5,000 websites indexed in ilissAfrica

ilissAfrica managed to hit the 5,000 mark in October: The database on internet resources offers a collection of websites from and on sub-Saharan Africa. These websites are indexed comprehensively with keywords, abstracts, and classifications.

Goethe-InstitutThe website “Word of Mouth” of the Goethe-Institut was the 5,000th website indexed by the staff of ilissAfrica. It offers a very good introduction to the topic of orality. The project aims to build bridges between societies shaped by oral traditions and the predominantly text-based global knowledge society. In addition, “Word of Mouth” presents information on German activities in the field of oral history, oral literature, new media and indigenous knowledge thus facilitating intercultural exchange.

ilissAfrica’s “General search” allows a combined search in major African Studies library catalogues and databases together with the database on websites mentioned. Try the following search for “orality“. Another example might be the search for “truth commission” leading not only to books, articles and other full text studies, but also to the offical website of the truth commissions of South Africa, Kenya, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Aften four years of operation the “internet library sub-saharan Africa” is very proud to be labled as “an excellent resource” by the standard reference work “African Studies Companion” published online by Brill and edited by Marie-José Wijntjes (founding editor: Hans Zell). We appreciate any feedback to further improve ilissAfrica.

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“ilissAfrica Mobile” – new touch-optimized website for smartphones

ilissAfrica MobileJust head to m.ilissafrica.de on your mobile browser to get ilissAfrica’s cross search on the go – whatever device you’re using and wherever you are.

The “internet library sub-saharan Africa” (ilissAfrica) integrates relevant conventional and digital information resources on the sub-Saharan Africa region scattered on websites, databases or library catalogues in order to facilitate research. ilissAfrica allows a cross search in catalogues of research libraries like e.g. UB Frankfurt, GIGA Hamburg, IFEAS Mainz, ASC Leiden and NAI Uppsala, and in Africa-sections of the databases “World Affairs Online”, “Online Contents”, “Bielefeld Academic Search Engine” and the colonial picture archive as well as in a database on internet resources with more than 4.800 websites on sub-Saharan Africa.

With m.ilissafrica.de we hope to increase the usability and accessibility of ilissAfrica in African countries with low internet bandwidth but with splendidly constructed mobile cellphone networks,  e.g. up to 50% of Nigerians access the web via mobile devices for instance.

Instead of writing unique apps for each mobile device or OS, the mobile website uses partly the jQuery mobile framework to design a website consistent across different browsers. It was especially difficult to adapt the complex federated search (noYaMS) to a small display with touch-navigation.

Mobile “Search”

Home-Screenshot_2013-04-25-11-44-47 .  Gacaca Screenshot_2013-04-25-12-11-40

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New in ilissAfrica’s “Internet resources”-search: auto-suggest, hit highlighting, drill down & tag cloud

The search functionality of ilissAfrica’s database on internet resources with more than 4.600 indexed websites on sub-Saharan Africa was modernized:

1.) the auto-suggest component

The database shows you all terms used for indexing starting with the same characters. This helps also to see search terms in different languages.

2.) hit highlighting component

See the context in snippets where the search term was found.

3.) drill down / faceted navigation:

Limit your search results choosing “countries”, “keywords” and “resource types”:

4.) tag cloud

A cloud with all keywords – the font size shows how often it has been used.

5.) new resources list & RSS feeds

Explore the most recent indexed websites. All lists of results can by integrated in other websites via RSS-feeds.

6.) spell checking: Did you mean …?

If one gets no results because of typing errors an automatic suggestion is made.

7.) Search for similar resources with a re-selection of keywords

Still it is possible to browse by “Countries”, broad “Subject areas” and “Resource types”.

Please note, that “old”-URLs will be forwarded to the new ones, so every special link on sections of the website database should work.

New in ilissAfrica’s cross search: Colonial photographs from Africa

The Colonial Picture Archive comprises the image collection of the “German Colonial Society” (Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft), now located at Frankfurt University Library, Germany, and a collection of photographs, photo albums and postcards owned by the Sam Cohen Library, Swakopmund, Namibia. Over 50.000 digitized historical pictures cover the whole of Africa.

