On a recent visit to the University of the Western Cape (UWC), Epson recognised that the institution had a challenge in its ability to preserve the various historical documents in its possession - particularly those at the UWC-Robben Island Mayibuye Archives.
Epson agreed to aid the Mayibuye Archives by donating a high-end Epson GT-30000 A3 scanner, as an archiving solution to its rare documents collection unit.
The Mayibuye Archives provide a unique and often fragile documentary record of South African history and culture, particularly with regard to the apartheid period, the freedom struggle and political imprisonment in South Africa.
There are many archives, which comprise more than 100 000 photographs, 10 000 film and video recordings, 5000 artefacts from Robben Island and elsewhere, 2000 spoken history tapes, 2000 posters from the struggle, more than 300 collections of historical documents and an extensive art collection, including the UN-sponsored International Artists Against Apartheid Exhibition, and 10 000 political cartoons.
According to the UWC, the archives are an inside history of the struggle in many ways. People and organisations risked their lives to record the struggle against apartheid from within, at a time when repression and censorship was rampant.
A brief history
"The story of how the archives were collected is an intriguing one," says Mariki Victor, a senior archivist at the UWC-Robben Island Mayibuye Archives. "The initial core was collected during the years of exile by the London-based International Defence and Aid Fund (IDAF). After the unbanning of the ANC in 1990 and IDAF's closure, the IDAF collection was relocated to South Africa to form the basis of the archives - belonging to the pioneering Mayibuye Centre for History and Culture in South Africa, based at the University of the Western Cape."
According to Victor, one of the biggest challenges facing the storage and use of fragile historical documents is their preservation and, in particular, the archiving of the documents that are larger than A4 in size.
"The last thing the Archive wants to do is restrict access to archival material," she says. "We want to make the information about our history as freely-available to the public as possible, but the more these documents are handled, the more damage they are likely to suffer."
Historical newspapers such as the New Age, banned under Apartheid, are very popular with researchers, Victor says, and are thus frequently handled. Scanning these would make them accessible to researchers and assist in their preservation.
"We donated the scanner to the archive centre, because we recognised the need to help with preserving the history of our country that these documents contain," comments Hans Dummer, regional manager, Epson Southern Africa. "The Epson GT-30000 has a scanning speed of up to 30 pages per minute and is capable of high speed archiving of double-sided documents, which reduces the overall paper handling required in the operations. It also has built-in auto document sizing for faster, more efficient scanning."
The dissemination of information is one of the most crucial responsibilities of any learning institution. Universities have been instrumental in introducing online applications to make resources available via the Internet to students, staff and the public alike.
"Using technology, any person or organisation has the ideal resource to preserve local and international history. It is essential that the appropriate measure, such as the Epson solution that was rolled out at the Mayibuye Archives, is taken in order to ensure that future generations have access to the country's history," Dummer concludes.