Navigation Aids

 
 
 
 
 
Collections Development Policies
FindIt:

Sidebar

Main Content

African Studies

This policy does not treat North African and Egyptological materials, which are described in the Middle Eastern Area Studies and Anthropology / Archaeology policies.

I. Program Information

Although the University Museum has encouraged archaeological and ethnographic research in Africa since the late nineteenth century, African Studies as a formal academic program began at Penn with the creation of the University Committee on African Studies in 1942 through the joint efforts of Zellig Harris, then in Oriental Studies, and the University Museum. Language instruction was the early focus of the Committee, with Hausa, Swahili, and Fanti (for which Francis N. Nkrumah, later Kwame Nkrumah, first president of Ghana, served as instructor) being the original three languages taught. The University of Pennsylvania Press and the University Museum collaborated during 1943-1949 on eight monographs published as the esteemed African handbooks series. During the late 1940s, Penn's interest in Africa narrowed to North Africa, with disastrous results for the library collection. Although Penn established its first African exchange program in February 1981 with University of Ibadan, it was only until the 1990s that African Studies returned to its original stature, with a renewed interest in sub-saharan Africa and funding support from the U.S. Department of Education's "Title VI" National Resource Center for Foreign Language and Area Studies program, beginning in 1993.

The African Studies Program does not have its own standing faculty. The 27 tenured faculty affiliated with the program hold primary appointments in Anthropology, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Economics, English, Folklore, History, History and Sociology of Science, Linguistics, Political Science, Population Studies, Religious Studies, and Sociology within the School of Arts and Sciences, as well as Graduate School of Education and its related International Literacy Institute, Medical School, Nursing School, School of Social Work, and Wharton School. Nine untenured faculty extend affiliations to Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia, Penn Language Center, and Romance Languages.

The African Studies Center emphasizes undergraduate education, offering more than 150 courses with African content. Although graduate interest in Africa is very strong, with 91 Penn dissertations written on African topics between 1989 and 1998, no graduate degree in African Studies is offered at Penn. Instead, a graduate Certificate in African Studies is offered to all M.A. and Ph.D. students, with coursework in development, humanities, and social sciences. Undergraduate B.A. major and minor courses of study are offered; the major degree requires a senior thesis. The undergraduate degree program has a small number of students -- one student received a B.A. in African Studies during the four years between 1993/1994 and 1996/1997. Both graduate and undergraduate programs require coursework in non-western African languages.

As part of its Title VI responsibilities, the African Studies Center coordinates the interdisciplinary curricular activities and intellectual programming of the Pennsylvania African Studies Consortium, whose other members include Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College, and Swarthmore College. The Consortium organizes joint courses across the four campuses, conducts semiannual seminars, and coordinates the five exchange programs (Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Senegal, in addition to Ibadan, Nigeria) offered. The Consortium offers instruction in three core languages -- Kiswahili, Yoruba, and Amharic -- with individualized instruction offered upon request in other languages. To date, Shona, Twi, and Wolof have been taught successively since 1995; other languages taught include Hausa, Bambara, Temne, Mende, Setswana, Oshivambo, Fon, Chitonga, and Zulu.

The traditional focus of Africa-related research at Penn has grown over the past half century from a core interest in anthropology, folklore, history, and languages. Current research foci, based largely upon successful research and instructional centers, include population studies and demography (Population Studies Center), public health, juvenile health, and medical practices (Medical School), languages (Penn Language Center and Linguistic Data Consortium, coordinated through African Language Resource Council), literacy and education (International Literacy Center), and political economy (International Relations). Interest in southern Africa has grown, particularly for population studies and demography, public health, social work, and literature.

II. Collection Description

The Penn Library's Africa-related collection development program is forward- looking through necessity. Its retrospective collection appears to have had an uneven growth, with strong, almost unitary emphases in anthropology, folklore, history, and languages. This lopsided picture is the result of a presumably well-intentioned donation in September 1948 to Northwestern University's nascent African collection of more than 1,000 volumes -- "almost a ton and a half in all" -- of newspapers, government publications (including legislative proceedings from twelve countries), and social sciences periodicals published in Africa. While this gift formed the nucleus of the Northwesterns Herskovits Library, the largest sub-saharan African collection in the world, the Penn Library attempted unsuccessfully to create a comparable North African collection.

