Preservation of, and access to records at the KwaZulu-Natal Archives.
Mtshali, Sbusiso Christof.
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The KwaZulu-Natal Archives provides for the protection of a treasure house of documents, oral history, maps and photographs that tell the history of the KwaZulu-Natal province. The Archives came into existence on 1 April 2001, in terms of the KwaZulu-Natal Archives Act, Act 5 of 2000. The provincialization of archives in South Africa is supported by Schedule 5 of the Constitution. The study investigated the preservation of, and access to, records at the KwaZulu-Natal Archives. The research problem which this study addressed was that “the preservation of public records and archives, in general and vulnerable records, particularly in South Africa has been greatly neglected” (Ngubane, 2003:18). The focus was on how the different materials are preserved and stored. Every archival institution has unique needs with regard to the climatic conditions of the area. The study examined the policies that are followed to preserve records at the KZN Archives, activities used to prolong the existence of records, training of staff concerning the preservation of records, the challenges faced by the staff in preserving records, ways used to ensure that records are accessible to the public, extent the KZN Archives are accessible to the majority of the population in KZN, how adequate is the KZN Archives building for the purposes of preserving records, and how the KZN Archives ensure that records are accessible fairly and equally by the public. The focus of the proposed research was on records of the KZN Archives in Pietermaritzburg (the Head Office). Due to time constraints and the lack of funds site visits were not made to the branches in Durban and Ulundi. However questionnaires were sent to these branches. For the purposes of this research only print records were investigated. In this study qualitative and quantitative techniques were employed. Methodological triangulation was used to gather data and this consisted of a questionnaire, interviews and observation. The study population comprised 19 members of the staff in the KZN Archives. All 19 staff had duties relating to the access and preservation of records and the Director and both professional and non-professional staff were included. Fifteen staff members participated in the study giving a response rate of 79%. SPSS was utilized to arrange and analyze data collected from the self-administered questionnaire. Content analysis was used to analyse data from the interview schedule, and observation schedule. The study found that the KZN Archives still need to improve preservation and access to its records. The need to create a digital archive was strongly recommended to ensure easy access to records.