A Pictorial History of the Digitisation of the ANC Archives


In 2012 the African National Congress turned 100. As the oldest modern liberation movement in the World it was fitting that ahead of the centenary celebrations a project should be initiated to digitise the ANC Archives and give access to the extensive collections to ANC members, the people of South Africa and researchers around the World.

The initial group that met together to strategize about the digitisation of the ANC Archive seen here at the NAHECS Building at the University of Fort Hare. The group included representatives of the ANC, Multichoice, University of Fort Hare and Africa Media Online. These included: Far left: Mandla Langa (ANC), Second left: Professor Michael Somniso (UFH), Third Left: Vuyani Booi (NAHECS, UFH), Fourth left: Moferefere Lekorotsoana (ANC), Sixth left: Yoli Soul (UFH), Eighth left: Eddie McAlone (Multichoice), Tenth left: Vuyolwethu Feni-Fete (NAHECS, UFH) PHOTO: David Larsen / Africa Media Online
The initial group that met together to strategize about the digitisation of the ANC Archive seen here at the NAHECS Building at the University of Fort Hare. The group included representatives of the ANC, Multichoice, University of Fort Hare and Africa Media Online. These included: Far left: Mandla Langa (ANC), Second left: Professor Michael Somniso (UFH), Third Left: Vuyani Booi (NAHECS, UFH), Fourth left: Moferefere Lekorotsoana (ANC), Sixth left: Yoli Soul (UFH), Eighth left: Eddie McAlone (Multichoice), Tenth left: Vuyolwethu Feni-Fete (NAHECS, UFH) PHOTO: David Larsen / Africa Media Online

Toward this end the ANC approached Multichoice, a major media company in South Africa who agreed to sponsor the project. Together with ANC leadership Multichoice engaged the National Heritage and Cultural Studies Centre (NAHECS) at the University of Fort Hare where the bulk of the Archives were housed to plan the project ahead of the centenary year.

Archivist Mark Snyders of NAHECS at the University of Fort Hare introduces the ANC archive to from left Catherine Murray of Creative Spark and Grace Coates and Alastair Mason of Doxa Productions during a fact finding trip to NAHECS ahead of the project to digitise the ANC Archives. PHOTO: David Larsen / Africa Media Online
Archivist Mark Snyders of NAHECS at the University of Fort Hare introduces the ANC archive to from left Catherine Murray of Creative Spark and Grace Coates and Alastair Mason of Doxa Productions during a fact finding trip to NAHECS ahead of the project to digitise the ANC Archives. PHOTO: David Larsen / Africa Media Online

Multichoice also engaged Africa Media Online as a South African company specialising in the digitisation of historic archives who agreed to take on the digitisation of the rare manuscripts and photographic collections and to provide the archival digital repository system that would host and provide access to the digitised archives. Africa Media Online also introduced Multichoice to the International Library of African Music to take on the digitisation of the audio material and Doxa Productions to digitise the video material. In addition Creative Spark were contracted to project manage the project and eventually to build the public web site.

Blessing Mtolo of Africa Media Online digitises a manuscript page during the six month project to digitise the ANC Archives. PHOTO: David Larsen / Africa Media Online
Blessing Mtolo of Africa Media Online digitises a manuscript page during the six month project to digitise the ANC Archives. PHOTO: David Larsen / Africa Media Online

Phase 1 of what became known as Project Antelope started in October 2011 and aimed at getting a selection of material that could be used at the time of the ANC centenary celebrations digitised. Phase 2 ran from January to March 2012 and by the end of this phase over 24,000 manuscript pages and 20,000 photographic images as well as all the audio and video content of the archive had been digitised and placed on Africa Media Online’s MEMAT archival digital repository system that had been installed on servers in the NAHECS building at the University of Fort Hare.

Grace Coates of Doxa Productions works on digitising video tapes from the ANC Archives. Doxa worked two shifts for a number of months to complete the project in time. PHOTO: David Larsen / Africa Media Online
Grace Coates of Doxa Productions works on digitising video tapes from the ANC Archives. Doxa worked two shifts for a number of months to complete the project in time. PHOTO: David Larsen / Africa Media Online
Elijah Madiba of the International Library of African Music (ILAM) works on tape reels from the ANC Archive. PHOTO: David Larsen / Africa Media Online
Elijah Madiba of the International Library of African Music (ILAM) works on tape reels from the ANC Archive. PHOTO: David Larsen / Africa Media Online
David Larsen, Managing Director of Africa Media Online, showing his set up for the capture of museum objects from the ANC Archives at the University of Fort Hare, Alice, Eastern Cape, South Africa. PHOTO: Graeme Cookson
David Larsen, Managing Director of Africa Media Online, showing his set up for the capture of museum objects from the ANC Archives to participants in Africa Media Online’s Heritage Digital Campus which was run at the University of Fort Hare, Alice, Eastern Cape, South Africa as part of the overall project to equip the archivists from the University of Fort Hare to continue the work of capturing the metadata and digitising the archive. PHOTO: Graeme Cookson
Digital Consultant, Patricia Liebetrau, teaching a masterclass at the Heritage Digital Campus that was run at the University of Fort Hare to ensure the handover of skills to the ANC and UFH archivists. Patricia also assisted in training Africa Media Online staff ahead of the project and project managing the digital capture of manuscripts. PHOTO: David Larsen / Africa Media Online
Digital Consultant, Patricia Liebetrau, teaching a masterclass at the Heritage Digital Campus that was run at the University of Fort Hare to ensure the handover of skills to the ANC and UFH archivists. Patricia also assisted Africa Media Online in training staff ahead of the project and project managing the digital capture of manuscripts. PHOTO: David Larsen / Africa Media Online

