In 2012 the African National Congress turned 100. As the oldest modern liberation movement in the World it was fitting that ahead of the centenary celebrations a project should be initiated to digitise the ANC Archives and give access to the extensive collections to ANC members, the people of South Africa and researchers around the World.
Toward this end the ANC approached Multichoice, a major media company in South Africa who agreed to sponsor the project. Together with ANC leadership Multichoice engaged the National Heritage and Cultural Studies Centre (NAHECS) at the University of Fort Hare where the bulk of the Archives were housed to plan the project ahead of the centenary year.
Multichoice also engaged Africa Media Online as a South African company specialising in the digitisation of historic archives who agreed to take on the digitisation of the rare manuscripts and photographic collections and to provide the archival digital repository system that would host and provide access to the digitised archives. Africa Media Online also introduced Multichoice to the International Library of African Music to take on the digitisation of the audio material and Doxa Productions to digitise the video material. In addition Creative Spark were contracted to project manage the project and eventually to build the public web site.
Phase 1 of what became known as Project Antelope started in October 2011 and aimed at getting a selection of material that could be used at the time of the ANC centenary celebrations digitised. Phase 2 ran from January to March 2012 and by the end of this phase over 24,000 manuscript pages and 20,000 photographic images as well as all the audio and video content of the archive had been digitised and placed on Africa Media Online’s MEMAT archival digital repository system that had been installed on servers in the NAHECS building at the University of Fort Hare.
In May 2012 President Zuma paid a visit to the University of Fort Hare to give a lecture to mark the centenary celebrations of the African National Congress. At a ceremony at the NAHECS building where the ANC Archives are stored the archives were presented to the President, the National Chairperson of the ANC, Ms Baleka Mbete and other dignitaries. Also present at the event were Dr Mvuyo Tom, Vice-Chancellor of UFH, Mr Nolo Letele, Executive Chairman of MultiChoice South Africa Group and Multichoice Group CEO, Imtiaz Patel.
In September 2012 Phase 3 of the project was initiated to create the systems to make the archive accessible. Creative Spark created the ANC Archives Public Website and Africa Media Online created the ANC Archives Research Website. Both were officially launched at a gala event at the Sandton Convention Centre on April 29, 2013 when Mr Nolo Letele, Executive Chairman of MultiChoice South Africa Group, handed over the archive to the ANC President and President of South Africa President Jacob Zuma.
While much has been accomplished to date, it is just the beginning of the work that needs to be done on the archive and that work continues. Currently most of the digitised material does not have associated information captured that would make the digital files findable. Africa Media Online has created some interim solutions for this problem but ultimately this work of capturing the related information (known as metadata) will need to be carried out. This will be the task of Phase 4 of the project. A further phase is likely to see the digitisation of the remainder of the manuscripts as only about one fifth of the manuscript archive was digitised in phases 1 and 2.