of Russian production. Old open reel tapes were on cellulose acetate base. These tapes have become brittle with age, whereas many were in bad winding condition. Experience told us, however, that most of the tapes could still be played. For this purpose we obtained a STUDER machine from Vienna and we also had our own facilities for the transfer of historical mechanical carriers such as cassette tapes.


Further information about these collections is provided by the metadata in the attachments to the report. The text of these data (about 250 pages and 2.5 MB size) will be used for a book which will be prepared in the coming period. Results of the project have been reported at various conferences and in publications.


During the project, samples of these collections were provided on DVD to the British Library, where the technical quality has been checked. In case this was possible, improvements have been made and the total collection has finally been delivered on two hard discs of 150 GB.


These collections provided to the British Library are numbered according to the list and a description of their contents has been given. These metadata are based on the data provided by the contributors, who have been asked for available details during the production process. On the bases of more data provided by the owners of the collections we brought the metadata as far as possible in accordance with the requirements and guidelines of the Endangered Archives Project.



4          Provide details of where the endangered archival material is now housed and where the copies

            of the material have been deposited, if applicable.

The scholars who provided us with their original recordings received copies of their material on DVD and all of them gave the original tapes to the Pushkinsky Dom, where they will be stored. The digital copies are preserved on DVD, on hard discs and on LTO-tapes. These copies are sent to the British Library, the Vienna Phonogram Archive and the Institute for Linguistic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Researchers who are interested in the material can find details in the catalogue and can order (part of) the collections on DVD.


In this way, in Russia a central sound archive of historical linguistic data has been extended with the most up-to-date technical facilities. This will be of utmost importance, providing a source of authentic material, for instance for linguists specializing in languages spoken by minorities in the Russian Federation. Many of these languages are endangered and it is important to obtain all existing sound material and to make new recordings of speakers of these languages. The aim of this project has been limited to the re-recording of private sound recordings and their storage, where we concentrated on a number of endangered languages. However, in the future the work will continue and extend to other recorded material, such as in the field of ethno-musicology.

5          State the steps taken to obtain any copyright clearance in the materials copied.

             Where available, please provide supporting documentation  

Copies of material made in the framework of project EAP089 will be universally available and can be used for non-commercial purposes. The authors have signed a declaration that their collections are given to the phonogram archive of the Pushkinsky Dom, where they receive a catalogue number. Copies will be provided to them and to others who are interested in the material. There are no copy right problems.




6          Have any other funding bodies been involved in supporting this project?         

Other funding bodies have not been involved in our project. During the project period the Governor of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomic Region has signed a contract with the Russian Academy of Sciences in order to prepare a scientific fund, which will support further work in the Phonogram Archive. This will make it possible to continue the work we started with other sound collections.




7          Do you have any comments you would like to make regarding your research,

            this award or the  Endangered Archives Programme as a whole?

The methods we used in our project - as described in Q 14 of the application - have been  followed by adhering to IASA TC 03 and TC 04 Standards. As a fringe effect, it was also possible to translate IASA-TC 03 into Russian with the aid of N.Svetozarova and V.Denisov (participants of the EAP Project). This Russian translation is now available on the web at


There exist plans to find sponsors for the translation of the technical IASAreport TC 04 into Russian. It will be very important to acquaint reviewers/administrators and the authorities at Russian sound archives with these standards. 


It should be stated that this EAP project has successfully worked as an "aperitive" by attracting considerable funds for future activities in the phonogram archive of the Pushkinsky Dom. In this way the Endangered Archives Programme has plaid a very important role and all participants in the EAP089 project are grateful for this.