SAVING THE SIERRA LEONE PUBLIC ARCHIVES

A PROPOSAL BY ALBERT MOORE
Senior Archivist
Sierra Leone Public Archives Office
C/o Fourah Bay College, Freetown
Sierra Leone

II. Project Abstract

The purpose of this project is two-fold: first, to review the holdings of the Sierra Leone Public Archives (SLPA) and develop a comprehensive cataloguing system that will make the SLPA more accessible and user friendly. Second, to conserve fragile documents in order to prevent further deterioration and irreplaceable loss. The first phase of the project will involve preparation of Guides for large record groups, Inventories for intermediate record groups, and Descriptive Lists for individual record items within groups. The second phase will be done by physically and chemically treating the documents in a way that will not affect their integrity.

Such a project is important because it will have national and international implications. Nationally, it will contribute positively to the rebuilding of a war-ravaged Sierra Leone by strengthening its main record-keeping institution and, in the process, help to promote good governance through improved access to information for local politicians and academic researchers. It will also help capacity building by providing hands-on training for students at the Institute of Library, Information and Communications Studies (INSLICS) at the University of Sierra Leone. Besides, a more efficient cataloguing system will go a long way towards attracting more international researchers whose user fees will help supplement the meager funds the institution receives from the government.

The objectives of the project include preventing further damage and destruction to the documents from fungus (due to high humidity), termites and silverfish; and to identify, organize and catalogue the documents so that the value of the holdings become clear and all records can be made accessible in the shortest possible time.

The proposed methods for undertaking this project will include sorting, appraising, and cataloguing of records, as well as chemically treating records identified as damaged or fragile, and proper preservation of the rest of the holdings.

This project will have a significant impact on the information management process in Sierra Leone. First, it will enhance the integrity and relevance of the Archives whose mandate is to preserve the records and effectively communicate to the public the information contained in the entire holdings.

Upon successful completion of the project, the results will be disseminated nationally and internationally through exhibitions, conferences, and the World Wide Web.

III. Project Personnel

The proposed project will utilize the expertise of the staff of the Archives, the staff of the Preservation Department at Fourah Bay College Library, University of Sierra Leone, as well as the students at INSLICS.

Project Director’s Qualifications: As the current Senior Archivist at the SLPA, I will be directing the project. I hold a B.A. degree (1993) and an M.A. in Records and Archives Administration (1996). I have been on the staff at the Archives since 1987 and was promoted to the post of Senior Archivist in 2000. In addition to my local experience, I have also worked in other archives in the Gambia, Ghana and the United Kingdom. Furthermore, I have been a part-time Lecturer in Records and Archives Administration at INSLICS from 1998 to the present, and an active member of the Sierra Leone Association of Archivists, Librarians and Information Scientists (SLAALIS).
Assistant Project Directors: Mr. Suffian Cole and Mr. Alfred Fornah will assist the Project Director in the execution of this project. Mr. Suffian Cole, Assistant Archivist I at SLPA, holds a City and Guilds Certificate in Library Science (1988); a certificate in Library, Archives and information Studies (1992); a Diploma in Library, Archives and Information Studies (2001); and is presently pursuing a B.A. in Library Science. Mr. Cole has been on the staff of the Archives since 1977 and has extensive local experience.
Mr. Fornah, Assistant Archivist II at SLPA, holds a Certificate in Library and information Studies (1991), and a Diploma in Library and information Studies (1995). He has been a member of staff at SLPA since 1998.
Other Project Personnel: Mr. Patrick James, Head Bookbinder at Fourah Bay College Library, and his book binding staff, will assist with the preservation and conservation phase of the project. Mr. James holds a Higher National Diploma in Design (Book binding) from the London College of Printing. He has 25 years experience with preservation and conservation, and has been a part-time Lecturer in Preservation and Conservation at INSLICS from 1994 to present.
Student Involvement: Final year students at INSLICS will be recruited as interns to assist with the project. This practical experience will be a valuable part of and definitely enhance their overall education in Library and Information Studies.

