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Jo-Anne Duggan

I grew up in Cape Town, studied art, history and education at UCT in the ’70s and ’80s, and then taught art at a high school for a couple of years. Taking a break when my first child was born in the mid-'80s, I was enticed to take up a position as education officer at the South African National Gallery. A few wonderful years later – having engaged with communities in every conceivable part of the city and worked on a couple of exciting exhibitions aimed at opening up the gallery to new audiences, I was hooked on the power of heritage. Always open to being led astray by the prospect of new adventures, in the ’90s I was persuaded to throw my energies behind various policy-making processes. For a couple of years, my study was piled high with papers relating to a new national policy for arts education, and provincial and national heritage policies. It was an exhilarating time when it seemed that anything and everything was possible. A move to Gauteng brought about an opportunity to work at the National Cultural History Museum, and subsequently an invitation from the Department of Arts and Culture to run with the process of amalgamating the Gauteng-based declared cultural institutions, or national museums, into a single ‘flagship’ – a highly contested exercise involving many bitter-sweet debates! Moving unexpectedly to a small mining town in the Namibia, I was shattered to find myself suddenly at a loose end, and welcomed an invitation to curate the first exhibition for the Nelson Mandela Museum in Mthatha. Accomplishing that provided the impetus to establish a heritage consultancy and the next ten years passed in a flash of tenders, deadlines, reports and endless airport lounges as we worked on everything from small exhibitions to large infrastructure development programmes around the country – a steep learning curve and a bit of a roller coaster ride, memories to last a lifetime, and plenty of food for thought. I count myself lucky to have had the chance to engage with so many different people in so many diverse situations. An opportunity to review national heritage policy and legislation for the DAC took me full circle – and had me scratching through my boxes for the original copies of reports that were missing from the DAC archive! I followed the launch and development of the Archival Platform with interest, and when an opening came up I thought, 'maybe this will be the start of a new adventure altogether', and it most certainly has been! It’s been a privilege to sit at the intersection of theorists and practitioners: to be able to participate in the inspiring and creative intellectual activity of APC; to engage in thought-provoking, and often worrying, dialogue with committed and passionate archivists and records managers and; and to explore ways for the Archival Platform to contribute to the growth and development of a national archival system that embraces our country’s multi-layered past, arms citizens with the resources they need to address the challenges of the present, and opens up to a more just and equitable future.
director@archivalplatform.org