Church Archives Conference

8 Oct 2018 - 08:00
Grant McNulty presenting at the Digitizing the Church Archives Conference (Photo courtesy of Debra Pryor)


Members of the Five Hundred Year Archive (FHYA) – digital archival manager, Debra Pryor, and post-doctoral research fellow, Grant McNulty – recently attended the Digitizing the Church Archives Conference, held at the Dutch Reformed Church Archives in Stellenbosch on 18th June. Dr Andrew Kok, the manager of the archives, and his staff organised the conference which featured an array of presentations  and participants from multiple institutions and organisations.

The inclusion of case studies and technical presentations alongside input from digitisation service providers was an unexpected but successful mix that made for an interesting and informative day. It brought to light the multiple challenges and opportunities of digitisation and digitisation projects, and reminded us to think beyond digitisation as a solely technical endeavour.

In keeping with the theme of the conference, Sally Titlestad presented the Outsiders Within project, which focuses on the archival collection of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELC) in Strand Street, Cape Town. The ELC has a unique archive of manuscripts dating back to the 1740s that are testimony to a history of resistance to Dutch East India Company (VOC) oppression. Last year the FHYA worked with the ELC to help them to make decisions about creating their own digital archival system.

Shane Byren, from digitisation company, First Coast, focussed on digitisation and preservation, while Antenie Carstens form the National Library of South Africa, gave a detailed technical presentation on how to make equipment choices for digitisation projects.

Prof Johan Fourie from the University of Stellenbosch coordinates the Laboratory for the Economics of Africa's Past, an interdisciplinary research group, and the Biography of an Uncharted People project, a project that aims to transcribe and analyse historical individual-level records. He presented on how using large data sets could give us new insights into African economic history. McNulty presented on the FHYA digital exemplar, giving insight into, amongst other things, the conceptual underpinnings of the project, the project's choice of partner institutions and materials, the practicalities and challenges of creating the exemplar and what the FHYA sees as the potential for this type of model.

PDF versions of the presentations are available on the Dutch Reformed Church Archives website.