The retrospective collection has a strong West African and East African focus. Only major older works in Central African history, ethnography, and linguistics are present. No Afrikaans and few older publications on South Africa beyond apartheid can be found.

The Penn Library's African studies collection has grown considerably during the past half decade. The 1993 North American Title Count described 11,504 titles held in African history and non-western/non-Arabic African languages and literature, with an additional 5,047 uncounted titles acquired before 1968. In an August 1999 shelf count, the Penn Library holds an estimated 24,421 titles in these subjects: the collection increased 48 percent in six years. Overall, the present African collection comprises an estimated 35,100 volumes.

Penn Library Africa-related holdings are shared among the Van Pelt Library (general topics, social sciences and humanities: 82-percent) and the University Museum Library (anthropology and archaeology: 14-percent), with other departmental libraries -- Fisher Fine Arts, Lippincott (business), Biomedical -- collecting in special areas. Present African collection strengths are in history and ethnography (58-percent), demography and social and economic conditions (11-percent), languages (9-percent) and literature (5-percent), and political science and government (3-percent). All major African studies periodicals are represented in complete runs.

Yvette Scheven, emeritus African Studies Bibliographer at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, performed an external review of the African collection in 1993. Several areas of weakness were identified -- francophone African literature, non-western/non-Arabic African languages and literature, primary resource materials, and periodicals from Africa -- all of which have largely been remedied, mostly through the use of Title VI funds awarded to the Penn Library. French-language African literature holdings have grown to be on par with English-language literature holdings, with approximately 936 titles in each area. Non-western/non-Arabic African language and literature holdings have grown more than 200-percent since 1993, to 2,566 volumes. The 470-title microform Bascom Yoruba Collection complements a growing collection of grammars, dictionaries, and texts in African languages, supplemented by the dozens of grammars, dictionaries, primers and readers, and other curricular material for uncommonly taught African languages reproduced in the Penn Library's ERIC Document microfiche collection.

Major primary research collections, on microform or in print, concerning Africa include the complete Human Relations Area Files and campuswide online access to eHRAF, historic records of the Organization of African Unity, 19th- and 20th-century British parliamentary papers, state papers, confidential papers, and Public Record Office files on African colonial affairs and the slave trade, Sierra Leonian missionary periodicals relating to health practices, and pre-World War II African censuses and post-World War II North African censuses. During 1998, the Penn Library made a major purchase of South African literature and political monographs from the Mayibuye Centre. The Penn Library's membership in the Cooperative Africana Microform Project (CAMP) provides Penn students and faculty with request-based access to additional expensive or scarce microform newspapers, periodicals, and primary collections.

Progress continues to be made slowly in one area identified by Ms Scheven. African Studies allocations pay for 25 serial subscriptions and standing orders, almost entirely for periodicals published in Africa. Although many more Africa-related serials are acquired through other subject-specific funds, future plans are to expand Africa-published periodical holdings for the collections strengths. As reliable delivery from Africa is the most critical issue in serials management, discussions are in progress with the Library of Congress, Nairobi Field Office, to participate in their acquisitions program.

Van Pelt Library is a full United Nations depository and acquires the Readex UN microfiche collection. While the depository program provides timely access to core UN materials, the Readex set is most effective at coverage of the Economic Commission for Africa and other ancillary bodies. Van Pelt Library receives all English-language UNESCO monographs and acquires World Bank publications through approval plans. Lippincott Library maintains standing orders for several FAO publication series and receives all GATT/WTO and OECD publications. The Penn Library is a U.S. federal depository library, particularly strong in Congressional, State, and Commerce documents.

Electronic media materials are a recent addition to the collection. Franklin searches in September 1999 identify approximately 611 African music sound recordings, held in the Ormandy Listening Center, and 99 Africa-related videorecordings. The transfer of the School of Arts and Sciences's video collection in 1999 and 2000 will likely bring additional videos. Africa Data Sampler GIS database was added to the collection in 1999, as was a CD-ROM collection of Mayibuye Centre apartheid-related texts and images.

