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Steve Hinnefeld
University Communications

Last modified: Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Liberian Collections Project at IU awarded grant to conserve and digitize photographs

May 28, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Liberian Collections Project at Indiana University has been awarded a grant to conserve, organize and digitize approximately 6,500 historic photographs from the records of William V.S. Tubman, Liberia's longest-serving president.

The grant, from the Endangered Archives Programme of the British Library, is for 38,491 British pounds (about $76,750 U.S.) over two years. The project includes tracking down more information about the photographs and creating Web tools for annotating, viewing and searching the collection.

Liberian archives

This restored photograph from the Liberian Collections Project shows President William V.S. Tubman, Liberian Secretary of State J. Rudolph Grimes and other officials on a visit to Italy.

Print-Quality Photo

"This unique collection of Tubman-era photographs contains one of the rare extant visual records of a major period in Liberian history and its role in the African pre- and post-independence era," said Verlon Stone, coordinator of the Liberian Collections Project.

"Official government photographers with direct access to Tubman shot most of these images. What they photographed (or did not) reflected Tubman's wishes as to what he wanted Liberians, Africans and the world to see -- the leaders he associated with and advised; the meetings and conferences he attended; the projects he sponsored."

Liberian archives

The same photograph before restoration

Print-Quality Photo

The photographs project had its genesis in 2005, when the Liberian Collections Project recovered and transported 22 containers of papers and other personal materials from the Tubman family Liberian country estate to Indiana University for preservation. A conservation team found more than 2,000 Tubman-era photographs among the documents.

In 2006, the Tubman family allowed Stone, LCP Advisory Board member Elwood Dunn and Philip Bantin, director of the University Archives at IU, to recover four additional containers of photographs from the estate. Included were many photographs of Tubman, who was president of Liberia from 1944 to 1971, with world dignitaries and African leaders.

The project will be carried out in cooperation with the E. Lingle Craig Preservation Laboratory, the IU Digital Library Program and the Africana Librarians Council. It includes:

  • Cleaning and preserving the photographs and converting them to digital format.
  • Developing Web-based metadata and cataloging tools and a searchable database for the photographs.
  • Interviewing Liberians to learn the identity of people pictured in the photographs.
  • Resolving intellectual property issues to ensure their unrestricted use.

The Liberian Collections Project began in the 1990s when Ruth Stone, then the director of the IU Archives of Traditional Music at IU, began amassing Liberian documents and materials. Noted Liberianists including Svend Holsoe and Warren d'Azevedo later donated core collections. The collections include historical and ethnographic documents, newspapers, government publications, books, journals, dissertations, maps, slides, negatives, photographs, microfilms, audio and video tapes, artifacts and memorabilia. For more information, see