Digital Archiving to Spearhead Access to Heritage Information for All Interested Clients in Africa

Digital Archiving to Spearhead Access to Heritage Information for All Interested Clients in Africa

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8713-3.ch005
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This chapter sought to investigate matters pertaining to digital archiving to spearhead access to heritage information for clients. This study relied on a literature review to study a digital archiving framework to spearhead access to heritage information. The study discovered that manual ways of preservation and sharing archival material deprive some citizens of the right of access to heritage information material, especially those from rural and marginalised areas. In most instances, archival institutions are in cities that most rural dwellers find difficult to reach. It is of great importance for archival institutions to identify and adopt appropriate systems to close gaps in the preservation and easy access of archival material. The chapter proposes a framework for digital archiving to spearhead access to heritage information as a benchmark for archival institutions.
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Introduction And Background

Archiving is “the process of moving files that are no longer actively used to a separate storage device for long-term retention” (Garfield, 2017). Archiving is one stage of the life cycle that ends with disposal. In disposal, we have destruction of ephemeral records and archiving of records of enduring value (archival). Like many other business activities, archiving also occurs due to certain reasons, including legal obligations, requirements to be kept for a specific period or permanently, historical or heritage value, and, more importantly, it may useful in the future (Garfield, 2017). Records of enduring value are archived for permanent access and preservation for many future generations to learn and understand what happened before they were born. Populations increase with time and population density is not always balanced. In most cases, the birth rate is higher than the death rate with the result that the number of people per community increases from time to time. This brings about changes to archives, which need to balance access to the material to their sphere of influence regardless of the density. The advantage is that as populations have increased, we have also experienced a growth in and development of technology, especially information and communications technology (ICT). This is a remedy that disrupts information access paradoxes. Asogwa (2011) attests that using technology for administrative and academic purposes, digitised collections can be made accessible in a reformatted/refined way which allows faster browsing simultaneously on the Internet by millions of users in different and remote locations. As is becoming the emerging practice of archivists, electronic preservation, and the best way to make archival resources available and accessible to users, have been the greatest worries of modern archive professionals.

It cannot be overemphasised that archival material, like the institutions in which it is housed, is not popular even if it is known to prospective users. Archives are even forgotten by their current clients due to the distance between the storage or access point and user inhabitants or sphere of influence. Archives are mostly located or erected far away from people who may be considered clients or users in cities and towns (Ngoepe & Ngulube, 2011). In most African countries, archives are only located near a few researchers with the majority of the marginalised researchers situated in remote rural areas in, for example, the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa (Koopman, 2002). Nicholson (2020) underscores the following:

Libraries, for example, house collections of printed works but must now also provide access to online journals, e-books, multimedia, Africana and archival treasures, images, government publications and legal material, posters and artworks. Collection, development, cataloguing, lending, preservation and replacement must take place online as well as in hard copy.

One of the factors contributing to this lack of advocacy is that the archives seem to focus on the sphere of influence of those in close proximity (Ericson, 1991). Archives must have a means to encourage citizens and a way to provide an appropriate access mode to the archival material (Blais and Enns, 1991). Archival institutions should strengthen support for their material by ensuring that the usability of the material is as extensive as possible (Ngoepe & Ngulube, 2011). Archival institutions in many countries, and Africa, in particular, still lag behind in adopting the latest technology and instead insist on an ancient modus operandi. Due to the outdated modes and processes of information access, users may consider archival material a white elephant, especially since the current generation is addicted to ICT. Archival institutions need to move with the times in utilising technology to avoid losing their customers and the interest of prospective users, lest they are rendered useless to future generations. In the current situation, most if not all the archival institutions in different countries across the world still operate manually or physically. What is clear with the current trend towards technology is that any manual modus operandi may be converted to an electronic form of operation with the same rules, principles, policies and regulations still applicable and practicable. Asogwa (2011) shows that cultural institutions in many parts of the world are investing in digital projects for several reasons which may include, providing access, reduction of over-handling of materials, and assisting in promoting the collections and visibility of the institutions.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Interested Clients: Interested clients refers to archival users interested in a particular information or those affected by archival information or people who will need such archival information in future for their respective personal or business or research activities.

Heritage Information: Heritage information has to do with information that present culture and traditions of doing things in the organisation or country. For instance, in the case of organisation or government institution this may include the how to do in different administrative activities.

Archiving: Archiving refers to keeping of records with an enduring value in the archives repository for public consumption. This may be for different reasons, including research.

Records: Records refers to information that is recorded during the business transaction or business communications with an intention to trace back the history in future when need arise to prove current decisions, best solutions for problems and ensure accountability.

Spearhead Access: Spearhead Access refers to leading the process of accessing the information in the archive repository. In other words, digital archiving may be used to lead the process or possibility of making information accessed or accessible with ease and in time.

Digital Archiving: Digital archiving refers to archiving of archival materials in a digital form. For instance, recorded materials that were created electronically in a digital form are archived in the archival repository using appropriate electronic system for ease of access in the future. On the other side archival materials or records with an enduring value that were created in different form, be it analogue or paper-based is converted into digital and archived using appropriate archival system. Such kinds of records will eventually need computer technologies and equipment for access and retrieval.

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