JICPA SURVEY OF CONSERVATION FACILITIES AND EXPERTS IN AFRICA


Introduction

The joint IFLA/ICA Committee for Preservation in Africa (JICPA) was the outcome of the Pan African Conference on Preservation and Conservation of Library and Archival Materials held in Nairobi. Kenya, in June 1993. From the delegates an Executive Committee was formed to co-ordinate activities of proposed National Preservation Committees and prepare and implement a plan of action. The Executive Committee met for the first time in 1996 in Dakar, Senegal. Subsequent annual meetings were held in Dakar (1997), Tunis (1998), Lomé (1999) and Rabat (2000). National Preservation Committees (or similar organisations) were set up in several African countries, but unfortunately by no means in all.

Training courses are organized both at local level and internationally. Because air transport is the most realistic means to travel the long distances in Africa, the cost of both the Executive Committee meetings and training workshops has been high, making JICPA heavily dependent on the generosity of foreign donors.

The extent of training needs have been unclear. In some areas not even the most basic equipment or competencies existed. In some areas the national archival and library collections have been decimated by wars. But in other areas there are centres of excellence. The Tunis Executive Meeting (1998) resolved that a survey was required to establish a true picture of the state of affairs, both in order to know what corrective action was most needed, as well as to present to potential donors. A pilot questionnaire was distributed in West Africa late in 1998. In March 1999, a final questionnaire was compiled in English and French: copies were sent to each National Preservation Committee with the request that these be duplicated and distributed to libraries and archives in their countries. None of the National Committees provided figures as to how many copies they distributed within their area, so the response rate cannot be determined. However, 52 questionnaires were returned and of those, 45 with usable data were analysed. Three reported no equipment or expertise whatsoever, two were from organizations with no preservation responsibilities, one was so badly damaged in transmission that it could not be used and there was no response to a request for a fresh report, and one (Rwanda) reported that their facilities had been completely destroyed in recent wars. From some countries with well-developed conservation programmes and facilities there were regrettably no responses at all.

THE QUESTIONNAIRE

Six areas of information were covered by the questions drawn up at the Lomé meeting:

1. Responding institution
Identification
Address, telephone, facsimile and e-mail data
2. Description of its collections
Kinds of material in the collections and the quantity of each
Questions concerning the building(s)
3. Details of its human resources in the field of Preservation
Areas of expertise
Training (formal and informal)
Experience in the field of preservation
Affiliation to preservation organizations
A CV for each presentation worker was requested
4. Details of its preservation equipment and facilities
Cutting equipment
Sewing equipment
Presses
Gluing equipment
Hot foil blocking equipment
Finishing tools
Paper-making and leaf-casting equipment
Deacidification facilities
Sheet-drying facilities
Microfilming equipment
Digitization equipment
Sheet-splitting equipment
Book-freezing and freeze-drying facilities
Disaster boxes
Fumigation equipment
Other, to be specified.
5. Information concerning the materials used in conservation
6. General remarks

THE RESULTS

1. The institutions
Responses were received from the following countries: Angola, Benin, Cape Verde, Gabon, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zanzibar, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. No response was received from about 30 African countries and it is likely that no survey questionnaires were sent to many of these due to the absence of local preservation structures.

By region, eight responding countries are in East and Central Africa, five in Southern Africa, six in West Africa and one Indian Ocean island.

By language of respondent, 80% responded in English and 20% in French; one of the two Lusophone respondents replied in French and the other in English.

By type of institution: 19 were archives, 15 were libraries (five public and national libraries, ten academic libraries), eight were institutes, museums or art galleries, and two were documentation centres. There was one response from a private conservator.

Communications: Except for the Rwanda National Archives, all 44 other respondents had telephone communication, 41 had separate fax lines; 38 used post office boxes or private bags for mail. Respecting e-mail, 31 institutional respondents (69%) provided addresses although some which did not provide addresses are known to have e-mail facilities; in this dynamic area, those which did not have e-mail at the time the questionnaire was completed may have it now. Of the 72 individuals who responded 56 (78%) had e-mail addresses, either via their institution or privately; this proportion is now certainly higher.

2. Description of its collections and buildings
Kinds of material in the collections and the quantity of each are difficult to typify. One respondent only stocked colour slides (250 000); 14 respondents gave no data as to the size of their collections; of the remainder, seven reported archival collections of less than 1000 linear metres, three had between 1000 and 4000 linear metres, while nine had in excess of 4000 linear metres (four of these being very large collections). Respecting books and journals, most collections (20) were well under half a million volumes, eight had up to two million volumes, none had more than this.

The buildings rated as follows. Purpose-built buildings (23); modified or adapted buildings (17); buildings fully or partially air-conditioned (25); buildings without air-conditioning (or with inoperable systems) (15); no response (5). It is noteworthy that of the purpose-built buildings only three did not have air-conditioning. Few of the adapted buildings had air-conditioning.

Special attention is drawn to the plight of the Rwanda National Archives as described in Section 1.