IV. Project Narrative
Background
The Sierra Leone Public Archives was formally established with the enactment of the Sierra Leone Public Archives Act, No. 44 of 1965. This Act mandated the Public Archives Office to make provision for the preservation, arrangement, custody, repair, and rehabilitation of all public records, which had value, for posterity. In pursuance of its mandate, the staff, at regular intervals, visits public agencies and collects “closed” files for permanent preservation. Also, at annual exhibitions organized by the Sierra Leone Association of Archivists, Librarians and Information Scientists (SLAALIS), vital historical documents are displayed for public viewing.
Over the years, the staff of the Archives, with occasional assistance from INSLICS students, have sorted, appraised and listed over five hundred and fifty bundles of files. These students are sent to the Archives to get practical experience as part of their internship. Out of these 550 bundles, the Archives staff has already typed 280 bundles as part of the location list.
With regards to conservation and preservation activities, the staff uses camphor (moth balls) to protect documents from insects, while files are simply wrapped in brown paper. Due to lack of funds, the Archives is unable to purchase acid-free archival boxes to properly store all the records. The subvention that the government approves for the Archives is barely adequate to meet the salaries of the staff and the cost of minimal office stationery. Consequently, not much progress has been made in terms of the Archives meeting its mandate. In addition, the complete disintegration of structures in the country as a result of the just concluded 10-year civil war, and government efforts at reconstruction of ‘vital’ areas, have successfully pushed the needs of the Archives off the government’s radar screen. However, it is in the spirit of the general reconstruction currently underway in the country that we are proposing this project, which we are convinced is also of vital importance both nationally and internationally.
Purpose

The purpose of this project is two-fold: first, to review the holdings of the Sierra Leone Public Archives (SLPA) and develop a comprehensive cataloguing system that will make the SLPA more accessible and user friendly. For years now, inquiries from local and international scholars could not be adequately responded to due to the difficulties of identifying specific records from bundles of documents with not accurate catalogue. The second purpose is to conserve fragile documents in order to prevent further deterioration and irreplaceable loss. Without a record of its history, Sierra Leone will be condemned to having no future. The first phase of the project will involve preparation of Guides for large record groups, Inventories for intermediate record groups, and Descriptive Lists for individual record items within groups. The second phase will be done by physically and chemically treating the documents in a way that will not affect their integrity.
Importance
Such a project is important because it will have national and international implications. Nationally, it will contribute positively to the rebuilding of a war-ravaged Sierra Leone by strengthening its main record-keeping institution and, in the process, help to promote good governance through improved access to information. The Archives is no longer the exclusive domain of historians and genealogists. It caters to the interests of a wide variety of scholars in the arts and sciences, local politicians, business people and ordinary citizens interested in the national culture and heritage. It will also help capacity building by providing hands-on training for students at the Institute of Library, Information and Communications Studies (INSLICS) at the University of Sierra Leone. Besides, a more efficient cataloguing system will go a long way towards attracting more international researchers whose user fees will help supplement the meager funds the institution currently receives from the government.
Objectives

