ESARBICA Journal: Journal of the Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Branch of the International Council on Archives

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Mapping access and use of archival materials held at the Bulawayo Archives in Zimbabwe

Patrick Ngulube, Patience Sibanda, Norah LS Makoni


The purpose of this qualitative case study was to map access and use of archival materials at the Bulawayo Archives (BA) in Zimbabwe. The study investigated how access policies influenced access and use of archival collections at BA; the finding aids used to provide access to archives; the use of information and communication technologies to provide access to archives; how backlogs of unprocessed archival materials affected access to the collection; the systemic barriers that influenced access to archival materials; the skills and knowledge of staff in promoting access and use of archival materials; and the profile of the users of archival materials and the purpose that they utilised the information for. A case study research design was employed with face-to-face interviews, observation and artefact analysis as data collection methods. The respondents included the Director of National Archives of Zimbabwe, Acting Principal Archivist who was in charge of BA, two archivists and two records management assistants working with him, and ten users who consulted archival materials at BA during the period 1 August 2012 to 30 May 2013 when the study was conducted. Data were analyzed using thematic content analysis with an interpretevist perspective. The results showed that legal authorization of access to archives exists, archival finding aids were not adequate, there were huge backlogs of unprocessed archives, systemic barriers hindered users from accessing archives, staff had limited knowledge of promoting access to archives and the major users of archival materials were researchers from various fields. The study recommended that BA should improve their policies, procedures and practices by making them access-friendly so that they do not adversely impact on access and use of archival materials.

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