Digitisation of the ANC Archive

A highlight for me last year was asking President Zuma for his email address so that I could email a picture to him!
I got to ask him this during a 10 minute presentation I was giving him and other dignitaries including former Deputy President of South Africa and current Chairperson of the ANC, Baleka Mbete on the ANC Digital Archive. The picture was a picture of himself as a young man with other ANC stalwarts that I had searched for on the demo ANC Digital Archive we had created.

President Zuma flanked by former Deputy President of South Africa and current Chairperson of the ANC, Baleka Mbete (right), and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Fort Hare, Dr Mvuyo Tom (left) at the soft launch of the ANC Digital Archive in May 2012. PHOTO: David Larsen

Needless to say, I was not given his email address. I was, however, given the email address of an aid and the picture was sent and received by him and all were suitably impressed. The presentation was part of the ANC Centenary Celebrations at the University of Fort Hare at which the President gave a memorial lecture. The University of Fort Hare is also the home of The National Heritage and Cultural Studies Centre (NAHECS) which houses the African National Congress archive and the archives of a number of other liberation movements including the PAC and AZAPO.
The road to the point of delivering the presentation to the President had been fairly short considering all the work that went in to being able to do that. In July 2011 we were approached by Multichoice to spearhead the digitisation of the ANC Archive. Multichoice has been asked by the ANC’s Mandla Langa to assist with funding the project ahead of their Centenary year. This was thanks to Johann van Tonder who was working with Media24 at the time and recommended to Eddie MacAlone of Multichoice that they get in touch with us at Africa Media Online as digitising archives is our core business.

That started a process which saw us introducing Multichoice to Doxa Productions in Cape Town and ILAM in Grahamstown. Beginning in October 2011 Doxa undertook the digitisation of all the video tapes, ILAM the digitisation of all the sound files and we at Africa Media Online took charge of digitising over 20,000 photographic images (negatives, transparencies and prints) and 24,000 document pages, many of which were fragile. The document pages are about a fifth of the entire archive. We also installed a whole server stack with tape backups and built an archival digital repository using our MEMAT technology. Creative Spark was also pulled in to assist with project management and with building the ANC Archive public website.

Paul Weinberg kindly took this photo of me (David Larsen) presenting on Digitising the ANC Archive at the INA-Doxa conference on audio-visual archives. PHOTO: Paul Weinberg

I got to present the story of the project at the International Conference on Liberation Archives in East London in October and at the INA-Doxa audiovisual archives event in Cape Town in November. You can watch the full presentation here.
The Africa Media Online IT team has built the ANC Digital Archive research site. Once it is launched researchers will be able to make application for access.