Towards a uniform strategy for taking archives to the people in South Africa
Archival institutions in South Africa are faced with a number of challenges, including preservation, meeting standards, giving access to their holdings and reaching diverse users. The fact that archives are managed in order to be used has created a greater interest in public programming. Archival legislation in South Africa makes provision for the national and provincial repositories to take archives to the people. This qualitative participatory action research study reports on the development of a uniform strategy that can be customised by national and provincial archives repositories in order to take archives to the people. The strategy was developed during a three-day workshop with the involvement of 14 archivists from the national and provincial archives responsible for public programming. The presentation and activities during the workshop stimulated discussions in relation to the development of the strategy. It became clear from the workshop that national and provincial archives were unable to reach out and attract people owing to an inadequate outreach strategy, the absence of a consistent message to the public, insufficient resources and limited skills among archivists. In the context of public programming for the whole national and provincial archival community, the need for a single archival language and a consistent message when making the public aware of the existence of archives was identified. As a result, a uniform strategy to be implemented over three years by national and provincial archives repositories was developed. It is hoped that as the archival community begins to convey a consistent message, they will be able to take the archives to the people, provided there is no interference from authorities outside the immediate archival sphere.