Main Article Content

Issues and prospects of digitizing liberation movements’ archives held at the University of Fort Hare, South Africa

Peterson Dewah
Vuyolwethu Feni-Fete


The paper gives an empirical assessment of the digitization work done so far to preserve and promote access to information held in the liberation movements’ archives housed in the National Heritage and Cultural Studies Centre (NAHECS) at the University of Fort Hare in South Africa. In view of the fact that the bulk of the world’s 20th century audiovisual heritage is now lost, and much more is slipping beyond recovery the University of Fort Hare embarked on a six month project to digitize liberation archives in order to preserve and promote access. The question arises: What issues have arisen from the liberation movements’ archives digitization programme and the way forward? From a practitioner-based inquiry perspective data were collected through observation, questionnaires, interviews and analysis of institutional reports on the progress of the digitization process that commenced in 2011. The major findings were that all the ANC audio material has been successfully digitized through the Multichoice funded digitization project though a lot of work has to be done on creating metadata. Locating the copyright owners before the footage is availed for user consumption is one challenge that has emerged. Access to other liberation movements’ audiovisual material remains an Achilles hill due to non-availability of the playback equipment. Reel to reel, audio cassettes, VHS, microfilms cannot be accessed. These challenges make liberation sound archives inaccessible to users. The study concluded that digitization is expensive and time consuming and as such a funder has to be sourced to financially backup the project. The study recommends that donors of the liberation archives should relax their preset conditions in order to improve access of information in the liberation archives. The digitally-born resources at this cultural heritage institution were found to be fragile, vulnerable and in need of constant attention and as such, NAHECS must convince the South African (SA) government that it is a fund worthy mission to protect the South African history and the critically endangered audiovisual heritage whose pace of deterioration is increasingly leading to the extinction of this vital collective memory.

Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 1012-2796