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African, Jewish, and Middle Eastern Studies: Digital Resources at the Library of Congress

African Studies

Senufo wall hanging from Korhogo in northern Côte d'Ivoire. Library of Congress African and Middle Eastern Division.
This wall hanging consists of six strips of cotton cloth that have been sewn together, commonly called a fila cloth. The geometric designs and realistic figures drawn on the cloth by Senufo religious artists are traditionally used to communicate to the gods and to the participants in Poro society ceremonies the wearer's desire for protection and for life's necessities. Widely imitated and replicated, Senufo paintings are sold all over the continent as mass-produced tourist art.

For Africa south of the Sahara, the focal point of the Library's reference and bibliographic service is the African Section, one of three units of the African and Middle Eastern Division. The Section was formally established in the Library of Congress in 1960, a momentous year in sub-Saharan Africa as 17 nations gained independence. Supported initially by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation and later by funds appropriated by Congress, the African Section focuses on virtually all topics relating to sub-Saharan Africa. It advises and cooperates in the Library's acquisition program, provides reference and bibliographic services, and maintains liaison with other research and teaching institutions in the United States and abroad.

The African Section is well known for its bibliographic products. Notable among them is the series of bibliographies of the official publications of African countries in which the documents of some thirty African nations from colonial times through independence have been systematically listed. A related publication is the United States and Africa: Guide to U.S. Official Documents and Government-Sponsored Publications on Africa, 1785-1975, with a supplement for the period 1976-1980. The Section's bibliographic program also includes the Maktaba Afrikana, a series of short topical bibliographies on subjects of current interest and Africana Directions, an irregular series of short bibliographies and reference aids designed to help readers use the Library's collections more effectively.

For both historical and contemporary research studies, the Library's collection of Africana (material published in or relating to Africa) are substantial, including sources in every major field of study in the social sciences and in the humanities. Holdings include invaluable primary source documents, facsimiles, and secondary sources, in diverse formats. Language coverage includes English, French, German, Portuguese, and many African vernaculars. Africana holdings are integrated into the general collections and other special collections of the Library.


Africana at the Library of Congress

The Africana Collections of the Library of Congress include materials produced over the centuries by peoples living in sub-Saharan Africa and by others inspired by the continent. Encompassing the area from the Cape Verde Islands in the west to the Indian Ocean islands in the east and from the Sahel in the north to the Cape of Good Hope in the south, this geographic region spanning several climatic zones, whose peoples speak hundreds of languages, offers rich opportunities for diverse studies. The Library's Africana Collections reflect the complexities of African societies and the efforts to understand and express this knowledge in many forms.

Those who have just begun their studies as well as experienced scholars will find in the Africana Collections pertinent books, periodicals, newspapers, pamphlets, legal documents, photographs, films, music, sound recordings, and digital resources. The Library's collections cover all subjects except technical agriculture and clinical medicine. These materials are stored in the General Collections and in the Library's various custodial divisions as each format dictates. The African Section maintains several special collections, totaling more than 45,000 items.

Ethiopian and Eritrean Collections

The Library of Congress holds the largest collection of materials from Ethiopia and Eritrea in North America. In addition to its many books in Amharic and Tigrinya, the Ethiopian Collection has significant holdings of newspapers and serials with over 350 serials to date and about the same number of newspapers, among them Aemero, the first newspaper in Amharic. Twenty of these newspapers have already been microfilmed and the two national newspapers, Adis Zaman of Ethiopia and Hadas Eretra of Eritrea, are also available on microfilm. Berhanena Salam, published from 1925 till 1934, is available in digital format. Other languages represented in the collection include Oromo and Ge’ez.

The acquisition of the Thomas Leiper Kane Collection in 2001 added a number of books printed before 1960 as well as an important collection of pamphlets. The crown jewel of the Kane Collection is its manuscripts, with about 250 codices on vellum and paper.

The Ethiopian Collection also offers researchers a significant number of photographs, postcards, and other items useful for researching the Italo-Ethiopian wars.

For more information about the Ethiopian Collection and its ongoing program of events, please contact:

Fentahun TirunehArea Specialist, African Section, African and Middle Eastern Division
Contact information: [email protected] | Tel: (202) 707-4163 | Fax: (202) 252-3180

African Studies: Countries and Area Specialists

Reference assistance is available from the Library of Congress for African studies. Each area specialist has reference and acquisitions responsibilities for a particular linguistic or geographic region and has developed expert knowledge of the collections for his or her area. In conjunction with other Library units these area specialists develop the collections and compile bibliographic guides to bring Africana materials to the attention of librarians and scholars.

Each reference specialist below is listed with their contact information and the countries they specialize in. You can also use our Ask a Librarian service to contact a reference librarian.

Dr. Lanisa Kitchiner, Chief, African and Middle Eastern Division
Contact information: [email protected] | Tel: (202) 707-7937 | Fax: (202) 252-3180

Dr. Edward Miner, Head, African Section, African & Middle Eastern Division
Contact information: [email protected] | Fax: (202) 252-3180
Africa (Eastern, French-Speaking West and Central), Horn of Africa, Indian Ocean Islands, the Sahel, and the following countries:

Mr. Fentahun Tiruneh, Reference Specialist, African Section, African & Middle Eastern Division
Contact information: [email protected] | Tel: (202) 707- 3180 | Fax: (202) 252-3180Tel: (202) 707-4163