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Democracy, Representation and Archives: Acquisition Policies in South African University Archives
 

Democracy, Representation and Archives: Acquisition Policies in South African University Archives

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Presentation on proposed research on acquisition policies at university archival repositories in South Africa. ...

Presentation on proposed research on acquisition policies at university archival repositories in South Africa.

October 28, 2010. Presentation sponsored by Association of Hawaii Archivists; Hamilton Library, University of Hawaii—Manoa; University of Hawaii Museum Studies Certificate Program.

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  • Give a brief overview of South African archives. Divided into three chronological periods: apartheid, transition and democracy.
  • Apartheid was a system of segregation enacted and enforced by South Africa’s National Party between 1962 and 1994. Apartheid is an Afrikaans word, meaning “apartness.”Under apartheid, the populations was divided into four racial groups: White, Black, Asian (Indians) and Coloured. Hardest hit by the apartheid policies were the Blacks, whose South African citizenship was revoked and were required to live in homelands, or “Bantustans.” The homelands, rural areas “reserved” for “occupation by Natives only”, were considered independent by South Africa, to limit its obligation in supporting these regions. Blacks were only permitted outside the homelands if they were employed in labor, and were required to carry identification papers on them at all times. Public services were also segregated, with non-whites receiving inferior access to education, health care.
  • The Archives Act of 1962 established the State Archives Service. Under the act, the director of the archives was given broad control over the management of public (government) records, both current and non-current, for all government agencies. Because of the comprehensive records management powers given to the State Archives Service, the act was recognized as one of the strongest pieces of archival legislation in the world.At the same time, however, the act was also criticized for the opacity it allowed. Public records were to be transferred to the custody of the archives after 30 years, upon which time, they would be accessible to the public. This time period was later amended to 50 years.
  • Verne Harris: “Interlocking legislation restricted access to, and the dissemination of, information on vast areas of public life. These restrictions were manipulated to secure an extraordinarily degree of opacity in government, and the country’s formal information systems became grossly distorted in support of official propaganda.”The preamble to the current Promotion of Access to Information Act reads, “the system of government in South Africa before 27 April, 1994, amongst others, resulted in a secretive and unresponsive culture in public and private bodies which often led to an abuse of power and human rights violations.”Several obstacles to public access to government records have been noted, including:Time restrictions: Records not open to public access until 50 years after their creation. Access was granted at the file level, so a file would be closed if a single document was under 50 years old, no matter the age of the remaining documents.Permissions: Access to records still in the custody of government offices required permission from the office of creation. The act reads: “Subject to the provisions of any other law, no person shall have access to any archives in a government office or an office of local authority; provided that any person charged with the custody, care or control of any such archives may, upon application by any other person, in his discretion but subject to the provisions of this Act and any other law, authorize that person to have access to those records. The Truth and Reconciliation Report noted, “Access was a privilege to be granted by bureaucracies, except where specific legislation recognized the right of access to specific categories of records.” More often than not, however, legislation worked to further restrict access, rather than expanding the right to access.Role of the Minister: Although records transferred to the State Archives Service were theoretically open for access, this was not always the case. A stipulation in the Archives Act read, “The Minister may on the ground of public policy direct that access to any such archives or accessions be withheld.” H.M. Feinberg, recounting his experiences conducting research in South African archives in the 1980s, writes: “A number of the major collections are closed, and permission from archival and governmental officials is required to use such collections … The process could take weeks or even two or three months. Associated with this problem is that the research must identify each and every file by number, date and contents. Comprehensive requests are not allowed.” The inventories required to obtain this information were only available at the archives depot in Pretoria, placing significant burdens on researchers stationed outside of the capital. Social Inequality: Verne Harris writes, “Systematic barriers—low educational standard, high rates of illiteracy, physical location from city centers, competency in languages other than official Afrikaans and English, and so on—ensured that most South Africans enjoyed only nominal access to public records.” The country’s official languages were Afrikaans and English, omitting the many native languages in the country (in contrast, South Africa has 10 official languages today). Furthermore, many public records were produced solely in Afrikaans, making them inaccessible to the English-speaking white population. It is clear how the apartheid policies of homelands, pass laws, and segregated education worked to prevent marginalized populations from using South Africa’s archives.
