Trends in the Utilization of the Holdings at the Bulawayo Archives and Records Centre, Zimbabwe (2014-2017)

Trends in the Utilization of the Holdings at the Bulawayo Archives and Records Centre, Zimbabwe (2014-2017)

Sindiso Bhebhe (National Archives of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe) and Njabulo Bruce Khumalo (Independent Researcher, Zimbabwe)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7429-3.ch008
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Archives are the cornerstone of democracy, good governance and the protection of rights, yet many people do not understand their worth. Archivists have for years stressed that archives are central to community development and progress. However, the actual use of archives has usually told a different story, which has to be analysed to see how relevant archives are to their communities. This study sought to investigate the patterns of the usage of archival material at the Bulawayo Archives and Records Centre (BARC) from January 2014 to June 2017. The document analysis method was applied where research request slips filled in by clients were analysed to show the level of usage of archives at BARC.
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Archives are very important as they embody the history and identity of society. Without archives and records, members of the community may lose entitlement to their rights, their wealth, property, identity and a sense of belonging. Thus, archives keep the past alive and provide citizens with a strong foundation on which to build a solid present and future. According to Blais and Enns (1990-91) the use of archives provides a justification for the continued sustenance of archives and unused archival records provide little in keeping the past illuminated and alive. Archival records are thus worth more than being relegated to gathering dust on shelves in repositories. Safeguarding citizens’ rights cannot be achieved without archival records and thus Shaffer (2009) pointed out that the public use of government records represents one of the fundamental democratic principles of citizen inquiry and open government. Thus, democracy and access to archival records are but two sides of the same coin as a society founded on democratic tenets has to make use of archives which epitomise transparency, accountability, open governance, democracy and good governance.

However, though public archives are memory institutions that offer information services to the public and other interested organisations, very few people utilise these facilities (Kamatula, Mnkeni-Saurombe & Mosweu, 2013). Ngoepe and Ngulube (2011, p. 3) also highlighted that only a small percentage of the population is aware that archives are open to the public. The culture of oral traditions in Africa has a bearing on archives as most people do not see the value of making use of archives. Without usage, archival records just gather dust on shelves and the continued existence and funding of archives cannot be justified. Low usage of archives also translates to the stagnation of the archival profession which has to grapple with trying to advocate for the continued funding of a field whose cost benefit does not have healthy statistics of usage to back the theoretical justifications of the importance of archives. Therefore the major objective of the study was to investigate the patterns of the usage of archival material at the BARC from January 2014 to June 2017. The sub objectives being to:

  • 1.

    Determine the numbers and types of records requested for and retrieved for clients at the BARC;

  • 2.

    Establish the number and types of records requested for and not available at the BARC;

  • 3.

    Ascertain the number and types of records whose requestors were referred to other organisations; and

  • 4.

    Understand the implications of these metrics in relation to how archival research material can be further marketed.

The rest of the chapter is organised into seven major sections. These are the background to the study, literature review, access to records, problem statement, research methodology, findings of the study, discussions, recommendations, future research directions and conclusion.


Background To The Study

The history of the establishment of the Bulawayo Archives and Records Centre (BARC) began in 1966 when, according to Matangira, 2016, a branch repository for semi current records was opened in Bulawayo to cater for the western region covering Bulawayo, Matabeleland South and Matabeleland North Provinces. Therefore, communities in the western part of the country have to use archives which normally should have collections which are of interest to them. Furthermore, Matangira also noted that in the year 2001 a new purpose-built archives building was opened in Bulawayo, and in Zimbabwe only the Harare and Bulawayo archives offer archival services. Before BARC had its own archival building, it used to send archives to Harare for processing and public access. However, after the opening of the new purpose-built archives building that came to an end. What that meant is that researchers in Bulawayo, Matabeleland South and Matabeleland North have to travel to Harare for archival services. Unfortunately, this is still the case with some of the NAZ provincial record centres. These other centres in the country only offer records services and that is Mutare, Gweru, Masvingo and Chinhoyi Records Centres.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Research Inquiry Sheets: These are forms that are completed by the inquirer. The entries that need to be completed by the researcher are name, address, telephone number, date and inquiry. The archivist then completes the section with an entry on action taken.

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