Johannesburg: 061-0712-18, 018-0120-30, PA10_061

The integration of the Colonial Picture Archive into the cross search of ilissAfrica makes available much more visual material. While this source material is mainly of interest for academic historians and social anthropologists, all other specialists might profit at least in the way, that searching with ilissAfrica gets more entertaining. Laborious bibliographic research is made a bit more appealing and the visual presentation of the pictures fits very well to the new world of social media, where sharing photographs is crucial.

Image Collection of the “German Colonial Society”

Photographer E. Hecker in Ovamboland, A_0ii_6874

The “German Colonial Society” was founded in 1887. For their propaganda activities members collected photographs, which were used to illustrate public lectures in Germany. Already, in the 1880s lectures were sometimes accompanied by privately owned glass slides belonging to the guest speaker. In 1891, this induced the Society to form their own image collection – beginning with about 100 large format black and white slides. Bequests from members and friends of the society as well as the transfer of originals or duplicates from the, now largely destroyed, official, commercial, and private collections rapidly increased the stock. Due to National Socialist enforcement, the society was integrated, together with its collections, organs, and members, with the German “Reichskolonialbund” (dissolved in 1943).


Sammlung Julius Hermann Schott (1888-1956) von Lieselotte Gräfin Bülow von Dennewitz, Tanzania, 1910-1912

There are pictures of landscapes, plants, agriculture, chase, animals, houses, cities, streets, schools, missions, trade, transport, police, administration, culture and people. Some seem to have a documentary character, some explicit the curiosity and fascination of the exotic. Appropriation, mastery, and self-reassurement of the claimed superior European culture is visible in many pictures (like the one on the left). While the Europeans often are known by name, the local people remain nameless. In spite of all this, the collection of images offers invaluable visual source material from African countries, even if the pictures were taken and used in a prejudiced colonial context.

Search examples

With the combined search in ilissAfrica it is possible to look for literature (books, articles, electronic dissertations and other online documents), for websites and for historical images on a given subject. If one wants to know more on a certain ethnic group, one will find not only the academic literature and websites on the group but also images of the people. The following searches give examples of the potential of this cross search:

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New in ilissAfrica: AJOL, African institutional repositories and French databases via Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE)

ilissAfrica strengthened its service of full text e-documents through the integration of Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE). Via this powerful OAI-PMH service provider some of the most important African and French repositories and article databases are now part of the combined search in ilissAfrica.

Highlights of the Africa section of BASE:

  1. African Journals Online (AJOL) to promote access to African research. It is the largest and pre-eminent collection of peer-reviewed, African-published scholarly journals, some Open Access.
  2. 30 institutional repositories from African universities, like WIReDSpace, UWC Research Repository, UNISA Institutional Repository, UPSpace, UJ DigiSpace, SUNScholar Research Repository, Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar: Institut Fondamental d’Afrique Noire Culturels Africains (Senegal), Covenant University Repository (Ota, Nigeria) or Addis Ababa University Electronic Thesis and Dissertations
  3. Major French resources like
    • Gallica – bibliothèque numérique de la Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) – with access e.g. to the accounts, photographs, maps etc. of explorers of Africa
    • Cairn – more than 150 journals in the Humanities and Social Sciences, e.g. Afrique contemporaine, Cahiers d’études africaines, Outre-Terre
    • Revues.org – Revues.org is the oldest collection of France’s open access online journals for social sciences (over 60).
    • Persée: Portail de revues scientifiques en sciences humaines et sociales. Free access to bibliographical data and to some extent to full text articles from scientific journals in the social and human sciences in France
    • HAL – Hyper Article en Ligne and Ressources documentaires. multi-disciplinary open access archive for the deposit and dissemination of scientific research papers, whether they are published or not, and for PhD dissertation
    • Inst. de recherche pour le développement (IRD). – Publications of the scientists of the IRD (former Orstom).
  4. More institutional repositories and digitization databases of LSE, SOAS, Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Michigan, Indiana, Harvard and Brigham Young universities
  5. Finally the RePEc:Research Papers in Economics and the Directory of Open Access Journals:Articles bring in many more results from very diverse journals also on Africa


Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE) is one of the world’s most voluminous search engines especially for academic open access web resources. BASE is operated by Bielefeld University Library. As the open access movement grows and prospers, more and more repository servers come into being which use the “Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting” (OAI-PMH) for providing their contents. BASE collects, normalizes, and indexes these data. One can access the full texts of about 75% of the indexed documents. The Index is continuously enhanced by integrating further OAI sources as well as local sources. BASE is a registered OAI service provider and contributed to the European project “Digital Repository Infrastructure Vision for European Research” (DRIVER).