  • To legitimize their minority rule, the apartheid regime created a narrative that maintained the arrival of South Africa’s Afrikaans population occurred contemporaneously with the Bantu population. Bhekizizwe Peterson writes, “Colonial and apartheid authorities consistently denies the existence of any legacy among Africans worth preserving, an attitude borne out in their insistence that Africans had no history.”The State Archives Service was an active participant in the formation of this revisionist history, through its acquisition strategies and in the publication of articles with an Afrikaans-privileged view. Harris notes, “The fact that most of the Service’s appraisers were taught as undergraduates by establishment-aligned Afrikaner historians was an important contributing factor.” During apartheid, the SAS developed an archival record that privileged the white population. As a result, the gaps in the nation’s public archival record silenced not only the voiced of Black, Coloured and Asian communities, it silenced women, sexual minorities and anti-apartheid individuals and organizations, as well.
  • Verne Harris: “In the context of apartheid homeland policy, in particular the inadequate professional and administrative assistance made available by the central government, that the homelands either neglected public archives entirely or maintained only rudimentary services.”Transkei had only established archives service, others had rudimentary archival repositories or records management programs, and Kangwane and Kwa Ndebele had no archives nor records management services at all. In 1996, the Archives Sub-Committee of the Arts and Culture Task Group found the archives services in all the homelands to be inadequate.The difficulties homelands faced in establishing archival programs was documented in Kwazulu-Natal Project Task Group: Archival Services’ report, which stated, “In 1976 its Legislative Assembly passed an Archives Act, but it was never implemented. Attempts were made to get an archives service off the ground, but these foundered in the face of an inability to attract qualified archivists and an unwillingness on the part of the South African States Archives Service to offer more than token assistance.” Regarding the position of the State Archives Service, Harris writes, “In its relationship with the bantustan archives services, SAS was placed in a classic apartheid dilemma: cutting them loose professionally would have meant reinforcing bantustan underdevelopment; providing comprehensive support would have meant buttressing grand apartheid policy.” Indeed, KwaZulu did not begin to receive support from the State Archives Service until the transitional period, establishing a fledgling archival program in 1991. The inability of the homelands to establish and sustain archival operations meant the loss of many records relating to South Africa’s black population, as the regional archival deopts did not concern themselves with records generated within the homelands.
  • The persecution of anti-apartheid groups and individuals probably had the greatest impact on the representation of marginalized groups in the archival record. A large majority of the records destroyed by government divisions during apartheid were the records of, or relating to, anti-apartheid groups and individuals. As a result, the departments that carried out the majority of this destruction were related to security, defense and intelligence. By 1978, there was a government=wide policy in place allowing for the destruction of classified records without the consent of the director of the archives, which went against the Archives Act. The fear of persecution by the apartheid government affected the records creation and recordkeeping practices of anti-apartheid organizations, further impacting their presence in the nation’s archival record. As the TRC report states, “many [anti-apartheid organizations] were reluctant to commit certain kinds of information to paper. Many also destroyed records rather than allow them to fall into the hands of state operatives.” When records were generated and maintained by these organizations, there was still the risk of confiscation and destruction by government security operatives. The TRC goes on to state, “The apparent complete destruction of all records confiscated from individuals and organizations by the Security Branch of the South African Police Service has removed from our heritage what may arguably have been the country’s richest accumulation of records documenting the struggle against apartheid.” Much of the records seized and used as evidence in court have been lost.