3. Details of its human resources in the field of Preservation
Areas of expertise: these have been categorised in Section 3 at face value according to responses provided. The distinction between 'Binder', 'Fine Binder' and 'Paper Conservator' is unclear. Most individuals claimed several areas of expertise. The more frequent specialities are 'Administration' (22), 'Bookbinding' (41), 'Collection/RecordsManagement' (15), 'Electronic/Digital Records' (9), 'Fine Binding' (15), 'Microfilming' (16) and 'Paper Conservation' (32). It is instructive to note that only one person claimed 'Fire Prevention' as a speciality, one claimed 'Protective Enclosures', and two claimed 'Pest Control'.

Training (formal and informal): It would appear that no formal training in Conservation is offered in Africa, although numerous short courses are provided, or are merely introductory modules offered as part of archival or library training. Indigenous training consists for the most part of apprenticeship and on-the job training. French-speaking countries in Africa seem to have benefited more from formal training in France than the English-speaking countries have benefited from training in either the United Kingdom or elsewhere, where the cost of such training places is out of reach of most. However, the few most highly-trained conservators in Africa are to be found in English-speaking countries.

Experience in the field of preservation: The numbers of persons active in various fields of preservation are spread fairly evenly from very long-serving persons to one person with only 1 months' experience at the time of the survey. They are as follows: 0-5 years (17), 6-10 years (10), 11-15 years (19), 16-20 years (11), 21-30 years (17) and 31 or more years (9). The longest-working conservator had worked for 63 years at the time of the survey! In the category 21-30 years' service, French-speaking respondent predominated significantly, while in higher groups of service (over 30 years) the responses were only in English. This may correspond with different stages of withdrawal of the two principal colonial powers from Africa.

Affiliation to preservation organizations: Very few respondents provided an affiliation, so it would serve no purpose to try and exterpolate any results under this heading, except to state that it may indicate the absence of preservation organizations in most of Africa.

4. Details of preservation equipment and facilities
It must be admitted that conservation and bookbinding depends on the skill and ingenuity of the workmen to a larger extent than on the amount of sophisticated equipment available. One might be able to do quite advanced conservation work with no more than a large basin and a drying rack or lines, a board-cutter and a nipping press, together with a lot of working surfaces. In the Physical Resources section the results of the survey are indicated by institution. The section is headed by a list of basic equipment which would be very convenient to possess, but only three of the responding institutions (all in South Africa) can measure up to this standard. There are other centres of excellence in North Africa which unfortunately did not respond to the survey questionnaire.

Cutting, blocking and pressing equipment is almost universally available. Deacidification by immersion is widely practised, but there was no report of any mass-deacidification installations anywhere in Africa. There is no automated sheet-splitting equipment in Africa either.

Microfilming equipment is widespread, chiefly in national archives. The only significant project to digitize documents reported to be taking place in the ambit of preservation is in Durban, South Africa. It is clear that reliance is still placed heavily on microform in the event of reformatting. No programme of preservation photocopying was reported.

Considering the climatic types encountered in Africa, it was surprising that the only pest control equipment and human resources were reported from South Africa, and then in only two instances. Perhaps the truth is that pest control is so routine elsewhere that it was not considered worth mentioning. It is disappointing to observe how few institutions reported maintaining disaster boxes, yet their existence can make a major contribution towards saving library and archive stock in the event of a disaster.

The materials used (consumables) were not often reported. When information is provided, it is usually accompanied by remarks to the effect that imported materials is priced beyond the means of the institutions. Most respondents rely on locally-made materials as much as possible.

OBSERVATIONS

In a continent as large as Africa, it is a matter for concern, even dismay, that expertise and facilities are so extremely limited. However, expertise and facilities do at least exist and this could be regarded as a foundation upon which to build. As already observed, it is disappointing that some institutions with good conservation facilities did not respond to the questionnaire: perhaps if this survey is done again in future, they will be included. However, it is well-known that in many countries there is nothing, and that records not already lost through natural and human disasters will be lost through lack of care and preservation - even simple and low-cost techniques are not applied. In the present survey one can only refer to the tragic report received from Rwanda and similar situations elsewhere known to the compiler to realise that preservation requires commitment from the authorities; often it is the reverse.

The overall impression emerging from the responses is that in Africa, preservation is conducted best at the respective national archives (South Africa being perhaps the exception, for here libraries are more extensively involved than the archives).

It emerges that there is a good level of trained staff involved in preservation in French-speaking African countries, and much of the training took place in France. It would seem that English-speaking Africans do not have access to affordable training in the United Kingdom or in other English-speaking first-world countries. While it seems desirable that training may be provided in Africa, there needs to be sufficient positions available to absorb the graduates, and this, alas, does not seem to be the case.

JICPA, which undertook this survey, could clearly meet a need in Africa, but few countries formed national preservation committees to carry out JICPA's programmes 'on the ground'. The most successful countries should be named: Kenya, Senegal and South Africa, with some programmes taking place in Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. JICPA is greatly indebted to IFLA-ALP (Sweden) and IFLA-PAC (France) for the funding which has enabled it to operate for the past five or six years. The compiler wishes to particularly thank Mmes Varlamoff and Kremp of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France for their assistance both with the language and publication of this report.

Peter Ralph Coates
Cape Town, South Africa
2000