HOW DIGITISATION MADE A LEADING CHURCH ARCHIVE MORE ACCESSIBLE TO RESEARCHERS
The Dutch Reformed (DR) Church Archive in South Africa is home to records from all synods, presbyteries, and congregations countrywide, as well as a sizeable collection of theses and dissertations, journals, pamphlets, and reference works.
The archive spans over 350 years of content and contains a multitude of different materials. In addition to serving as an archive, the DR Church Archive also functions as a research support service for many academics and other researchers worldwide.
Due to its size, the DR Church Archive was beginning to run out of storage space. Added to this was the difficulty of handling aged documents safely and navigating such a sizeable collection quickly. For researchers, hunting for specific materials or searching widely through this massive collection was particularly challenging.
UNDERSTANDING THE BENEFITS
Large-scale digitisation projects are fairly unique even now, but familiarity with the process, the time it takes to complete, and the eventual output at the end of it, highlights the many expected benefits. With a background in governmental e-filing-related projects, Dr Andrew Kok was well versed with the process and knew how, once digitised, the DR Church Archive wouldn’t just be less tedious to work with but would also ease access for researchers. Add to this the innate preservation digitised materials offer and this body of knowledge would be stored safely indefinitely.
My familiarity with Sabinet as well as my time spent working in libraries, has shown me the type of work needed here and, in comparison to competitor services, Sabinet’s digitisation gave me more value for money.
SIZE AND SCOPE
While the wealth of information housed in the DR Church Archive was digitised, it became evident that the amount of indexing work required after digitisation had been underestimated.
The lifespan of a part of the journal collection of the Dutch Reformed Church Archive has been extended indefinitely through digitisation. Working with digital copies of its materials has become far easier.Indexing of the scanned collection has been placed on hold by Sabinet until a later stage, and priority will first be given to digitising more of the older Africana journals in the archive to preserve them.