The challenges of digitising heritage collections in South Africa: a case study
This dissertation explores the organisational challenges for an archive which is attempting to digitise its collections. While technical, organisational and managerial challenges are discussed, this research focuses particularly on whether the digitisation process alters the power relations within the archive and between the archive and other role players within the South African context. The role-players include the state and the archive’s external management, artefact copyright holders, digitisation vendors and organisations and archive users. More importantly, it examines how the archive responded to the challenges it faced. The research investigates: the rationale for digitising archival collections; who the stakeholders in a digitisation project are, how they relate to each other and what the power relations between them are; the financial implications of digitising, in particular for access to the collections; the risks of digitisation; and the implications of selection of materials for digitisation. The qualitative research uses open-ended, iterative video and audio interviews to provide the data for the case study. The research found that personal connections, serendipity, ad-hoc behaviour, trust, distrust and the fear of exploitation had an impact on the digitisation process, and concluded that the Archive managed to steer a course between competing interests to maintain its integrity.