Future development will maintain an elevated level of acquisitions in francophone publications and non-western/non-Arabic African languages. New areas for development will be public health, international and non- governmental organization publications, and materials relating to the social, political, and economic conditions of southern Africa.

Bibliographic access to the collection is provided through Franklin, the Penn Library's online catalog. The Van Pelt Library Card Catalog is still needed for locating some pre-1968 materials.

Journal literature bibliography for African studies is well-served. Van Pelt Reference holds the principal print-format indexes and abstracts: Accessions List: Eastern and Southern Africa (Library of Congress, Nairobi), Africa Bibliography, Africa Contemporary Record, Africa South of the Sahara: Index to Periodical Literature, 1900-1970 with supplements through 1977, African Book Publishing Record, African Studies Abstracts, Current Bibliography on African Affairs, Guide to the Sources of the History of the Nations, Series B: Africa, and International African Bibliography.

The interdisciplinary nature of Penn's African studies program may require readers to use a large number of subject-specific online bibliographic and fulltext databases. Among the licensed databases offered are AIDSline, Anthropological Literature, CAB Abstracts, DataStream, FRANCIS, Historical Abstracts, Index to World Legal Periodicals, International Bibliography of the Social Sciences, ISI Web of Science, LEXIS-NEXIS Academic Universe, LLBA, Medline, MLA International Bibliography, PAIS, ProQuest Dissertations Online, and World News Connection (and FBIS microfiche). Free online bibliographic resources are also used: African Index Medicus, African Studies Centre (Leiden) online catalog, Africana Conference Paper Index, Anthropological Index, Center for Research Libraries/CAMP online catalog, Population Index, and Quarterly Index to Periodical Literature, Eastern and Southern Africa (Library of Congress, Nairobi).

The Penn Library Web offers a page of links to important news, bibliographic, and governmental internet resources and a page of links to Africa-related electronic journals, both licensed and free. The narrow focus of web publishing is a result of the enormous scale and quality of the African Studies Center's Africa Studies WWW site, which is prominently linked from the Penn Library Web pages.

A digital library collection combining digitized photographic images from Hall's 1930s Sherbro Island expedition and interpretive documentation prepared by Dr. Sandra Barnes is currently being processed as a collaborative effort by the University Museum Archives, the Penn Library's Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image and the Penn African Studies Center, and funded through the Centers Title VI grant.

III. Guidelines for Collection Development

  1. Chronological

    The collection reflects the orientation of African studies at Penn, which treats all historical periods, from prehistory to the present. However, Egyptology does not fall under this policy.

  2. Formats

    The collection constitutes largely books and academic periodicals. African newspapers are not currently collected: they are expensive and difficult to accumulate complete runs; microfilm runs are largely available through CAMP; and the academic program lacks sufficient geographic hyperfocus to justify specific subscriptions. Microforms are collected. Electronic formats are collected where relevant: sound recordings, videorecordings, numeric and geographic information, and electronic journals.

    A June 1999 inventory of open orders indicates that African studies funds are allocated for membership in the African Studies Association (U.S.) and 21 periodicals and annuals.

  3. Geographical

    Although there are no limitations to the subject coverage of geographic areas within Africa, most emphasis is placed upon West Africa, East Africa, and southern Africa. Much of the current scholarly material collected is published in the United States and western Europe, although since 1993, publications from Africa have been increasingly been acquired.

  4. Language

    The current scholarly literature collected is primarily in English and French, with some German and few Italian publications. Materials in the three core languages taught at Penn -- Kiswahili, Yoruba, and Amharic -- are acquired. Materials in other languages are also collected, particularly those targeted by the Penn Language Center. Readers and primers may be obtained for uncommonly taught languages, where scholarly material is scarce. Afrikaans is not a language actively collected.

  5. Publication Dates

    Budgetary constraints result in a collecting emphasis on current publications. However, owing to the poverty of the collection's imprints before the 1990s and especially before 1948, reprints or used copies of major older works are selectively obtained. Large microform and online collections of older texts are considered, although availability through CAMP may be a criterion for refusal. Electronic, microform, and print backfiles of serials are selectively acquired to supplement current holdings.

