An online database containing more than 100 000 pages of historical records including maps, drawings, photographs, slides, diaries and oral history interviews may soon become available to researchers in Africa, courtesy of The Antarctic Legacy Project in South Africa.
Many of these items contained in the database have not been available in the public sphere before, while others have been collected from researchers, engineers and artisans who have worked in the Antarctic region to ensure that the memories are not lost.
The Project is funded by the South Africa Department of Science and Technology through the agency of the National Research Foundation (NRF) and would be run in association with the Department of Historical Studies and Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town and the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology (CIB) based at Stellenbosch University.
The Department of Historical Studies and Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town has so far digitised more than 70 000 pages of relevant public records from the South African National Archives.
Dr Lance van Sittert, leader of the University of Cape Town’s efforts, said there were still vast amounts of relevant public documentation that need to be collected from national departments and be digitised. “These documents have not been moved to the National Archives yet as there is not currently enough physical space to accommodate further paper files.”
“We hope to work alongside the relevant national departments to gain access to the public documents and records that can be included into our database, to ensure that more documents are readily accessible to researchers and interested parties,” says van Sittert.
Researchers at the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology (CIB) at Stellenbosch University are collating the private records of South African scientists, artisans, engineers and mariners who have been involved in the annual resupply and scientific research done in the region.
“We have thus far received tremendous support from people who have worked in the region, and who are more than willing to share the photographs and memories of their experiences with us,” said Dora Scott, a social scientist and researcher at the CIB at Stellenbosch University.
“Although not yet complete, this project has already been useful to people who are doing social sciences and humanities research relating to SANAP, such as a study on the history of South Africa’s activities in the Southern Oceans and another on the potential for tourism in the region” says Ms Scott. “We also hope to attract interest from disciplines such as law, as we realise that very little research work has so far been done on the legal aspects relating to South Africa’s involvement in the Antarctic region.”
The bulk of the project will be completed by 2013.
The only African country with involvement in the Antarctic region, South Africa, through SANAP, also manages research bases on Antarctica, Gough Island and Marion Island.