It was a proud moment for us at Africa Media Online last Monday evening. It was the culmination of a year-and-a-half of hard work as the ANC Digital Archives were handed over to the President of the ANC and the President of South Africa, President Jacob Zuma.
The handover of the output from one of South Africa’s largest digitisation projects to date was made by Mr Nolo Letele, Executive Chairman of MultiChoice South Africa Group, the organisation that sponsored the project, to the African National Congress at the event held at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg. For the first time in their 100 year history, the ANC Archives are widely accessible to the public (without having to travel to Alice in the Eastern Cape). A selection of the archives are now available on the ANC Archives Public Site and application can be make to gain access to the ANC Archives Research Site that presents all the digitised material.
As Africa Media Online we headed up the technical aspect of the project taking charge of digitising over 20,000 photographic images (negatives, transparencies and prints) and 24,000 document pages, many of which were fragile. Wanting to keep to our core strengths, we pulled in partner organisations to digitise the audio and video collections. Grahamstown-based International Library of African Music (ILAM) digitised 2,193 audio tracks and Cape Town-based Doxa digitised 774 videos. Multichoice brought Creative Spark, another Cape Town-based company on board to do project management and to build the public web site. The digitisation was undertaken over a six-month period at The National Heritage and Cultural Studies Centre (NAHECS) at the University of Fort Hare, Alice, Eastern Cape.
From our perspective this has been a highly significant project for the heritage sector in South Africa. Not only have we digitised a large portion of the archives of the World’s oldest modern liberation movement, but the project saw a collaboration between a political party, an academic institution, a multinational corporation and a number of SMME’s. That we worked so well together is indicative of principles on which the African National Congress was built – that South Africa belongs to all who live in it and together we can do more than we can apart.
We believe the project is also significant because it is a local production. It brought together some of the leading experts in South Africa in the area of digitisation and proved that local expertise is up to the challenge of digitising our own heritage and making it available to the South African public and the international community on a world-class platform.
What is so exceptional about the Archives is that it gives access to the source material. One has access to the thoughts and struggles of some of South Africa’s most extraordinary persons as they worked through to a point of vision and largesse in the face of a brutal regime that sought to crush them. In his acceptance speech (presented below) President Zuma highlights this amazing heritage that the ANC has received. Let their legacy, that is available in these Archives be an inspiration to all South Africans and people everywhere.
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