Records at the National Archives of Malawi
For the Digitally correct: Preserving Malawi’s historical manuscripts project, we are looking for funds to digitise historical manuscripts and build a modern digital repository to house them. The historical manuscripts at the National Archives of Malawi (NAM) are among the most intensively consulted, serving the research needs of a broad and diverse scholarly and non-scholarly community. They are also the most vulnerable. They include complete manuscripts, handwritten documents, typed correspondence, journals, diaries, deeds, interviews, and other documents of significant to the history and heritage of Malawi. These historical manuscripts are only found in Malawi at these archives, unlike other collections, such as pre-colonial archival records, that are also held in archives in the United Kingdom.
The project innovates digital curatorship to save this fragile and exposed heritage. In collaboration with the National Archives of Malawi, we want to build a repository with remote access and a catalogue. This will not only ensure their safekeeping but will also enable the archives to raise its own revenue and improve accessibility, reducing its dependence on the budget of the Malawi Government. This is part of the archive’s longer-term sustainability and safeguarding strategy, which has not been implemented in the absence of funds. We will also engage in capacity building around digital culture with the National Archives of Malawi team.
The project requires specialised technical knowledge and skills, and domain expertise around history and social anthropology, and knowledge linked to data eco-systems. To this end, Mr Etter-Phoya is currently enrolled in an online postgraduate degree in Data Science with the University of Edinburgh where he has committed to spend about EUR10,000 of his family’s savings. He has also recruited Miss Mona Hakimi, a social anthropologist from and based in Lilongwe, Malawi. Mona has a MSc in African Studies from the University of Oxford and a BSc in Social Anthropology and Gender Studies from the University of Cape Town.
Activities include selecting the collections based on a defined criterion, developing a data management plan, prototyping the repository including its user interface (UI) and user experience (UX), digitising the items and adding metadata, developing strategies for authorisation and authentication, deploying the repository, and developing a sustainability strategy. After this, researchers and the public will be invited to become part of the National Archives of Malawi community where they will engage in discussions, and upload their own images, documents, and videos.