Some remarks on selection and usage:

  • The selection was done by choosing specific data provider. There is no further sub-selection like a subject specification on African Studies. So on the one hand one might find results on the natural sciences which you would not expect in ilissAfrica. On the other hand you will find many documents on Africa e.g. in journals which would not be indexed in libraries specializing on African Studies normally.
  • While many repositories deliver keywords and abstracts, only some do support the keyword search.
  • The advanced search for the date range does not work with BASE
  • OR and NOT in the advanced search do work with BASE.
  • Some provider like Persee and Revues.org do not deliver the source information (name of the journal, volume etc.).

Search examples

  • Dogon
  • Khoisan
  • Youth in Sierra Leone – only full text, all document types
  • Mission Congo – AJOl articles, UNISA thesis, Persee, CAIRN articles, HAL documents, digital missionary accounts, pictures and maps e.g. via Gallica
  • Material on the “Kingdom of Kongo” – if one includes the French search term (royaume congo) the results of a title search  lead to journal articles and books in the different library catalogues and databases and via BASE there are found an ORSTOM (IRD) paper, some articles in Persee and some maps digitized by the Bibliotheque Nationale de France and the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. See further Gallica-Maps of the Kingdom of Kongo.
  • dakar photo*
  • South African postcards, e.g. historic postcards digitized by the University of Pretoria
  • online chapters of one book available in the libraries
  • Bambara (not groundnut)


The integration of BASE into ilissAfrica’s cross search is a big step forward: one search index provides access to a multitude of institutional repositories and Open Access databases. BASE is a brilliant example of the potential of the linked web via standardized interfaces. And it helps to increase the visibility of academic knowledge produced and stored in the South.


List of the OAI-repositories included:

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new feature of ilissAfrica: find online documents only

Advanced Search - restrict to full textsNew feature of ilissAfrica’s combined catalogue:

  • Find online documents only:
    => via the “Advanced Search”
    the search can be restricted to “full texts”
  • Find articles only:
    => via the “Advanced Search” the search can be restricted to articles from academic periodicals

Please note, that not all catalogues and databases included support the search limitation on a certain publication type. Therefore, if you limit your search to “full texts” or to “articles” certain resources are excluded automatically.

We appreciate any comments on these new functionalities of ilissAfrica!

new feature of ilissAfrica: results linked to WorldCat, German union catalogues & document delivery service

ilissAfrica’s combined catalogue now allows the following availability searches:

  • Our new cross search makes it easier to access the bibliographic references found. Find out the nearest location of the found document.
  • There are links to
    => WorldCat and to the
    => German union catalogues
    to find out which library nearest to you holds a copy.
  • For articles there are links to
    => the EZB to access the online journal directly and
    => the ZDB to see which German library holds a copy of the print version (see below).
  • Get the document via the document delivery service subito e.V.

Please note:

Some of the buttons only appear if an ISBN/ISSN is in the original metadata, if not, there is no possibility to create the link. We apologize for any inconvenience this might cause.

