'Digitisation of McMillan Memorial library's collections wasn't just about making material accessible; it was about creating room for critical dialogue on African history and opening up conversations between the past and present. I'm excited to see how this work shifts narratives, creates new forms of knowledge production and brings to the forefront lesser-known perspectives.'
Chao Tayiana Maina
Book Bunk Trust in partnership with the African Digital Heritage Foundation and Built Environment Surveyors & Infrastructure Consultancy (BESIC) Group
To preserve endangered photograph and newspaper library collections and provide the local community with capacity-building opportunities.
In October 2020, the Book Bunk Trust began a digitisation project to preserve the endangered photograph and newspaper collections at McMillan Memorial Library. Some of the most fragile and endangered items housed in the library and its branches included newspapers and photographic items dating back to 1880. These had deteriorated considerably in the past five to ten years due to climate change, and it was estimated that 25 per cent of the library's collection had also been damaged or lost due to global warming.
The project procured climate control systems to mitigate against climate-related damage in the library basement where the items are stored.
In addition to these systems, training was also due to take place in the form of community events, however due to Covid-19 restrictions, digital resources were created instead. 'How to Build an Archive' and 'How to Protect your Archive' were used to instruct library users and global audiences in digitising their personal photo albums and other family archives. The resources also included guidance on how to protect these archives from climate-related damage.
The McMillan Memorial Libraries Digital archive was officially launched via online platforms in June 2021. Trained participants of the project have digitised over 31,549 newspapers, gazettes, ordinances and other items, helping to prevent further degradation of this unique library collection. In collaboration with the McMillan Library and County government, the archive has been migrated over to the library website. Since its launch, the project has gathered feedback from its users on best ways to further improve the archive. As a result, additional laptops with faster speeds and capacities were supplied to help optimise the collection. To date, the archive has received 160 overall users, with 86 of these being consistent users who visit the archive regularly.
The project also trained thirty people (including six Book Bunk Trust team members, 15 interns and four Nairobi City Librarians) on climate change preparedness and how to prevent damage to the collections by identifying and preventing climate risks. A total of 21 people were trained on digitisation, metadata creation and safe storage of these unique archives. The project also secured work for five casual labourers and 17 interns from the local communities, who helped to clear the library basement.
The Cultural Protection Fund (CPF) promotes a people-centred approach to Cultural Protection. It encourages partnerships at an institutional level by using our global network and cultural relations approach. Half of CPF projects are led by UK organisations, encouraging international knowledge exchange on common issues, best-practice sharing and influence on heritage protection processes and policies worldwide. The CPF is connected to a wider network of heritage protection funders and agencies, feeding into and benefitting from a wide range of research and intelligence on heritage protection. Heritage protection is a global, shared challenge and the learning and evaluation from CPF projects is fed back into a network to create better conditions for heritage protection and increased understanding of its positive impact on individuals and societies.