Monday, March 10, 2014

£16,000 grant to preserve Gambia’s ‘endangered’ history records

Gambia's national Museum (Photo credti: NCAC)
Minister Fatou Mass Jobe (photo: Daily News)
The British Library in London has awarded the Gambian National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC) a grant under its ‘British Library Endangered Archives Programme’ to help digitize the NCAC’s oral history archives of over 5,000 recordings.

“The grant is to help the NCAC obtain the necessary equipment for preservation and provide training in how to digitize these important recordings,” according to the British Embassy in Banjul. 

The recordings were made between 1960s - 1980s and cover topics including the empire of Kaabu (a powerful federated Kingdom that includes present day The Gambia, Casamance and Guinea Bissau from the late 13th to mid 19th centuries) in addition to the relationships between the various ethnic groups dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries.   

“The grant of over £16,000 will help the NCAC staff receive training in digitization techniques, the creation of catalogues, storage and archiving and the accessing of the data produced,” the Embassy said. “The digitization project will take approximately 3 years to complete.  The British Library grant has been complimented with a grant from ‘Music Development and Heritage Sweden’”.    

Last year, Gambia’s Minister of Tourism and Culture said the NCAC plans to digitize thousands of archived oral history with a view to preserving it and ensuring accessibility.

The recordings are one of the most extensive in the Western African region and have added importance given that the oral history archive of Guinea Bissau was lost during their 1998 civil war, the Embassy observed.

The recordings are on reel to reel tapes and cassette tapes with the equipment to play the recordings becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to obtain.    

Acting UK Ambassador George Sherriff has congratulated the NCAC on receiving this grant. “… and am pleased to hear that these important oral archives of the West African region will be preserved for generations to come,” he said.  

Baba Ceesay, Director General of NCAC said: “The gesture is most welcome and stands to not only preserve this invaluable collection but will also strengthen the NCAC's nomination of the collection for inscription in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.”

The UNESCO Memory of the World Register is a programme designed to increase awareness of the existence and significance of important documentary heritage worldwide.

“This is prestigious recognition for documentary heritage with outstanding universal value," Ceesay said.

Written by Modou S. Joof

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