Ghana Digital Archive: Improving African Futures Using Lessons from the Past
In the fall of 2018, Rachel Fernandez, Senior Digital Curator at the Center for Digital Antiquity, joined Ann Stahl and Lisa Goddard from the University of Victoria to co-lead an intensive, hands-on workshop for thirty Ghanaian students, faculty, and staff at the University of Ghana in Accra. During the week-long workshop, the students learned best practices for digital data management, including project organization and developing data bases and appropriate metadata. They also gained experience digitizing documents, photos, and audiovisual recordings, and drafted plans to guide their digital data curation projects.
Their shared goal is to sustainably archive and provide access to the archaeological and cultural heritage resources of Ghana, culminating in the creation and launch of a Ghana Heritage web portal. This online resource repository will not only benefit archaeologists and scholars, but indigenous communities and the broader public, as well. By working collaboratively with local communities, project coordinators and participants are building shared standards of professional practice that can be used to guide future archaeological research and sustainable knowledge dissemination in Africa and elsewhere.
The loss of cultural heritage resources is not only irrevocably damaging to indigenous peoples’ relationships to place and community well-being, but also hinders and limits the scopes of current and future scholarly research. Further, important insights gleaned from the meticulous documentation of archaeological sites are squandered if this valuable primary data is shelved away and eventually lost to deterioration and technology obsolescence.
Recognizing the urgent need to preserve, sustainably archive, and readily share an array of heritage resources (reports, images, data sets, etc.) in technologically-adaptable digital formats, Ann Stahl and Lisa Goddard at the University of Victoria reached out to the Center for Digital Antiquity to join them on a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Partnership Development grant entitled, “Improving African Futures Using Lessons from the Past.” Together with institutions and key community stakeholders in Ghana, this international partnership provides local Ghanaian communities with educational programs and hands-on training to preserve and share their cultural resources through the creation of digital heritage collections and websites.
The overarching goal of the project is to establish a framework for co-creating relevant, accessible, sustainable digital cultural heritage resources with local African communities deeply tied to the resource materials. To help accomplish this, Rachel Fernandez, Senior Digital Curator at the Center for Digital Antiquity, traveled to Ghana in fall 2018 to co-lead a weeklong hands-on training workshop for thirty local students, faculty, and staff at the University of Ghana. Ms. Fernandez utilized Digital Antiquity’s trusted digital repository tDAR (the Digital Archaeological Record) as a vehicle to share best practices and expertise related to resource preservation, digital archiving and curation, online resource management, and to serve as an example for the development of a Ghana Heritage web portal. In addition, Digital Antiquity staff will contribute to the development of curriculum for youth and adults to guide and establish the program’s ongoing educational efforts.
In collaborating with community stakeholders to co-create equitably accessible digital heritage resources relevant to community concerns, this project addresses the world-wide digital divide by fostering digital literacy in new forms of digital practice amongst a new generation of Ghanaian heritage professionals. In doing so, this project serves as a test case that will be used to guide future archaeological research and sustainable knowledge dissemination strategies across Africa and beyond.
Partners: University of Victoria | University of Ghana | Ghana Museum and Monuments Board | Banda Traditional Council
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Partnership Development Grant
Rachel Fernandez will be traveling to Ghana once again in 2019 to co-lead another workshop expanding on topics related to digital curation and the creation and management of a Ghana Heritage web portal digital repository.