Archiving Africa Part 1: Willing to Do the Work

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

After settling in over the weekend, we got right to work on Monday morning with our partners at Makerere University Klaus Wachsmann Audio-Visual Archive: Dr. Sylvia Nannyonga-Tamusuza, Founding Director of the Archive and Chair of the School of Performing Arts and Film, and Monica Naluwooza, Archivist (above, left). Along with my student research intern, Ar’Darius Stewart, we also have two Ugandan interns for the duration of the project, Aksam Kigozi (above, right) and Patrick Kimuli (above, middle; their names immediately fascinated me for reasons I discussed here long ago). We began by meeting with Prof. Sylvia, Monica, and the guys to discuss expectations and introduce everyone to the spaces where we’ll be working.

We quickly discovered that as usual, this archive is a dynamic conceptual and physical space. They have just undergone a transition from being confined to mostly one room that doubles as place with listening booths to an upstairs room with climate control, humidity control, and plenty of working space. In the transition, some of the materials have been separated from their documentation and other things have made it somewhat difficult to decipher what belongs where. We have spent most of the week working in this beautiful space with just a few exceptions when we needed to be working on multiple computers downstairs in the listening room.

We are discovering an exciting variety of materials here with an equally diverse set of challenges to tackle so that they can be used to their fullest capacity. For the time being, we are working with digital backups of born-digital materials and matching them up with the documentation that the collectors left with them. It is clear that at the point of original documentation, some collectors faced challenges that made it impossible for them to document their materials according to archival protocols. So we have to go through these backups, match them up with the documents, and then re-file them with new labeling as needed. We’re also overhauling the whole labeling and storage system to make archive usage more intuitive and user friendly.

This weekend, it’s off to the village: Lyantonde. We’ll go and see my host brother, Francis Kaweesa, and a play written by his father, Mr. Magoba. More to come soon on that! Until then, tugende!

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