IV. Principal Sources of Supply and major Selection Tools

Approval plans provide good coverage of U.S. and western European academic and trade publishers and distributors such as Africa World Press/Red Sea Press, L'Harmattan, Heinemann, Indiana University Press, James Currey, Karthala, and Transaction Publishers (distributors of Nordiska Afrikainstitutet and LIT Verlag).

Anglophone titles from Africa are obtained primarily through African Books Collective. Lists from Clarke's and Thorold's, African Imprint Library Services, Africa Book Centre, Hogarth Representation, Livres de l'Afrique Centrale, Ocianie-Afrique-Noire, and Bennett-Pennvenne Livros are scanned regularly.

Exchanges or duplicates from other U.S. libraries are a major source of retrospective acquisitions.

In addition to catalogs and publishers' lists, the principal selection tools used are African Book Publishing Record and Accessions List: Eastern and Southern Africa (Library of Congress, Nairobi). The professional librarian literature -- Africana Libraries Newsletter and African Research and Documentation -- are scanned, as are major periodicals with book reviews -- Africa, Bulletin of Francophone Africa, African News, African Studies Review, Research in African Literatures.

V. Subjects Collected and Levels of Collecting

Subjects Collected Levels of Collecting Notes
Anthropology 4F/4F at Museum, ethnohistory at Van Pelt
Art 4F/4F at Fine Arts
Economics/Development 3E/3E/4E  
Education 2F/2F  
Egyptology 4F/4F at Museum
Folklore 3F/3F/4F  
History
Central Africa 2F/2F  
East Africa North Africa  
Southern Africa 3F/4F  
West Africa 3F/3F/4F  
Linguistics 3F/3F/4F  
Literature
Amharic 2Y/2Y/3Y  
Anglophone 3Y/3Y/4Y  
Francophone 2Y/3Y/4Y  
Lusophone 2Y/2Y  
Shona 2Y/2Y  
Swahili 2Y/2Y/3Y  
Yoruba 2Y/2Y/3Y  
Music 4F/4F  
Political Science 3F/3F/4F  
Sociology 3F/3F/4F  

VI. Subjects Excluded

No subjects are excluded.

General-audience primers, "teach yourself" language manuals, and juvenilia are not collected unless either required by the scarcity of more scholarly materials for the subject or recommended for its treatment of the subject.

VII. Cooperative Arrangements and Related Collections

The University of Pennsylvania Museum holds one of the largest historically significant collections of African art and material culture in the U.S. comprising more than 10,000 objects deriving mostly from research projects undertaken in sub-Saharan Africa. African objects are installed in interpretive displays in the Museum's permanent Africa Gallery.

The University Museum Archives has extensive Africa-related holdings, including field notes and manuscripts, prints, maps, photographic images, stereographs, glass plate negatives and lantern slides, film footage, and audio recordings relating to Africa from the 1890s and through the twentieth century. These are described at length in A guide to the University Museum Archives of the University of Pennsylvania (University Museum, 1993). The University Museum's Education Department holds the Kintner film collection, which includes 96 sub-saharan Africa ethnographic films dating from 1952-1969.

Two independent campus libraries complement the Penn Library collections in African studies. The Demography Library of the Population Studies Center, funded through an NIH research center core services grant, is a major national resource for demographic literature. Its African Censuses Collection holds post-World War II and recent African census publications, as well as African national statistical yearbooks and demographic and public health survey publications. The Law School's Biddle Law Library acquires African legal materials as part of its international law collection.

The Population Studies Center also provides access to online numeric data resources such as the African Census Project (ACAP) and the Demographic and Health Surveys through its Computer Core.

The CoPY Project (for "Columbia-Penn-Yale") is expected to benefit African studies readers by, for example, making available Yale University's extensive Afrikaans collection.

As a member library in the Pennsylvania African Studies Consortium, the Penn Library cooperates with its consortial allies at Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore Colleges, especially in videorecording acquisitions. The African collections of the four library systems are described in the African Studies Centers pamphlet, Guide to Resources for African Studies in the Libraries of the African Studies Consortium.

*