Safeguarding National Heritage through Conservation of Oral History Collections at Bulawayo National Archives, Zimbabwe

Keywords: audio-visual records, Bulawayo National Archives, conservation, Oral history, oral historian


 Oral history collections are vital assets that represent national heritage. While transcribed collections are kept in a proper archival repository at the Bulawayo National Archives, the audio-visual collections are kept unprocessed and unprotected in unsuitable housing such as cardboard boxes within the Principal Archivist’s office. Storage conditions are not conducive and therefore, unbearable. The study, therefore, explored issues relating to how national heritage contained in oral history collections can be protected through conservation at the institution. In this regard, the study opted to employ the qualitative research methodology, using the case study research design. The informants were purposively sampled, while data were collected through questionnaires, in-depth interviews, and document analysis. Questionnaires were administered to the chosen respondents through hand delivery. Researchers conducted in-depth interviews that lasted between 20–30 minutes. The Director’s Annual Reports from 1990 to 2016 were analysed for the study. The findings of the study indicated that the Bulawayo National Archives captures and stores oral history in paper, cassettes, magnetic tape, and digital formats, and according to various subject areas; which include chieftaincy, minority groups, land question, religion and liberation wars. However, the institution does not have a conservation unit nor an Oral Historian in charge of the collections. In this regard, we recommend that the institution sets up a conservation unit to protect oral history collections, and facilitate the restoration of the already damaged and deteriorated oral history collections.