The Gambia government has drawn inspiration for the policy during the peak of the covid-19 pandemic from artifacts at the National Centre for Arts and Culture on the measures taken by the colonial government in 1869 when some parts of the country had a cholera epidemic, says Tourism minister Hon. Hamat NK Bah on Tuesday 18th October 2022.
Minister Bah was speaking at the opening ceremony of a three-day international symposium on Gambian cultural heritage going digital and the commemoration of the successful completion of the National Digital Archives project of the Gambia at the Senegambia Beach Hotel.
“When the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the world, we were forced to come up with policies and strategies as a government. We went to the Archives, looked at the measures that were taken by the colonial government during a similar incident when the country was infested by cholera epidemic in 1869. We learnt the best practices from the Archives, updated measures which suited our present circumstances and adopted them as a government to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on our people and economy, ” he said.
According to Minister Bah, the digitization will enhance visibility and access of the Archives as well as improve conservation. The online access, he observed, will open Educational Resource potential of the Archives for our schools and colleges to use it to further improve learning and educational attainment at a paid price.
“The oral Archives will enhance The Gambias commitments of the UN SDG of attainment of quality education, among others.“
The Director General of National Centre for Arts and Culture, Mr Hassoum Ceesay said the “National Digital Archives of The Gambia” project is a multi-model digital resource in education and academic research as well as a means for the promotion of Gambian culture in the media and tourism sector. He dislcosed that the project which started in 2016 in partnership with the University of Hamburg for the better preservation and accessibility to students and researchers, has digitized thousands of tapes and files.
“Since 2016, the digitization project of the Research and Documentation Division (RDD) Archives for better preservation and accessibility to students and researchers, we have digitized over 5000 thousands of tapes and hundreds of files,” he said.
The Historian also revealed that symposium is not meant to only commemorate the successful collaboration and achievements but will also pay tribute to the Historians and founders of the NCAC/RDD Archive such as Alhaji Bakari Kebba Sidibe.
He added that this initiated the start into a new phase in which the National Digital Archive shall function as a multi-modal digital resource in education and academic research as well as a means for the promotion of Gambian culture.
He recalled that since the start of the digitising project in 2016, NCAC and partners held a big confab of historians, and now that the project has been completed, NCAC and its German partners have brought together a dozen of historians and university dons from The Gambia, USA, UK, Nigeria, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Senegal, Ghana and Germany who will present latest research on African and Gambian history relevant to oral tradition, heritage and contemporary issues like land disputes, digital archiving and tourism.
“Close to 20 academic papers will be presented by invited scholars making the forum a truly international academic session.“
This, for him, will enhance scholarly pursuits among the youth, especially University students and motivate them to use the Archives for their own research on various aspects of Gambian history, culture and folklore.
Editor’s note: The author, Aminata Sanneh is the Information Officer at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.