AO: Here, we see Maranga leveraging a progress (and linear development) narrative to describe the importance and necessity of archives and libraries.
For society to be able to continually progress, information is needed. Information on solutions applied in the past, challenges encountered and history is very important. To prove this point, it has been challenging for African societies to keep track of our history because we have been oral societies.
AO: This quote was bolded in the original text to indicate it as an extract from Musembi's 1985 book entitled "Archives Management: The Kenyan Experience" and highlights a sense of pan-Africanism and united common struggle of African archival scientists.
It is hoped that Kenya’s successful programme in retrieving its migrated archives will have a broader significance particularly for those countries in East and Central Africa with which we share so much in terms of historical and record creation. The similarities during the colonial period in policy and procedures, both by official administrations and non-official agencies, has resulted in common sources of records. The more closely these countries link their efforts to investigate and gain access to the sources in Britain, the more successful their efforts will be.
TM:There is an immense footprint left by the colonial power in the state of libraries in Kenya; McMillan Library in Nairobi stands out in timeless Victorian architecture only speaking of the immense power colonial settlers had. It is then out of the bark of that power that we are able to enjoy today the McMillan Library out of the wit of the founder William Northup McMillan who had the library protected by an Act of Parliament.
When the final story of the McMillan Memorial Library is written, it will be about a person - William Northrup McMillan — who bequeathed part of his wealth to the citizens of Nairobi — and had it protected by an Act of Parliament. That was the work of a genius.
The question then becomes on whether this influence on matters the library as an institution stems to influence the content readers are exposed to in the library's inventory. Further examination is necessary to review the content level in the library shelves.
AO: This brief excerpt from a mainstream media newspaper article (digital, no less) speaks of the affective relationship the author has to the library and archives through his sense of smell. It also speaks to the community that develops in/around a physical space like the library.
...But the smell inside a library-any library, the smell of old flaky pages, or the sawdust-fresh of newly unpacked books has remained unchanged.
Experts suggest that the resilience of the traditional library in the digital age hinges on the human need for community. “There is a sense of networking and even ownership,” says Anne Wangui, a librarian with the Rural Reading Centre, a private-owned community library network that offers free library services in non-traditional settings-villages and other places where reading centres are unlikely to be found. “The community becomes part of the learning process."
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.
AO. In this interview, founder of Vita Books and the manager of Ukombozi Library describe how the publication of Vita Books' first two booklets in 1986 (Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Writing Against Neo-colonialism and Shiraz Durrani’s Kimaathi: Mau Mau’s First Prime Minister of Kenya) set the tone of the publisher and its anti-imperialist outlook. Following in Vita's footsteps, Ukombozi library's anti-imperialist orientation demonstrated by the types of works they hold and their understanding of librarianship as political is distinct in comparison to other library and archival spaces in Nairobi.
AO: An important point made by the authors is the importance of careful consideration of who is driving the creation and maintenance of the archive. Who is assembling and curating the materials and for what purposes? This is particularly important in postcolonial contexts which, as the authors highlight require scholars to overcome the traces of colonialism that persist through forms of knowledge production.
"From its inception, in late 2003, one overarching principle has guided “Struggles for Freedom.” For the project to be successful, local scholars had to play the leading role in shaping and directing it, creating its intellectual architecture and filling it with meaningful content. Any other formulation was untenable on intellectual or political grounds, and would forfeit the opportunity to bring the public debate on archives and access to information in some parts of southern Africa to bear on the need for writing postcolonial histories. The term postcolonial here recalls the need for scholars to overcome the traces of colonialism and apartheid that persist through forms of knowledge production." (page 59)