Two issues dominate our opinion pieces and news items in our January Newsletter: concerns over the loss of public records and the consequences of this and, an upsurge in digitisation which has facilitated access to a wealth of records both public and non-public online.
The growing concern about public records that are lost, mismanaged or withheld from view is evidenced in a number of posts including The Biko autopsy records: what’s the right thing to do which exposes some of the structural problems which put the preservation of potentially significant records at risk during the apartheid years and proposes a number of measures that could be put in place to address this in the present; Missing documents at the Department of Home Affairs which exposes a disturbing loss of confidential information; and SAHRC launches report on the challenges affecting land restitution which identifies a number of problems arising directly out inadequate record-keeping practices and. The Right 2 Know’s Secret State of the Nation report offers a snapshot study of trends, patterns and challenges with secrecy in South Africa.
We’re also highlight inspiring initiatives such as The First Fifty Years – a project to collate Cape of Good Hope Records, an invaluable resource for those seeking information about the entangled histories of the people who lived in or settled in the Cape in the seventeenth century and The Five Hundred Year Archive Online Project which aims to stimulate interest, research and inquiry into the pre-colonial past and the Archive of Constitution making which has made documents relating to the development of South Africa’s constitutional democracy available online.
These posts and others reflect the rich variety of resources that comprise South Africa’s archival inheritance and the pockets of excellence that characterise our otherwise troubled national archival landscape. They reflect too the deeply held conviction that archives and records matter and that despite the difficulties and the challenges that beset the sector the work that we are doing has enduring value.
Jo-Anne Duggan considers issues relating to the planned auction of the Biko autopsy report. Taking a cue from a statement made by Nkosinathi Biko, she reflects on what might be the ‘right thing’ to do
Duane Jethro reflects on the dynamics of heritage formation in Berlin and South Africa with reference to the work of two important German artists and the Sunday Times Heritage Project.