Please, find below the kind fax reply of Prof. Henry Loius Gates Jr. of
Harvard to myself and the entire list on my above captioned query which
was posted on this list a while ago. For your further pursual, I have also
attched copies of my original query and direct e-mail to the good Professor.
I hope to be excused for taking the liberity to mention the list in my
letter without express authorization. Although, the turn out on this list
regarding this clear cut African and IT issue left much to be desired, I
must take the opportunity to thank all those who threw thiers on and off
line and hope to read what you think of the reply and the project.
24 February 1998
Mr. Dawit Angelo
Teklehaimanot Road 05/19/883/06
Fax to: 011.251.1.551.699
E-mail to : [log in to unmask]
Dear Mr. Angelo and Subscribers to the AFRIK-IT Mailing List,
I welcome the opportunity of describing more fully the Ethiopian Art and
Architecture Database Project. The basic idea is simple and vast: to build a
comprehensive photographic archive and database of Ethiopian art and
architecture. In partnership with the Institute of Ethiopian Studies and in
consultation with the Ethiopian Church, the Ministry of Culture, and other
relevant authorities, our aim is to assemble this basic information and make
it widely accessible. This collaborative effort will result in the creation
of a fundamental tool for the study of African art and history.
In order to realize these goals, we are seeking to raise 1.3 million U.S.
dollars to cover the initial three year phase. Allow me to emphasize that
Microsoft Corporation is not involved with this project in any way. This
project is scholarly , not commercial, in nature. It is not intended to
generate profits. Our preference is that all photographic images and
supporting documentation be available to all potential users, free of charge.
Building the archive and database will involve photographing,, cataloguing,
and digitizing manuscript illuminations, panel paintings, wall paintings,
architectural exteriors and interiors, metalwork, carved wood, etc., located
both in situ in Ethiopia, and in public and private collections worldwide.
In addition to the official art of the Christian empire , the database will
include Islamic monuments such as the shrine of Sheik Hussein, as well as
such sacred objects as the carved tomb markers ( waga) of the Konso and
Gurage megaliths. The database is therefore intended to be inclusive and
multicultural in the fullest sense. Cataloguing will be done online from the
outset. parallel to the traditional visual and textual documentation, an
electronic version will be available via the Internet.
The database also will provide a record of endangered monumental painting in
its architectural context, essential both for its study and as the basis for
any future conservation programs. I believe that Harvard University, and the
other institutions intending to become involved with the project , have
sufficient experience of photographic and conservation projects elsewhere in
the world to ensure that no damage is done in Ethiopia. I also believe that
the relatively short time required to photograph a site will not disrupt any
benefits that Ethiopia receives from tourism.
I hope this answers your questions and alleviates your concerns. Our goal is
to record Ethiopia's rich visual heritage as a way of contributing to its
preservation. If any gain is realized from this endeavor, it belongs to
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
cc: Kay Shelemay
Henry L. Gates, Jr.
Chair, Afro-American Studies
W.E.B. DuBois Professor of the Humanities
Barker Center - Second Floor
12 Quincy Street
E-mail: [log in to unmask]
Ever since your Addis Ababa announcement of the above captioned
project, we, concerned Africans and Africanisisrts in and around the
AFRIK-IT mailing list "African Network of IT Experts and
Professionals (ANITEP) List" <[log in to unmask]>, were
trying to know more about the project. However, to our dismay, we
couldn't succeed with out bothering you. And hence, as an Ethiopian and
the person who brought up the subject to the attention of the list, I am
taking the initiative.
Frankly speaking, although your involvement is reassuring, as much as the
wider electronic availability of Ethiopian art heritage, the posetive
publicity and preservation excites us, we also have concerns pertaining to
possible damage in the process, loss of control and tourist revenue, rights
over products and appropration of proceeds.
We sincerly hope that you will take a little bit of your time from your
bussy schedule to enlighten us. You may at your descretion reply directly
to the list or I can gladly serve as your courier.
Sincerely and thank you for your time.
I read on The MONITOR of Addis Ababa (Teusday, February 3, 98 Vol. V,
No. 63;) that a project to digitize every work of art in Ethiopian history
was announced by Professor Henry Loius Gates Jr. of Harvard at a US
Embassy reception in Addis Ababa. According to the paper, this
collaborative project in which IES (Institute of Ethiopian Studies) and The
Dubois Institute which has a multi-million dollar agreement with Microsoft
are involved is yet to secure funds while another CD ROM project "Ency-
Africa" is due early next year.
It seem that the project will generate enourmous proceeds by providing
much needed content to Microsoft projects and I am wondering if some one
out there has details of the project.
aa/ How are IES and Ethiopia to benifit from the project apart from
posetive publicity (?) and record preservation?
bb/ Is it in deed a good idea to involve a mighty multi-national when it comes
to such invaluable national and continental heritgaes? Wouldn't it mean less
control, less tourist revenue once the products are electronically available,
buying back your own at untouchable prices latter on etc. etc.? (The $150 or
so price tag of a recently published color illustration of the same source
material comes to mind here)
cc/ On the technical front, is it not possible for IES to handle it in house?
Particularly so, now that the recently announced World Bank loan of $ 5 mill.
to Ethiopia which is earmarked for historical projects is awaiting proposals
although the emphasis will surely be on physical preservation? I guess, I heard
about related student works at (SISA) School of Information Science for
Africa which is a stone throw away from IES. Are they not upgradable to a
proposal level, at least? Does any body have details?
dd/ With out the details, CD ROM publishing and making it electronically
available on the web come to mind and I am also wondering, how much in terms
of funds and what unachievable technology we are talking about to digitize
works of art?
I hope this surely is of interest to AFRIK-ITers.
_/ ETHIO-INTERACTIVE _/
_/ P. O. Box 13083 _/
_/ Tekehaimanot Rd. 05/19/883/06 _/
_/ Addis Ababa, Ethiopia _/
_/ Tel: 251 (01) 515 063/ 553 673 _/
_/ Fax: 251 (01) 551 699 _/
_/ E-Mail: [log in to unmask] _/