Public archives determination of social memory in appraising local government records in South Africa

Keywords: Appraisal, macro-appraisal, local government, disposal authorities, oral history, postmodernism


A hybrid version of macro-appraisal is used by South African public archivists when separating records of enduring value from ephemeral records. This appraisal function should occur immediately after the filing systems have been approved by the national and provincial archivists. However, in most cases, this function only occurs two years after the filing system has been approved. In the 1990s, the South African National Archives changed its traditional appraisal methodology from a Schellenberg approach to formulate a sound appraisal policy based on the macro-appraisal model. One of the key elements identified was the need to identify gaps in the written records that could be filled during the appraisal process. These gaps could be complemented by the collection of oral history. This study used qualitative data obtained through content analysis and literature to review the appraisal policy guidelines and approaches of the National Archives and the Gauteng Provincial Archives in relation to the process of appraisal, issuing of disposal authorities and capturing of oral history projects in relation to Gauteng local governments. This study used a case study design and specifically focused on the appraisal of Gauteng local government records. Interviews were held with officials of the National Archives and Gauteng Provincial Archives involved in the function of appraisal of public records. This study indicated that there were gaps in archival collections, which should be supplemented by the collection of oral history testimonies. The oral history testimonies collected from individuals and communities affected by socio-economic and socio-political events are not captured by the country’s public archivists. These narratives of post-apartheid South Africa are being lost and may not be captured by the national and provincial archives services. The key recommendation of this study is that there should be clear policy guidelines relating to the process of appraisal and transparency on how these processes are undertaken in South African public archives.


Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 1012-2796