  • As South Africa transitioned from apartheid to democracy, two major trends occurred that heavily shaped the present archival discourse. On the one hand, the outgoing apartheid regime instituted a large-scale destruction of records to cover human rights violations. On the other, the incoming African National Congress (ANC) government worked to ensure that archives and recordkeeping practices in a democratic South Africa would work to protect citizens’ rights, and, reflect the stories of all South Africans.During the transitional period, the outgoing apartheid government carried out a mass records destruction program aimed at denying the new democratic government access to its records. Harris writes, “The apartheid state was determined … to sanitise its image and protect its intelligence sources. It was also apparently intent on eliminating evidence of serious human rights violations. In this regard, the security establishment had most cause to destroy records.” The Cabinet authorized the destruction of “state sensitive” and classified records during the transitional period, without knowledge or authorization of the State Archives Service. As a result of the illegal records destruction, and the opacity of public records under the apartheid regime, the incoming government was intent on strengthening controls against records destruction. As the TRC noted, “Truth and Reconciliation Commission: “The elimination of memory took place through censorship, confiscation of materials, bannings, incarceration, assassination and a range of related actions. Any attempt to reconstruct the past must involve the recovery of this memory –  much of it contained in countless documentary records. The tragedy is that the former government deliberately and systematically destroyed a huge body of state records and documentation in an attempt to remove incriminating evidence and thereby sanitise the history of oppressive rule.” The National Archives was looked to as an important tool in the restitution of social justice and individual rights.Thus, the incoming government also focused on ensuring that South Africa’s archival record would be transparent, accessible and representative of the entire population.
  • The Archives Act of 1996 was the first major piece of legislation passed since the inauguration of the democratic government. Bredekamp notes that the state archives was “the first colonial and apartheid-inherited institution at which transformation was legislatively directed.” The National Archives and Records Service Act established the renamed National Archives and Records Service of South Africa. It is largely based on Canadian archival legislation and features the “Total Archives” concept, in which government archives acquires both public and private records. Providing the National Archives with the mandate to acquire private records allows it to “collect non-public records with enduring value of national significance which cannot be more appropriately preserved by another institution, with due regard to the need to document aspects of the nation's experience neglected by archives repositories in the past.”Furthermore, under the Act, the amount of time required for public records to be available for public access has been reduced from 50 years to 20, with access to records newer than 20 years requiring the permission of the National Archivist.
  • The mission of the National Archives is to “foster national identity and ensure the protection of rights,” reflecting the principles enshrined in South Africa’s 1996 Constitution. The Preamble of the Constitution emphasizes democratic values, social justice and human rights, unity, openness and equal protection, while also recognizing past injustices. These principles are woven into the public archival system in South Africa, through mission statements, legislation, policies and activities.The Constitution guarantees 30 rights, including access to information. The Bill of Rights reads, “(1) Everyone has the right of access to any information held by the state and any information that is held by another person and that is required for the exercise or protection of any rights. National legislation must be enacted to give effect to this right, and may provide for reasonable measures to alleviate the administrative and financial burden on the state.”
  • South Africa features one of the world’s most progressive pieces of Freedom of Information legislation. Unlike most nations’ FOI laws, South Africa’s Promotion of Access to Information Act applies to both public and private records of any age. The language utilized in the Act, as is common with other pieces of post-apartheid legislation, emphasizes social justice and human rights. The Act lists some of its objects as, “To give effect to the constitutional obligations of the State of promoting a human rights culture and social justice … generally, to provide transparency, accountability and effective governance of all public and private bodies.” Recognizing the role of opacity of the apartheid government in human rights abuses, the Promotion of Access to Information Act sees itself as a tool for the protection of individual rights. As part of the requirements legislated by the Act, the Human Rights Commission is required to publish a guide on the use of the Act in each of the South Africa’s 10 official languages, to ensure that the powers granted in this act is available to as many of South Africa’s citizens as possible.
