Third Archives Annual Lecture Focuses on Making Archives Visible and Accessible

UKZN Special Collections and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture’s KwaZulu-Natal Archives and Records Service hosted the Third Archives Annual Lecture at the Colin Webb Hall on the Pietermaritzburg campus on 10 May 2019.

The lecture was attended by 80 guests from a wide range of institutions; including governmental and municipal archives and records management offices, university centres and companies such as Microsoft.

In her welcome address, Director of Library Services at UKZN, Ms Joyce Myeza, spoke of the various collections in the UKZN’s Special Collections, including the Alan Paton Centre & Struggle Archives. “UKZN Special Collections is the custodian of information and is key to the achievement of research ambitions, as they serve as research spaces for postgraduate, local and international researchers on various aspects of African and indigenous knowledge”. said Myeza.

The lecture was delivered by Professor Patrick Ngulube from the Department of Interdisciplinary Research and Postgraduate Studies at UNISA. Ngulube is also an Honorary Professor at UKZN. He focused on the application of soft power theory to enhance the visibility and accessibility of public archives in a resource-constrained environment.

He described research conducted by UNISA and the National Research Foundation to develop a national strategy on public programming. Ngulube said access to and usage of archival holdings is important as it enhances an institution’s image, promotes research and education, improves service delivery, fosters accountability and transparency, and promotes justice.

He highlighted the constrains confronting public archives, including insufficient funding; a lack of infrastructure; information backlogs; and a lack of trained staff. He added that in such a context, four constructs of the concept of soft power, namely; culture, leadership, education as well as innovation, can be activated to enhance the visibility of and access to public archive repositories.

He went on to outline the legislation governing archives and records management; cultural strategies adopted to improve the image of archives; the leadership qualities at all levels to ensure the visibility of archives repositories; educational programmes as interactive tools for public engagement; and the adoption of social media as an innovative tool to promote archives.“Archives are for use. They are created by the people, for the use of the people, so if they are not used, they become a white elephant,” he said, adding, “Soft power could provide deeper insight into and better understanding of how to develop inexpensive visibility programmes.”