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Archives and Special Collections: Sudan Archive: What we hold

Our collections

Collections in the Sudan Archive contain many documents in the form of correspondence, reports and memoranda, trek notes and diaries, letters home and so on. They often also include a variety of records in other formats such as photographic images (prints, lantern slides and 35mm slides), cinefilms from the 1920s to the 1960s, sound recordings, maps, museum objects and a large amount of related printed material. Printed material is listed in the library catalogue and all other material in each collection will be summarised in its collection guide and then fully described in its catalogue.

The Sudan Archive contains tens of thousands of photographs, almost 50,000 of which have been digitised. At present these digital images are accessible in a database which may be viewed only in our Search Room at Palace Green Library. Where copyright permits these images are beginning to be published online, linked from the catalogues: we are only at the start of this long process.

The photographic collections record significant events, official activities, the social lives of British and Sudanese, and the natural beauty of Sudan and South Sudan from the late 19th century to the present day. The photography is usually amateur, most often by British administrators, but there are some superb photographers whose collections are present in the Archive such as Dr John F.E. Bloss (1908-1982).

A meeting of Shilluk chiefs at Fashoda, showing dozens of seated figures beneath a tree (Kodok, South Sudan), January 1935 (W.A. Porter collection SAD.A78/62. Copyright)

A meeting of Shilluk chiefs at Fashoda (Kodok, South Sudan), January 1935 (W.A. Porter collection SAD.A78/62. Copyright)

There are more than 150 cinefilms in the Sudan Archive. Nearly all of these have been digitised. Films are listed in each collection catalogue and a union list of all such catalogued films is published below.

Cinefilm clip (no audio) of a group of Nuer chiefs in Eastern Nuer District, Upper Nile Province (South Sudan), hearing a court case. Filmed by E.F. Aglen in 1937/8 when he was an Assistant District Commissioner at Nasir. (E.F. Aglen collection SAD.765/9. Copyright, reproduced with permission)

There are more than 750 museum objects in the Sudan Archive. Objects include Sudanese and European weapons, ceramics, textiles, basketware etc. Photographs of objects are linked from the catalogues where they are available. A union list of all such objects is published below.

Details from Mahdist banner [1881 x 1898], showing border patterned fabric and unidentified stamp and inscriptions. A.H.A. Alban collection, Sudan Archive (Ref: G//S 1543). Click to enlarge. The centipede-like motifs in the right-hand pattern vary in length between 3 and 4 cm; the diameter of the central circle of the left-hand motif is 63 mm.

Details from Mahdist banner [1881 x 1898], showing border patterned fabric and unidentified stamp and inscriptions. A.H.A. Alban collection, Sudan Archive (Ref: G//S 1543). The centipede-like motifs in the right-hand pattern vary in length between 3 and 4 cm; the diameter of the central circle of the left-hand motif is 63 mm.

The Sudan Archive holds extensive series of more than a thousand published maps, most issued by the Sudan Survey (Maṣlaḥat al-Misāḥah). There are also a great number of printed and manuscript maps distributed across many different individuals' collections. 

Printed maps may be found using the Library Catalogue (Discover - Durham Libraries filter). The archival provenance of any printed item from the Sudan Archive will be recorded in the library catalogue in the "Special collection details" field (MARC 659). All manuscript maps will be listed only in archival collection catalogues. 

For visual indices of the 1:250,000 Sudan national series and our other printed maps see the Sudan Maps tab above.

Sketch map of Omdurman by Sgt Laurie, illustrating the outbreak of smallpox, 20 Sep 1903 (SAD.407/1/28)

There is a significant amount of material in Arabic held in the Sudan Archive, including some produced during the Mahdist period:

Ratib sayyidina al-imam Muhammad ibn `Abd Allah al-Mahdi al-muntazar (Khartoum, 27 Ramadan 1302 [11 July 1885], 1st impression) (SAD.97/1)

There are four main groups of printed material relating to Sudan and South Sudan, two on public access held at the Bill Bryson Library, and two which can be consulted at Palace Green Library; additionally, printed items which are particularly associated with archival material are listed as part of the Sudan Archive.

The Library's holdings of all printed material about the Sudans, no matter where it is located, are recorded in the Library Catalogue (Discover - Durham Libraries filter), though such items are often briefly listed at the end of each Sudan Archive collection catalogue as well. The archival provenance of any printed item from the Sudan Archive will be recorded in the library catalogue in the "Special collection details" field (MARC 659).

At the Bill Bryson Library the main loan and reference collection provides a good base for work in the humanities and social sciences and has substantial holdings of Sudanese imprints and Arabic material, and the Middle Eastern Documentation Unit (MEDU) covers modern official publications, including Sudan Government publications, bank reports, population censuses, publications of Sudanese institutions, some consultancy reports and a wide range of newsletters and other serials relating to Sudan and South Sudan since independence in 1956. MEDU holdings are also recorded in the library catalogue.

At Palace Green the rare books collection includes material published up to 1860 and rare, sensitive and fragile material of later date as well as Sudanese newspapers, while the "grey" literature collection is an extensive body of published and semi-published titles, issued mainly between 1890 and 1955 in the Sudan, and includes a wide range of Sudan Government publications, army and staff lists, journals, missionary literature, lectures, speeches, timetables, directories, and publications of Sudanese societies, companies, clubs and associations.

Several of the most popular publication series have been digitised and are made available online through the tabs above.

 

Sudan telegraph system, circuit diagram land lines, Nov. 1940, from The Anglo-Egyptian Sudan: handbook of topographical intelligence (1940) (Ref: SC 14273)

Sudan telegraph system, circuit diagram land lines, Nov. 1940, from The Anglo-Egyptian Sudan: handbook of topographical intelligence (1940) (Ref: SC 14273)

Availability online (digital images)

Material within the Sudan Archive is being digitised, prioritised by the significance and condition of the material. A summary of our progress follows:

Collections

The first individual collections to have been digitised are the Ina M. Beasley collection and the Wingate Papers (in progress). Other collections have not been digitised, and so only the catalogues are available online 

Photographs and Films

Almost 50,000 photographs and more than 150 cinefilms have been digitised and are made available in our Search Room at Palace Green Library. Where copyright permits photographs and films are beginning to be published online, linked from the catalogues: we are only at the start of this long process. A union list of all films across all collections within the Sudan Archive is available in the Films tab above

Printed Material

The most popular publications series have been digitised and are available online: see the tabs above referring to Sudan Intelligence Reports, Governor-General Reports, Sudan Staff Lists, Sudan Government Gazettes, Sudan Maps

Museum Objects

Photographs of museum objects in the Sudan Archive will be linked from the collection catalogues in due course

If you would like to purchase digital copies of specific items from any of our collections, please get in touch.

If you are a member of teaching staff at Durham University and would like to use material from Archives and Special Collections within your lectures or seminars, we may be able to scan or photograph items for this purpose.  Please contact us as early as possible with any teaching digitisation requests.

See also our guide to Digitised Collections Online for further information on our digital resources.

Access to original sources

The collections mentioned above are located at Palace Green Library.  Our current opening hours are below.

  • Monday to Friday: 10am to 5pm
  • Saturday: closed
  • Sunday: closed

For further information on visiting to use the collections, please see our Visiting Guide.

See separate Libraries and Site Information guide for further information on Palace Green Library.

Contact us

Where to start

Summary Guide (Collections Guide to the Sudan Archive)

Sources elsewhere

The National Records Office (Khartoum)

South Sudan National Archives (Juba)

The National Archives (UK)