preserving nairobi heritage through audio visual archiving the unh project
Susan Kibaara, Head of County Records
Nairobi City County
• Archives exist for the preservation and continuation of the cultural heritage of a
place. Audiovisual media contribute to culture, especially of the nineteenth
century, and even more so of the twentieth and therefore archives for audiovisual
materials are being developed world over. The collections are available in various
formats and range from a variety of cultures, past and current civilizations,
artefacts, manuscripts and printed materials.
• Human effort in the field of Audio Visual Archiving has long been transmitted by
images and the oral traditions and then came the written records. The invention
of printing has made collections more widely available, providing the recipient
with ability to access written collections. More recently the materials could be
recorded on to a visual or audio format for widespread transmission and
distribution leading to what we now call audiovisual materials.
• All these elements of Audio Visual collections are part of the record of the
heritage of the County and if they are to continue existing they require saving,
gathering, preserving and/or conserving and they also need to be accessible to
encourage the spread of knowledge.
• The County Archives should bear the responsibility safeguarding these materials.
Background of the Nairobi Audio Visual
• The Nairobi County Records Management Division
was awakened to the Audio visual collections of the
County during the transition from City Council to
County Government were collections were strewn all
over without much care rendering them to great risk.
• The records management unit embarked on a pilot
project and collected the photographs of the defunct
Council former mayors and began a restoration
program which saw the first items being lined up
outside H.E the Governors lounge. The Pictures were
scanned and copies printed for display.
Sample of Photo recovered
Henderson H. Edgar was the first white mayor
of Nairobi City Council between 1923-1924
Charles Wanyoike was the first African mayor for Nairobi
City Council between 1962-1967
Objectives of UNH Project
i. To bring Nairobi closer home to its residents, to help them have a
visual impression of what they know, what they don’t know and
what they already know about Nairobi.
ii. To provide greater ease of information access and sharing of
iii. To enhance long term preservation of Audio Visual Collections by
reducing wear and tear of through careful handling of the
originals for reference and reproduction only.
iv. To create possible revenue streams for the County’s collections to
capture a world audience.
v. To reduce the need of physical space while promoting strategies
for protection of audio visual collections in the long term.
i. Almost everyone who works in other audiovisual archives has received copious
thanks from people who discovered recordings they never imagined existed of
their relatives or their community. In some cases, these recordings have made it
possible for communities to renew traditions that were long abandoned and
nearly forgotten. This could come true for Nairobi residents.
ii. In other cases the benefits have been more material. Audio recordings from
archives were used in court cases in both Australia and South Africa to reclaim
property and land titles. What can Nairobi gain from such case studies?
iii. Audiovisual recordings are far more than entertainment; they may, in fact,
allow Nairobi residents tore cover rights and individuals to recover livelihoods.
iv. Changes in format, deterioration of the media themselves and probable loss will
mean that the recordings in archives will take on a far greater significance as
v. Nairobi County will be the first County to gather audio visual collections that if
agreed on will be dubbed “The Governors collections”. This will be a great
honour to serving and future Governors of the County.
• The UNH project will encourage and guide the
management of other collections (motion picture
films, still photographs, filmstrips, sound and
video recordings, posters and other graphic
works, and multimedia productions with related
finding aids and production files for the County
of Nairobi) that are currently domiciled in other
• The collections are available in various formats
and are approaching obsolescence e.g.
photographs, films and documentaries.
Structure of how the Archive will look on the County
The project is currently being overseen and implemented by the following County
of Nairobi Officers in collaboration with the Kenya National Archives and
Susan Kibaara ,Head of County Records
Diffence A. Machocho, Officer in Charge Records, Central Registry
Villy A. Magero, Officer in Charge- Records, County Secretary’s Office