Microfilm and digital copies
are most happiest when they have the
source material on their desks next to their computer and
notepad. In practice, however, researchers usually need to
commute to a repository in another city or even another country.
This places limitations on the quality, the duration, and
the scale of much research.
In principle modern techniques
aid in fulfilling this ancient desire by placing the sources
in many places at the same time, taking it as far as the researcher's
desk. Traditionally this takes place in the form of microfilm
and microfiche. Microfilm has proved to be of great value.
It is relatively cheap and simple to produce and to consult,
while the end product lasts over a hundred years. However,
availability remains limited to the institution managing the
archives because the cost of the equipment required to read
the film forms a barrier.
of archives in Cennai
(click to enlarge image)
New developments in the field
of information and communication technology (ICT)
make it possible for archive documents to be copied onto digital
data carriers such as CD-ROMs.
The scans of the documents can in turn be linked to intelligent
search engines. Digital products can be consulted on a home
computer. In theory ICT offers
more possibilities than film, but a number of important dilemmas
need to be resolved before it can be applied. These problems
are derived from the massive size, diversity, and often poor
physical state of the archives, the high costs, the limitations
because the techniques are still in their infancy, the rapid
development of new technology, and uncertainty over the durability
of the end products.
An important by-product of
filming or scanning archives is the physical preservation
of the documents. They can safely remain in the stackrooms
and experience no more wear and tear. For many repositories
this is the main reason for filming the materials. At the
same time, back-up copies can be made and stored elsewhere,
so that the information in the archives remains secure despite
any possible disasters. As a result of the problems mentioned
earlier, the repositories have preferred to use microfilm
to copy and make the information available.
Thanks to the great functionality
of digital products, it is a challenge to develop new techniques
whereby a selection of the voc
archives can be consulted world-wide. As far as this
is concerned, there is a direct relationship between the development
of the integrated database and the pilot projects set up within
this framework. However, the emphasis in those pilot projects
is to make the archives accessible. The emphasis with the
TANAP component project at
hand lies with making the archives available.
The programme component about
availability has been included in the budget as a reminder.
The intention is that the means are actively sought during
the implementation of the TANAP
programme to develop the new technology required and to achieve
distribution. According to a report compiled in 1998 by the
Scientific Technical Council (SURF)
for the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science,
digitizing archival documents (scanning as well as making
and linking digital access) is estimated to cost twelve million
Dutch guilders per kilometre. This comes to fifty million
Dutch guilders for all the voc
archives. It is therefore necessary to select which
archive documents should be scanned and which should not.
This is an excellent area of cooperation between user and
keeper of the archives, researcher and archivist. The super
inventory is an important aid in determining which archival
documents are duplicates and where else materials may be found
that can fill gaps in the record groups.
The resolutions of the Politieke Raad (Council
of Policy) of the Cape of Good Hope constitute the backbone
of the voc archives in South Africa.
The Council, under leadership of the govenor, comprised the
local authority. The resolutions between 1651 and 1743 are
previously transcribed and printed. The Cape Town Archives
Repository will make a transcription of the remaining series
of resolutions (1744-1795). Moreover, the ten printed volumes
will be digitized by scanning and OCR-technique. When the
project is finished the complete series will be available
on the internet.
Important series in capetown:
the resolutions of the Council of Policy; Governor
and Council (click to enlarge)