AO. Post-colonial archives and enduring colonial relationships

AO: This excerpt from a workshop summary report outlines the different meanings surrounding the concept of a post-colonial archive.

An archive could be “post-colonial” because it contains material from the post-Independence period. In our first round of discussions it was noted that it was often the case that this material, i.e. material of relatively recent origin, is more at risk of going missing or not being stored appropriately than the older material from the colonial and pre-colonial periods. This raised the question: how to preserve material with a very recent origin, in particular documents that are “born digital” such as email correspondence? But the “post-colonial” might equally denote the social, economic and political structures in which repositories of historical material are embedded. From Frances Mwangi of the Kenya National Archives, we heard of the managed destruction of sensitive colonial era files by the British government and the “migration” of others to the “secret” Foreign Office repository at Hanslope Park. We also discussed how structures produced and relationships forged during the colonial period endure and how the post-colonial archives seeking to develop the skills of its staff or enhance its technological capacities manage their engagement with funding bodies and donors, such as the British Library and UNESCO, many of whom are based in former colonial metropoles. 


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