The ethical implications of digitisation of the Alan Paton Centre struggle archives

  • Zawedde Nsibirwa University of KwaZulu-Natal
Keywords: ethics, digitisation, archives, South Africa, Alan Paton archives


The fluid development of technology has led to the re-ontologising of systems and the need for archivists and manuscript librarians to change the ways in which they carry out their duties by adapting trends, which include digitisation. This entails professionals changing the way they accomplish their traditional practised values, inclusive of new ethical challenges. This article examines the ethical implications of the digitisation of archival records in a special collection creating new formats of records. In Africa, a number of such projects fail due to lack of proper strategies and planning, unethical practices, lack of harmonised guidelines, frameworks and standards. The intricacies of the digitisation of special records need archivists to assess what they do and the consequences of their actions in order to protect the integrity and authenticity of the record as well as to provide access to it and ensure its preservation. A mixed method approach was used to investigate this case study. Three members of staff working on the digitisation project were interviewed and an observation checklist was also used to examine 114 records that had been digitised. The study revealed that the fundamental ethical challenge emanated from legislation not catering for the governing of private archives in South Africa. In addition, the study also revealed that the archive had only a draft digitisation policy for the current and continued preservation of and access to these records now and in the future. The project lacks clear direction.


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eISSN: 0376-4753