" Safeguarding African Documentary Heritage "
Cape Town
Monday 26 February – Friday 2 March 2001

A workshop on the safeguard of the African documentary heritage was organised by IFLA in the framework of the Memory of the World Programme with the support of UNESCO and thanks to the generous assistance of the National Library of South Africa.

IFLA PAC established the programme in co-operation with the JICPA South African Committee (Peter Coates and Johann Maree).

The workshop was hosted by the Centre for the Book and the National Library of South Africa.

There were 16 participants from 13 countries mostly from southern Africa : Angola (2), Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya (2), Lesotho, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Swaziland, Togo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa.

Among those 5 came from libraries and 9 from the archives (2 came from institutions that served both as National Archives and National Library). Most of them held the position of director.

The training team was composed of 4 South African colleagues, of the director of the Ecole du Patrimoine Africain in Benin, and of 3 people from France representing IFLA and UNESCO "Memory of the World".

3 conservators from the Centre for the Book made practical demonstrations of small repairs and every day care.

The presentations were in English, which proved to be difficult for some of the non English-speaking participants.

Participants were given a number of PAC newsletters, the "IFLA Principles for the Care and Handling of Library Material", "IFLA-UNESCO Survey on Digitisation and Preservation", the CD ROM "Safeguarding our Documentary Heritage" and the CD ROM on "XIXth Century Photographies in Latin America", plus various brochures and leaflets.

For the complete programme, see annex C. The agenda was divided into 10 sessions, and covered the following issues:

Besides the visits to the House of Slaves and the conservation and reprography studio of the National Library, the participants had the opportunity to visit Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.

At the end of the workshop, a questionnaire was distributed to all participants in order to make an evaluation. 14 participants out of 16 answered the questionnaire.

1 – Expectations
Among their expectations, participants mentioned the acquisition of a methodology to manage preservation issues and plan a preservation strategy in their institution.

They also expected to exchange and compare experiences with colleagues and establish contact with resource persons.

Most of them met their expectations fully, two beyond what they had expected. Only two reported to be only 50 or 60% satisfied. Two persons found the programme too heavy. Some would have appreciated more details on microfilming and digitisation. A few of them (French-speaking mostly) had difficulties in understanding the speakers.

2 – Balance between preservation and access
Many participants seem not to have understood the question or to have been influenced by A. Abid’s last comment on the necessity to give a larger place to access and on the fact that access should become more important than preservation.

Some participants stated that the part allocated to preservation in comparison to access seemed too important, which is surprising when we consider the title of the workshop "Safeguarding African Documentary Heritage".

If most participants found the programme well balanced, they all acknowledged the interdependence that should exist between preservation and access.

Although, it was clear from the beginning that the workshop would focus on preservation issues, there was no doubt in the organising team’s mind that access should be the final goal.

3 – Balance between theory and practice
Although the workshop aimed at gathering directors or preservation managers, some participants wished there had been more time devoted to practice, although they will probably never have to repair, microfilm or scan documents themselves. Nevertheless a large majority found the balance between theory and practice well balanced.

4- Perspective for the future
They all had a clearer idea of what they were going to do once back to their institutions although many emphasised the fact that raising awareness at all levels (public, staff, authorities) remained difficult especially since preservation did not stand among their authorities‘ priorities. They all complained about the lack of financial or staff resources.

Among positive comments let us quote :

on the national register

5- Congratulations and complains

Some complains concerned :

One participant wondered why resources persons were not all recruted in Africa, which he thought would have been less expensive. For information: the three speakers from France paid for their own travel and accommodation expenses.

Annex :

  1. List of Participants
  2. List of Resource persons
  3. Detailed programme

Marie-Thérèse Varlamoff
IFLA PAC Director
March 26, 2001