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

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Preserving South Africa's Paper Trail and Making Public Records Available for Present and Future Generations

Patrick Ngulube


Access to public records and archives in South Africa is diminishing rapidly largely due to inadequate preservation strategies and a dearth of knowledge of archival preservation techniques. Inadequate attention is being paid to preservation as a collection management strategy. Continued access to South African archives is going to largely depend on how they are preserved from creation right through their entire life cycle. The aim of preservation is to prolong the usable life of archives in order to ensure indefinite access to them. The situation regarding preserving public records and archives and making them available by archival institutions in South Africa was investigated. Based on a questionnaire survey, interviews, observation and content analysis of key documentary sources the study revealed the inadequate housing and environmental conditions of the archival holdings, a lack of awareness concerning preventive preservation measures, inadequate preservation programmes and limited conservation education, limited resources for conservation activities, and weak organisational structure and funding of archival institutions in South Africa in general. The study concluded that unless the existing situation is reversed, access to public records and archives in South Africa would diminish.

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