Potential for digital heritage

I recently published a blog post on the Archival Platform on the democratising potential of new digital technologies. This was in part a response to the recent workshop on the draft National Policy on the Digitisation of Heritage Resources. The draft policy focuses on institutional issues relating to the digitisation of heritage resources. While these are important, I feel the policy is severely lacking on community engagement and needs clear indication on how these new digital heritage resources will have relevance for the vast majority who were previously excluded from museums and memory institutions, and perhaps for whom these institutions and their collections hold little significance.

The racialised collection policies of the past and exclusionary access to memory institutions for much of the population as well as (many argue) unsatisfactory postapartheid efforts to address these imbalances, mean that digital heritage resources in the present should be significant to and engage the vast majority of the population. Therefore, it is not enough to simply digitise past collections without addressing the issue of  transformation and whether or not these digital resources will have relevance to South Africans at large, regardless of improved access.

I feel that in order for digital heritage objects to have greater significance in South Africa, we should try and democratise the modes of production as much as possible. We should utilise ubiquitous mobile technologies and let those for whom these resources should be important, play a part in developing them. The policy is now being finalised for submission to the Minister and Cabinet, following amendments based on input and comments that the policy team has received on the draft version.

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