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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, and letters home etc. Collections 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. A list of our collections is provided here and in the Summary Guide to the Sudan Archive. 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 own archive collection catalogue. 

Collections mainly date from the Condominium period and the preceding military campaigns, 1880s-1956, but also include earlier records and material up to the present day. The overwhelming majority of the archive is in English.

Contemporary accessions to the archive are usually donated by expatriates or international academics who have lived and worked in the Sudans. We do not collect material in Sudan and South Sudan which would more appropriately be deposited in the archives and museums of those countries. We are happy to advise and if necessary redirect potential depositors.

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) or H.E. Hebbert (1893-1980).

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, and from the union list of all such objects 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 a Mahdist banner [1881 x 1898], showing border patterned fabric and an unidentified stamp and inscriptions, evidence that the fabric was re-used by the Mahdist flag-maker. 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. A.H.A. Alban collection, Sudan Archive (Ref: G//S 1543). 

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 "Collection" heading (MARC 958 field if you select the "Display Source Record" link). 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 (J.B. Christopherson collection, Ref: SAD.407/1/28[MP])

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) (Arabic material in the Sudan Archive, Ref: SAD.97/1)

There are four main groups of printed material relating to Sudan and South Sudan in Durham University Library and Collections, two on public access held at the main 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 within 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 "Collection" heading (MARC field 958 if you select the Display Source Record link).

At the main Bill Bryson Library the main loan and reference collection provides a good base for work in the humanities and social sciences and it includes 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. The grey (semi-official) literature collection is an extensive group 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 publication series most used by researchers 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). For those collections that have not been digitised only their catalogues are available online.

Photographs and Films

Almost 50,000 photographs and more than 150 cinefilms have been digitised and are accessible 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 the collections within the Sudan Archive is available in the Films tab above.

Printed Material

The most used 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

Some museum objects in the collections have been digitally photographed and these images are linked from the relevant collection catalogues. A union list of all museum objects across the collections is available in the Museum Objects tab above,

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 the 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 4:30pm
  • Saturday: closed
  • Sunday: closed

For further information on visiting to use the collections, please use our enquiry form.

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

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)