Digitizing the Namibian Archive

Editor’s note: A collaboration between the Polytechnic of  Namibia, The National Archives of Namibia, Brigham Young University, and Utah Valley University have been engaging in digitizing parts of the National Archives of Namibia in Windhoek. Starting in 2004 and continuing to the present, tens of thousands of photos, documents and film have been digitized by the NAN. Though there is not a large, formal website for external researchers, the archives have a well organized intranet where the digital items can be accessed. Some of the photos from the Cocky Hahn collection (and a few other small ones) have been uploaded to the Polytechnic website for exhibition. See article below & the external links.

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The Digital Namibia Archives Project: A 5-year Collaboration Growing Out of a Fulbright Grant

Dr. Allen Palmer
Brigham Young University
Namibia, 2004

In 2004, I received a Fulbright Scholar grant to Namibia for lecturing in journalism at Polytechnic of Namibia in the capital city Windhoek. I was a professor of communication at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. My wife, Dr. Loretta Palmer, who is a professor at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah accompanied me.

When my wife and I were in Namibia, she volunteered her services at the university while I lectured. She taught computer classes and worked as an instructional designer in the college’s distance education program.

In discussions with the Namibian college leaders, including the Rector, Dr. Tjama Tjivikua, we decided one area in which we could assist Polytechnic, in addition to the scheduled classes we were teaching, was the development of a USA-Namibia partnership to help train their staff in digitizing African cultural artifacts for their new library. Many of the African artifacts were neglected and at risk of being lost or destroyed, including old photographs, music recordings, documents, etc.

What resulted was a project that has lasted more than five years, from 2007 to 2012, and involved 35 to 40 American college teachers and students traveling to Namibia to participate in training for what was became called the “DNA Project”–the Digital Namibia Archives Project–that began in earnest in 2007. A link to the DNA Project is now featured on the Polytechnic’s main internet page: http://www.polytechnic.edu.na.

Each summer a team of six to eight college faculty and students from Utah Valley University’s Multi-media Communication Program traveled to Namibia. They assisted  with training college students and staff at Polytechnic of Namibia, and the staff at Namibian National Archives, how to digitize and preserve historic cultural records. Also assisting in organizing the program was Professor Steve Harper at Utah Valley University.

During the ensuing years after my Fulbright, my wife and I have returned to Namibia several times to support project planning. In addition, the rector, Dr. Tjivikua, has traveled to the U.S. twice to confer with us on project development. In addition to the benefits in Namibia, the students from Utah Valley University benefited from the project in their education program.

A brief overview of the DNA  project is posted on a Youtube video by a student participant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ats8jAypl0

Numerous archive photographs and documents showing the history of Namibia are posted to public at the link on the main DNA Project web page: http://dna.polytechnic.edu.na/collections.html

The 5-year plan for the DNA project recently ended and it was a remarkable example of a successful collaboration between a Fulbright host college and an American university that began with the Fulbright Scholar Program.

DNA Agreement Signed

– See more at: http://www.cies.org/article/digital-namibia-archives-project-5-year-collaboration-growing-out-fulbright-grant#sthash.yrv7Se0g.dpuf

For a link to the Polytechnic photo exhibition, see below:

http://dna.polytechnic.edu.na/collections.html