8th Annual Meeting of European Librarians and Archivists in African Studies

Many African treasures can be found in Frankfurt. Students at the Goethe University in Frankfurt know this, because Frankfurt University not only offers a Masters in African Studies, but also houses the Frobenius Institute in the monumental IG Farben Building. The Frobenius Institute, founded by the entrepreneur and ethnologist Leo Frobenius, is famous for its collection. Apart from 6000 ethnograpic objects, the collection consists of well over 115,000 books and around 100,000 pictures (photographs and watercolour paintings). Most of these pictures are available online on the website of the institute.

The Frobenius Institute was host to the 8th Annual Meeting of ELIAS, the get-together of European Librarians and Archivists in African Studies. Around 25 of them gathered in Frankfurt on June 20, 2014. The experts came from Uppsala, Basel, Tervuren and Vienna, from Leiden, London and Paris and of course from several German cities. ELIAS was originally founded as on offspring of the ECAS Conference in Leiden in 2007.

The programme was filled with several lectures on Africana collections. Dr Anja Oed from Mainz talked about the famous Jahn Library for African Literatures (Black Orpheus and his grandchildren in the 21st century), and Dr Hauke Dorsch, also from Mainz, gave a lecture on the interesting  African Music Archives (AMA)in Mainz, from schellak albums to digital music files.

Librarian Åsa Lund Moberg from the Nordic Africa Institute at Uppsala gave a talk about Discovery systems and area studies, which was mainly about experiences with the Primo library system at NAI. Then Ursula Oberst from the African Studies Centre in Leiden made clear why the ASC Library is building a Leiden Alert Service African Studies (LASA), and how the technical build-up is structured.

After a virtual tour of the several European African Centres, there was a discussion about the strategies and problems with respect to the acquisitions of books, journals and other items from African countries.  

In the final presentation, Dag Henrichsen and Susanne Hubler Baier talked about an interesting experiment to let archives and art meet. They reported about a historical sound exhibition on Southern Africa and the politics and artistic potential of sound archives, in the form of an exhibition about the journalist Ruth Weiss ("My very first question to you") garnished with artistic sounds.

At the end of the day, organizer Sophia Thubauville guided all librarians and archivists around the premises of the Frobenius Institute. Researcher Richard Kuba gave a fascinating tour and showed many Africana treasures: paintings made in Nigeria and other African countries by German painters like Carl Arriens in the 1910s, and thousands of photographs made by Frobenius and others in many African countries in  the period between 1904 and 1935. The collections at the Frobenius Institute deserve to be studied more intensively, which is facilitated by the existence of an online database in which most of the objects can be found in a digital format: http://bildarchiv.frobenius-katalog.de/ This interesting tour concluded an inspiring meeting of ELIAS.

Jos Damen, September 2014