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Buea - Experts Begin Digitalization of Archives
Source: Cameroon Tribune
Source Date: Sunday, October 30, 2011
Country: Cameroon
Created: Dec 01, 2011

By January 2012, most of Cameroon's archives would have been digitalized and electronically saved. This was the quintessence of South West Regional Governor Koumpa Issa's outing on 28 October to the Cameroon Cultural Centre in Buea in the South West Region to open a pilot project on the digitalization of endangered archives in Cameroon. The project was conceived by Dr. Pierpaolo Di Carlo, an anthropologist with the University of Buffalo, New York, USA who visited the country's archives and sensed the need. Governor Koumpa Issa explained that Cameroon's archives were in real danger of loss due to lack of technical knowhow or sheer ignorance. He said the archives embody the collective memory of a nation and remain pivotal in taking social, economic, political and cultural decisions. To buttress his point, the Governor revealed the central role played by the Buea Archives to back up Cameroon's legitimacy claim over Bakassi during the border dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon. The Director of Archives in the Ministry of Culture, Dr. Ngwang Michael, used the occasion to clarify the purpose of digitalizing the archives such as properly preserving documents and facts as well as enabling easy retrieval and economy of space through electronic imaging. He told the audience that the digitalization or dematerialization process which will be extended to all of Cameroon's archives, involves the selection, evaluation and storage of all endangered documents in electronic copies. Dr. Ngwang spoke of the holding of a conference on the preservation of Cameroon's archives from December 3 to 5 in Yaounde. The process of digitalizing the archives will take the experts on a 20-day survey in November to major archival repositories in Anglophone Cameroon, notably, Bamenda, Bambui Seminary, Wum, Nkambe and Ndop in the North West Region and Buea, Kumba, and Limbe in the South West Region. The pilot project, co-sponsored by the British Library, the Arcadia Fund (UK), and the Cameroon Government, would cost about 10,000 British Pounds (about FCFA 7.4 million). Answering questions on the sovereignty and confidentiality of the exercise, Emiliano Degl'Innocenti explained the difference between digitalizing and publishing, emphasizing that only the Cameroon Government reserves the right to publish its archival sources. The actual implementation of the project will be carried out Cameroonian archivists being trained by Emiliano Degl'Innocenti, a historian and expert in digital humanities.
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