In May 2012 President Zuma paid a visit to the University of Fort Hare to give a lecture to mark the centenary celebrations of the African National Congress. At a ceremony at the NAHECS building where the ANC Archives are stored the archives were presented to the President, the National Chairperson of the ANC, Ms Baleka Mbete and other dignitaries. Also present at the event were Dr Mvuyo Tom, Vice-Chancellor of UFH, Mr Nolo Letele, Executive Chairman of MultiChoice South Africa Group and Multichoice Group CEO, Imtiaz Patel.

President Jacob Zuma at the soft launch of the ANC Digital Archive at the University of Fort Hare, Alice, Eastern Cape, South Africa. The soft launch of the Archive was part of the celebration events held in 2012 to commemorate the centerary of the African National Congress.
President Jacob Zuma (centre) flanked by Dr Mvuyo Tom Vice-Chancellor of the University of Fort Hare (left) and National Chairperson of the ANC Ms Baleka Mbete (right) at the soft launch of the ANC Digital Archive at the University of Fort Hare, Alice, Eastern Cape, South Africa. The soft launch of the Archive was part of the celebration events held in 2012 to commemorate the centerary of the African National Congress. Africa Media Online was able to demonstrate a mock up of the ANC Archives Research Site to the President at the event. PHOTO: David Larsen
Business leaders present at the ANC Centenary Lecture delivered by President Zuma, From left to right: Multichoice Group CEO, Imtiaz Patel, Executive Chairman of MultiChoice South Africa Group, Nolo Letele, and Chief Executive Officer of Glenngwe Development, Ike Ngwena. Multichoice was present as funders of the ANC Digital Archive. PHOTO: David Larsen / Africa Media Online
Business leaders present at the ANC Centenary Lecture delivered by President Zuma, From left to right: Multichoice Group CEO, Imtiaz Patel, Executive Chairman of MultiChoice South Africa Group, Nolo Letele, and Chief Executive Officer of Glenngwe Development, Ike Ngwena. Multichoice was present as funders of the ANC Digital Archive. PHOTO: David Larsen / Africa Media Online

In September 2012 Phase 3 of the project was initiated to create the systems to make the archive accessible. Creative Spark created the ANC Archives Public Website and Africa Media Online created the ANC Archives Research Website. Both were officially launched at a gala event at the Sandton Convention Centre on April 29, 2013 when Mr Nolo Letele, Executive Chairman of MultiChoice South Africa Group, handed over the archive to the ANC President and President of South Africa President Jacob Zuma.

A gathering of the team that undertook the digitisation of the ANC Archive at The Edge in the Hogsback. The team involving staff from Multichoice, the University of Fort Hare, the ANC, Africa Media Online, Creative Spark, Doxa and the International Library of African Music had worked at University of Fort Hare and Rhodes University from October 2011 to March 2012.
A gathering of the team that undertook the digitisation of the ANC Archive at The Edge in the Hogsback. The team involving staff from Multichoice, the University of Fort Hare, the ANC, Africa Media Online, Creative Spark, Doxa and the International Library of African Music had worked at University of Fort Hare and Rhodes University from October 2011 to March 2012. PHOTO: David Larsen / Africa Media Online

While much has been accomplished to date, it is just the beginning of the work that needs to be done on the archive and that work continues. Currently most of the digitised material does not have associated information captured that would make the digital files findable. Africa Media Online has created some interim solutions for this problem but ultimately this work of capturing the related information (known as metadata) will need to be carried out. This will be the task of Phase 4 of the project. A further phase is likely to see the digitisation of the remainder of the manuscripts as only about one fifth of the manuscript archive was digitised in phases 1 and 2.

Screen grab from the ANC Archives Public Site built by Creative Spark
A screen grab / print screen of the ANC Archives Public Site built by Creative Spark
The ANC Archives Research Site developed by Africa Media Online as a web interface to the full ANC Digital Archive stored on their MEMAT 3 archival digital repository system
A screen grab / print screen of the ANC Archives Research Site developed by Africa Media Online as a web interface to the full ANC Digital Archive stored on their MEMAT 3 archival digital repository system