By Lamin B. Darboe
Information Officer, PMO
Wassabo Darboe, the Principal Records Officer who doubles as the Head of the National Archives Division under the National Records Services (NRS) has disclosed that the digitalization of fragile materials is key in National Archives Division activities.
According to him, “the holdings (records/materials) at the National Archives are filled with materials recorded in the analog or traditional format and the archive is still carrying out its tasks of acquiring, organizing and preserving the print documents and helping the readers in locating the information they needed.”
This, he added, poses a lot of challenges such as inaccessibility of materials due to high fragile status, documents being paper-based which decay over time, there is limited space as the repository is full to the brim, and fading of writing on documents, among others.
He said the digitization of the fragile materials seeks to provide the National Archives a tool to protect and preserve valuable records within their holding by scanning all fragile archival materials for a more secure, long-term preservation and increase storage, among others.
Mr Daboe explained that the management and control of government records were given statutory authority in the National Records Service Act of 1993 to underpin the administrative Reform Program, thus under this 1993 Act, NRS is responsible for managing records of the government of the Gambia throughout their life cycle i.e. from creation to ultimate destruction or permanent preservation as archives.
Further to that, archives are the documentary by-product of human activity retained for their long-term value and are witnesses to the past while they also provide evidence, explanation, and justification both for past actions and current decisions.
The collections at the National Archives, he outlined, include the following: Records of Colonial administration including provincial and Commissioners records from 1814 to 1969, Annual Reports and Sessional papers from 1833 to date, Government publications and gazettes from 1835 to date, Ministries and Departmental correspondence files from 1923 to date, Newspapers, photos and monographs from 1936 to date, Theses and private collection from 1963 to date, Slave Trade archives and Maps and plans.
According to Mr. Darboe, the National Archives have both present and past national Newspapers from 1936 to date namely: The Gambia Echo, Gambia Outlook, Gambia News Bulletin, Vanguard, West Africa, The Progressive, Gambia Onward, Gambia Times, The Sun, The Gambian, The Worker, African Unity, Senegambia Sun, The Nation, Gambia Daily, Foroyaa, The Point, The Torch, Daily Observer, Today, Independence, The Voice, and The Standard Newspapers.
Mr. Darboe called on both national and international researchers to continue visiting the National Archives as they will be amazed by the rich collections to satisfy every aspect of life, as would be evidenced from the list of holdings mentioned earlier.