  • The definition of a record is, “a document made or received in the course of a practical activity as an instrument or a by-product of such activity, and set aside for action or reference.” Following this definition, if archives contain records that are generated organically, in the ordinary course of business, then they remain an objective record of history.Postmodern writers have called into the question the notion that archives are objective byproducts of activity. As Verne Harris writes, “The record invites us to acknowledge that, far from being an innocent byproduct of activity, a reflection of reality, it is a construction of realities expressing dominant relations of power.” The very notions of records creation implies education, literacy and techonology, tools more readily available to society’s elite and, often times, inaccessible to the marginalized.As noted in my overview of South African archives, the sociopolitical atmosphere has a great impact on the nature of the archival record. Francis Blouin writes, “The representations in the archives and the absences in the archives, rather than being the result of random deposits in the life cycle of records, may be purposeful in selectivity and in the architecture of the evidentiary and informational content.” Rodney Carter writes, “The power to exclude is a fundamental aspect of the archive. Inevitably, there are distortions, omissions, erasures, and silences in the archive. Not every story is told.” The records found in government archives generally reflect the dominant societal groups—the political, economic and cultural elite. Narratives of margnalized groups must be excavated from the gaps in the archival record. These narratives, however, are constructed by the dominant groups in society, denying the marginalized the agency to speak for themselves. The call for a representative archival record in South Africa reflects international developments. By the 1970s, archivists and historians, including Howard Zinn, Sam Bass Warner, Gerald Ham and Patrick Quinn had called for more diversity in the archival record. Theories of archival appraisal have been proposed to accomplish this goal. One of the most notable examples has been the Documentation Strategy, whose primary proponent was Helen Samuels in the 1980s. Under documentation strategy, a network of archives works collaboratively to ensure the documentation of a particular topic—which may be relating to an issue, activity or geographic area. Randall Jimerson notes, “Institutional archivists can also respond, by ensuring that their criteria for documentation do not exclude women, racial and ethnic minorities, laborers, gay and lesbians, or other societal groups often ignored in traditional archival practices. Due to centuries of neglect and obscurity, such marginalized groups may need a form of ‘affirmative action’ in archival acquisition, preservation and documentation programs.”
  • As there has been a call in post-apartheid South Africa for a more representative archival record, this research project aims to understand what role university archives and special collections have in attaining this goal. This has been identified as a gap in the literature. ZofiaSulej writes, “[University archives’] involvement in community projects and contributions towards forming a new national history is still not often discussed in an open area. Unfortunately not much has been written yet by professional people concerning these issues.”

Democracy, Representation and Archives: Acquisition Policies in South African University Archives Democracy, Representation and Archives: Acquisition Policies in South African University Archives Presentation Transcript

  • Democracy, Representation and Archives
    Acquisition Policies in South African University Archives
    Harrison W. Inefuku
    October28, 2010
    Honolulu, HI
  • Overview of Presentation
    Introduction
    Overview of South African archives
    Discussion of research
  • Introduction
    Student
    Dual MAS/MLIS Program, University of British Columbia
    Graduate Research Assistant
    Digital Records Forensics
    InterPARES 3 Project
    University Institutional Repositories: Copyright and Long-Term Preservation
    Where I Am
  • Introduction
    Alumni
    University of the Pacific, BA/BFA (Stockton, CA)
    Punahou School
    Previous Work Experience
    Belkin Art Gallery Archives (Vancouver, BC)
    National Library of Medicine (Bethesda, MD)
    University of the Pacific Archives and Special Collections
    Punahou School Archives
    Where I’ve Been
  • Introduction
    Archival Policies and Procedures
    Electronic records management
    Digital preservation
    Diversity and Archives
    Diversity in staffing
    Diversity in users
