Taking archives to the people: an examination of public programs in the National Archives of the Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Branch of the International Council on Archives
Archives serve as society’s collective memory in so far as they provide evidence of the past and promote accountability and transparency of past actions. An appreciation of archives would then result in citizens linking archival records with their identity, history, civic duty and cultural heritage. However, research in Eastern and Southern Africa indicates that most citizens are unaware of archives and rarely use them. Apart from financial constraints, this is often associated with inadequate outreach programs. Taking archives to the people (promoting archives) is one way of making citizens aware of archival holdings and facilitating access and use of these resources. Through the application of three research techniques, this article shows that, although the number of archival users in this region is declining, public programming initiatives were not prioritised. Reasons for this included lack of policies; shortage of staff; lack of skills; reluctance to rope in technology in public programming initiatives; working in silos; and budgetary constraints. This article recommends a framework that may help archivists in the Eastern and Southern Regional Branch of the International Council on Archives region to raise awareness about public archival repositories, despite the existing challenges.
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