ANC Archives Digitisation Project

In 2012 the African National Congress turned 100. As the oldest modern liberation movement in the World it was fitting that ahead of the centenary celebrations a project should be initiated to digitise the ANC Archives and give access to the extensive collections to ANC members, the people of South Africa and researchers around the World.

 

The initial group that met together to strategize about the digitisation of the ANC Archive seen here at the NAHECS Building at the University of Fort Hare. The group included representatives of the ANC, Multichoice, University of Fort Hare and Africa Media Online. Far left: Mandla Langa (ANC), Second left: Professor Michael Somniso (UFH), Third Left: Vuyani Booi (NAHECS, UFH), Fourth left: Moferefere Lekorotsoana (ANC), Sixth left: Yoli Soul (UFH), Eigth left: Eddie McAlone (Multichoice), Tenth left: Vuyolwethu Feni-Fete (NAHECS, UFH). PHOTO: David Larsen / Africa Media Online

 

Toward this end the ANC approached Multichoice, a major media company in South Africa who agreed to sponsor the project. Together with ANC leadership Multichoice engaged the National Heritage and Cultural Studies Centre (NAHECS) at the University of Fort Hare where the bulk of the Archives were housed to plan the project ahead of the centenary year.

 

Archivist Mark Snyders of NAHECS at the University of Fort Hare introduces the ANC archive to from left Catherine Murray of Creative Spark and Grace Coates and Alastair Mason of Doxa Productions during a fact finding trip to NAHECS ahead of the project to digitise the ANC Archives. PHOTO: David Larsen / Africa Media Online

 

 

Multichoice also engaged Africa Media Online as a South African company specialising in the digitisation of historic archives who agreed to take on the digitisation of the rare manuscripts and photographic collections and to provide the archival digital repository system that would host and provide access to the digitised archives. Africa Media Online also introduced Multichoice to the International Library of African Music to take on the digitisation of the audio material and Doxa Productions to digitise the video material. In addition Creative Spark were contracted to project manage the project and eventually to build the public web site.

 

Blessing Mtolo of Africa Media Online digitises a manuscript page during Phase 1 and 2 – the six month project to digitise the ANC Archives. PHOTO: David Larsen / Africa Media Online

 

Phase 1 of what became known as Project Antelope started in October 2011 and aimed at getting a selection of material that could be used at the time of the ANC centenary celebrations digitised. Phase 2 ran from January to March 2012 and by the end of this phase over 24,000 manuscript pages and 20,000 photographic images as well as all the audio and video content of the archive had been digitised and placed on Africa Media Online’s MEMAT archival digital repository system that had been installed on servers in the NAHECS building at the University of Fort Hare.

 

 

Grace Coates of Doxa Productions works on digitising video tapes from the ANC Archives. Doxa worked two shifts for a number of months to complete the project in time. PHOTO: David Larsen / Africa Media Online

 

In September 2012 Phase 3 of the project was initiated to create the systems to make the archive accessible. Creative Spark created the ANC Archives Public Website and Africa Media Online created the ANC Archives Research Website. Both were officially launched at a gala event at the Sandton Convention Centre on April 29, 2013 when Mr Nolo Letele, Executive Chairman of MultiChoice South Africa Group, handed over the archive to the ANC President and President of South Africa President Jacob Zuma.

 

Elijah Madiba of the International Library of African Music (ILAM) works on tape reels from the ANC Archive. PHOTO: David Larsen / Africa Media Online

 

 

While much has been accomplished to date, it is just the beginning of the work that needs to be done on the archive and that work continues. Currently most of the digitised material does not have associated information captured that would make the digital files findable. Africa Media Online has created some interim solutions for this problem but ultimately this work of capturing the related information (known as metadata) will need to be carried out. This will be the task of Phase 4 of the project. A further phase is likely to see the digitisation of the remainder of the manuscripts as only about one fifth of the manuscript archive was digitised in phases 1 and 2.

 

The team that undertook the digitisation of the ANC Archives at the University of Fort Hare from October 2011 to March 2012 at the closing event of Phase 1 and 2. PHOTO: David Larsen / Africa Media Online