The role of archives in the promotion of documentary national heritage in Tanzania, South Africa and Botswana
National heritage is an important part of a country’s identity. When a nation appreciates its heritage, it becomes more likely that this heritage will be sustained. In Africa, a lack of appreciation for national heritage is not uncommon (UNESCO 2006), and therefore various efforts are directed towards changing this trend. This paper argues in the affirmative that archives are described as evidence of history and these records, therefore, have the potential to contribute to promoting national heritage. Archives serve as documentary evidence of the individuals or governments that created them. As such, citizens have a right to review such records to learn more about their national heritage. This article seeks to examine the role of archives in promoting national heritage. The perception and experience of national archival institutions on this matter is explored in three Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Branch of the International Council on Archives (ESARBICA) member states, namely Tanzania, South Africa and Botswana. Documentary review and questionnaires were employed to identify, among other things, the types of archival materials preserved in the national archives of each country with regard to national heritage, the number and description of individuals or groups that normally visit such repositories and the categories of information that visitors frequently request. The findings indicate that the three archives, RAMD, NARS, and BNARS, have a good number of archives of national heritage value. However, the number of professionals and strategies to manage, preserve and promote them is inadequate. There is a need to think out of the box to determine different ways to reach out to people and to promote access to information on our national heritage. For instance, social networking is an approach that none of the archival institutions in this study use to promote their collections, despite more and more people in these countries having access to social networks through mobile technologies. The study suggests that, while digitising records has proved to be one solution to preserving archival heritage, it is important that archival institutions use such technological advancement by digitising archival documents and then uploading them to their websites for easy public access.