Content and use of colonial archives: An under-researched issue

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Namibians often find themselves in situations of litigation where they need person-related records to defend their rights and privileges. Such personrelated records include birth, adoption, marriage, or divorce or deceased estates. It has been observed that the institution where such records should be expected, the National Archives of Namibia often cannot retrieve person-related records of persons previously classified as non-whites under colonial and apartheid laws. Many native Namibians end up losing property or have problems claiming their constitutional rights due to lack of evidence. The purpose of this paper was to explore whether the existing archival literature can guide National Archives of new and emerging African nations on how to handle challenges brought about by gaps in inherited colonial archives. Using a literature survey to explore the state of what is written on the content and usage of colonial archives in post-colonial era, this article argues that the content and use of colonial archives in Africa do not feature prominently in the literature of archival science. Although there has been a rising interest on the subject during the last decade, none of this emerging literature has systematically studied archives in depth with a view on what these archives contain for the non-academic user, what they neglect and what they lack altogether in serving the needs of all citizens in post-colonial states. It recommends that archival scholars as well as archival institutions increase research into this neglected area. Raising awareness may produce academic discourse to help archivists in newly decolonised countries to competently support users whose inquiries currently cannot be answered by the inherited colonial archives collections.
Colonial archives., Recordkeeping practices., Post-colonial studies., Vital records., National Archives Namibia, Archives Africa
Namhila, E.N. (2014). Content and use of colonial archives : an under-researched issue. Archival Science : International Journal on Recorded Information, 14(2).