Caption:Availability in German Libraries

  • EZB means “Elektronische Zeitschriftenbibliothek” (Electronic Journals Library) managed by the University Library Regensburg. The availability of full text access is indicated by different colours according to the license situation of each member library. Based upon the open URL technology the EZB linking service offers direct access to the full text being published in a scholarly e-journal. If a user searches in ilissAfrica she or he gets results, where the user finds an EZB-button. I f the user pursues the EZB link, he will come to a web page in the EZB created specifically for this link. This EZB web page informs the user about the accessibility of the full-text. It shows with the help of the traffic light symbol if the full-text of the article is accessible without charge, or if it may be used under the license of an EZB member library. Finally, the EZB leads the user to the full-text from a supplier to which access rights are locally available. In order to facilitate the user’s access to the full-text, the EZB provides a direct link to the desired articles whenever possible. If a link to the article is not possible, the EZB points to the next highest level: table of contents of the issue, annual summary of the volume, or the journal home page. In these latter cases, the user is given specific directions to call up the full-text.
  • ZDB is the abbreviation of “Zeitschriftendatenbank“. This is the German national union catalogue for serial and journals titles. The ZDB contains more bibliographic records of serials and journals (electronic and print) and at the same time shows their availability in German libraries.

We appreciate any comments on these new functionalities of ilissAfrica!

“Integrated Information Services in Germany & Europe”, Report in Africa Spectrum 2/2010

Bergenthum, Hartmut / Thomas Siebold (2010), African Studies – Striving for Integrated Information Services: Recent Developments in Germany and Europe, in: Africa Spectrum 45, 2, pp. 109-121.
Retrieved December 22, 2010, from http://hup.sub.uni-hamburg.de/giga/afsp/article/view/331/331
URN: urn:nbn:de:gbv:18-4-3317

This report gives an account of the subject gateway ilissAfrica and some digitisation projects (Frobenius Institute, DEVA). It discusses recent European cooperation ventures in the field of librarianship (ELIAS). Finally, the report charts the new developments (e.g. interlibrary loan on e-journals) and services (e.g. Netvibes dashboard, Wiki) in connection with Frankfurt University Library’s special collection “Africa South of the Sahara”, which is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation). They try to address the changing needs of researchers and to handle information overload, while keeping up with the latest developments.


Compare some further publications on ilissAfrica and on the Frankfurt Special Collection:

  • Cohen, Nadia / Thomas Siebold (2009), Recherchieren im digitalen Zeitalter. Virtuelle Fachbibliothek ilissAfrica, in: Periplus. Jahrbuch für außereuropäische Geschichte, 19, 148-151.
  • Bergenthum, Hartmut (2008), „Ozeanien“ und „Afrika südlich der Sahara“. Zwei Sammlungen in der Universitätsbibliothek Frankfurt am Main mit bundesweitem Versorgungsauftrag, in: Jahrbuch für europäische Überseegeschichte, 8, 239-252.
  • Bergenthum, Hartmut (2007), Country Presentation Germany, Inaugural Meeting of ELIAS, Leiden, 2007, in: African Research & Documentation, 105, 39-43.
  • Bergenthum, Hartmut (2006), Neues vom Sondersammelgebiet „Afrika südlich der Sahara“, in: Afrika Spectrum, 41, 2, 303-304. (JSTOR Stable URL)
  • Wolcke-Renk, Irmtraud Dietlinde (2004), Afrika südlich der Sahara (SSG 6,31) : aus der Afrika-Abteilung der Stadt- und Universitätsbibliothek Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurt am Main : Klostermann.

Open Access Guides for Africa

See two recent Open Access Guides especially for Africa:

  • Special Africa” on the website “Open Access to scientifique communication”. Hans DILLAERTS and Hélène BOSC want to present, select and organize current information about Open Access.  (In French)
  • Open Access Guide for researchers based in Africa: Cheap or free Access to Databases and E-Journals” – a list provided by the internet library sub-saharan Africa (ilissAfrica) (In French)

And two recent examples for “best practice”:

  • Journal of African Economies – OUP offers academic, research and educational institutions within developing countries free (or greatly reduced) online access to JAE (further details)
  • HSRC Press is South Africa’s open access publisher committed to the dissemination of high quality social science research based publications, in print and electronic form. The Press publishes the research output of the Human Science Research Council and externally authored works.

independence days – special links on ilissAfrica

Celebrate with ilissAfrica the 50th anniversary of independence. 17 states in Africa became independent. You will find more books, articles and weblinks with two special links on ilissAfrica. Try also other searches e.g. with “50 years”.

For the German community we also recommend the Virtuelle Afrika-Vitrine of Frankfurt University Library’s Africa Department.