    Diversity in archival record
    Research Interests
  • Archives in South Africa
    Apartheid Era (1962–1991)
    Transition (1991–1994)
    Democracy (1996–present)
  • Brief Introduction to Apartheid
    Afrikaans for “apartness”
    Four Racial Groups
    White
    Black
    Asian
    Coloureds
    Segregation
    Homelands
    “Independence”
    Public Services
  • Archives Act, 1962
    Gave director of archives broad control over management of public records in all government agencies
    Government records were to be transferred to the custody of the archives after 30 years
    Later amended to 50 years
  • Access During Apartheid
    Obstacles to public access:
    Time
    Permission
    Minister able to restrict access
    Social inequality
  • Apartheid’s Impact on Records
    Acquisition policy aimed at capturing historical milestones
    Acquisition Policies
    Homelands Policies
    Security
  • Apartheid’s Impact on Records
    Homelands in charge of maintaining its own archives
    Lack of support from State Archives Service
    Only one—Transkei—had an established archives service
    Acquisition Policies
    Homelands Policies
    Security
  • Apartheid’s Impact on Records
    Persecution of anti-apartheid groups:
    Destruction of records by security officers
    Fear of creating records
    Acquisition Policies
    Homelands Policies
    Security
  • Transition and Records Destruction
    Illegal destruction of government records to cover up human rights abuses
    Truth and Reconciliation Commission
    African National Congress
  • ContemporaryArchival Legislation
    Established the National Archives and Records Service of South Africa
    “Total archives”
    Recognition of need to fill gaps in the archival record
    Cooperation between national archives and other archival organizations
    Closed period reduced from 50 to 20 years
    National Archives and Records Service of South Africa Act (1996)
    Constitution (1996)
    Promotion of Access to Information Act (2001)
  • ContemporaryArchival Legislation
    30 rights are guaranteed in the Constitution
    Emphasis on equality
    Includes Access to Information as a guaranteed right
    Archives Act (1996)
    Constitution (1996)
    Promotion of Access to Information Act (2001)
  • ContemporaryArchival Legislation
    Fulfills the constitutional right of access to information
    Scope includes both public and private records
    Archives Act (1996)
    Constitution (1996)
    Promotion of Access to Information Act (2001)
  • University Archives and Special Collections
    Acquisition Policies
  • Background
    Postmodernism, Social History and Archives
    Calls for a representative archival record
    Documentation Strategy (Helen Samuels)
  • Background
    What role, if any, do South African university archives play in the filling of archival gaps?
    Is the desire to fill archival gaps evident in the policies of South African university archives?
    ZofiaSulej, “[South African university archives’] involvement in different community projects and contributions towards forming a new national history is still not often discussed in an open arena.”
  • Methodology
    Survey sent to university archives and special collections in South Africa
    Analysis of acquisition policies (written and unwritten)
    Site visits (February 2011)
  • Research Questions
    How do university archives and special collections contribute to the creation of a representative archival record?
    Do university archives and special collections view the development of a representative archival record as important?
    If university archives and special collections acquire materials beyond university records, how are areas of acquisition focus determined?
    Who determines areas of acquisition? (Archivist, university librarian/dean, university’s academic strengths, external researchers/consultants, archives/special collections mandate)
    How are areas of acquisition defined? (Geographical region, racial group, chronological period)
    If university archives and special collections do not acquire materials beyond university records, why?
  • Acknowledgements
    Association of Hawaii Archivists, UHM Hamilton Library, UHM Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies
    Maja Clark, Stu Dawrs
    Supervisor: Dr. Lisa Nathan
    Archival Adviser: Dr. Luciana Duranti
    Consultaton/Advice: Jeanette Bastian, Graham Dominy, Terry Eastwood, Verne Harris, ShadrackKatuu, Victoria Lemieux, Francesca Marini, Laura Millar, Anne Thurston
    Aidan Collier, Tracey Collier, Andrew Hill, KediboneLeubane, Samara Pillay, Ryan Schwartz, MarliVlok
  • Thank you!
    Harrison W. Inefuku
    hinefuku@gmail.com
    www.hwinefuku.com