I’ve been writing and thinking about the internet as academic archive, publishing space and forum for a week or so, and so I thought, for a change, I’d post some photos of what most people would think of as a ‘real’ archive, the Fort Portal collection of government documents from the colonial and post-colonial period in Toro, Uganda.
Derek Peterson helped organise the very initial, very unscientific archiving that Jyoti and I managed in the attic of the Boma local government offices. It was a lot of dust, dirt, rat’s nests made out of local finance reports, random statuary, wasps nests, intruding monkeys, mould, a badly leaking roof and a rotting floor (I went through twice). The documents themselves are fabulous – a proper cross-section of a Ugandan local government through from the 1920s until the late 1970s, including court files, personnel lists, surveys, ‘requisition’ of Ugandan Asians’ assets records, etc.
Derek emailed me and Jyoti letting us know that the archives had finally been moved to their new (non-leaking, mould-free) room at the Mountains of the Moon University in Fort Portal, and sent us this photo:
The university has been running officially since 2005, and it’s so satisfying to know that they have such a fabulous resource for primary research. Derek said that the collection will be properly cleaned (rather than our vague dusting and removal of rat poo) this month and in May should start being digitized: I hope this is still going to plan.
I’m always still excited by finding something particularly brilliant in a dusty box file – especially things with notes and signatures from the people you’re studying. I’m still really proud to have been involved with the first stages of rescuing these papers from becoming rats’ nests – and I’m also pleased some of the original archive boxes have survived.