1. To accurately identify all the different types of primary records on Sierra Leone (including maps, treaties, photographs, and charts) presently housed at the SLPA.
2. To systematically describe these records in a comprehensive finding aid.
3. To facilitate frequent and maximum use of the Archives
4. To preserve a significant portion of Sierra Leone’s history through the implementation of basic restoration and preservation techniques.
Methodology or Procedures
During the first phase of the project, the staff of the Archives and interns from INSLICS, under the direction of the Project Director, will sort, appraise, and classify all the records in the holdings towards the preparation of a comprehensive finding aid. All records will be classified according to creating agencies. The existing finding aids will be reviewed and relevant sections incorporated into the final document. This comprehensive catalogue will consist of Guides for large groups of records, Inventories for intermediate groups (consisting of series within the groups), and finally, Descriptive Lists for small or individual record items. Furthermore, shelves and stacks in the repository will be renumbered for easier reference and retrieval of the newly catalogued records.
During the second phase of the project, the staff of the Conservation and Bindery Unit of the Library, under the direction of the Project Director, will apply the minimal physical and chemical treatments necessary to resist further deterioration of fragile and damaged documents and prepare the rest of the holding for proper preservation in acid-free boxes. Fragile records such as nineteenth century Liberated African Registers, Decree Books and Intelligence Diaries will be rebound. Vital records such as seventeenth and eighteenth century treaties, manuscript journals, and records of paramount chiefs will be dry cleaned, de-acidified and encapsulated. Other fragile records such as Colonial Secretary Minute Papers and Policy files will be cleaned and boxed in acid-free boxes. Fragile photographs, maps and plans, which are currently stored on open shelves, will also be dry cleaned, de-acidified and stored in suitable containers, according to their size. Those records that are simply tied up into bundles will be cleaned and properly wrapped in brown paper. Those that are already wrapped but which, due to lack of adequate storage facilities, are now infested with termites and silverfish, will also be dry cleaned, re-wrapped and properly stored in acid-free boxes.
Although both phases of the project can be done locally, some material supplies that are not available locally will have to be purchased abroad. These are listed under budget summary.
Impact
This project will have a significant impact on the information management process in Sierra Leone. First, it will enhance the integrity and relevance of the Archives whose mandate is to preserve the records and effectively communicate to the public the information contained in the entire holdings.
Evaluation and Dissemination

Upon successful completion of the project, the results will be disseminated nationally and internationally through exhibitions and annual conferences of organizations like the Sierra Leone Association of Archivists, Librarians and Information Scientists (SLAALIS) and the International Council on Archives (ICA). Presentations will also be made at seminars organized by INSLICS. Finally, computer database will be developed and made accessible on the World Wide Web.

V. Timeline
Phase One: Developing of Cataloguing System
Sorting, appraising and listing of records January – March 2003
Tying of lists April – July “
Binding of Catalogue August “

Phase Two: Restoration and Preservation
Treatment of fragile records August – September 2003
Dry cleaning, de-acidifying, encapsulating October – November “
Re-labeling shelves, re-wrapping in brown paper,
and packing in acid-free boxes November – December “

(Note: The dates might change depending on when funding is received, but the project is estimated to last for about 12 months).

VI. Budget Summary and Justification
Stipends (all amounts in pounds sterling)
a. 10 INSLICS interns (4 weeks @ L20 per week each) L 800.00
b. Project Director (10 months @ L30 per month) L 300.00
c. 2 Assistant Directors (10 months @ L30 per month each L 600.00
d. 4 Conservation and Bindery specialists (3 months @ L30/month) L 360.00
Equipment
a. Two Computers (for typing and developing database) L3,000.00
b. One Printer L 500.00
c. One Photocopier (for use by researchers) L1,000.00
Material Supplies
5,000 acid-free boxes (for proper storage of records) L8,000.00
Paper Repair Tapes
i. Filmoplast ‘P’ 50m x 2 cm (5 rolls) L 45.00
ii. Filmoplast ‘P-90’ 50m x 2 cm (5 rolls) L 45.00
iii. Document repair tape 30m x 25mm (3 rolls) L 30.00
iv. Document repair tape 350m x 25mm (2 rolls) L 130.00

Spine Tape
i. 25mm x 50m (10 rolls) L 55.00
ii. 50mm x 50m (10 rolls) L 100.00
iii. 75mm x 50m (8 rolls) L 120.00

Draft Clean pads
i. Ten 4oz pads L 25.00
ii. Ten 8oz pads L 40.00
iii. Five 2lb drum of Powder L 70.00

Line Thread

i. Two 10 x 50g skeins per box – 16/3 ply L 70.00
ii. Two 10 x 50g skeins per box – 18/2/3/5 ply L 80.00
iii. Four 250g cops – 16/3 ply L 70.00
iv. Four 250g cops – 18/3/5 ply L 70.00

Adhesive

i. Four M155 PVA bookbinding quality L 140.00
ii. Five M155 PVA bookbinding quality – 5 kg tub L 80.00
iii. Five M218 PVA archival quality – 5 kg L 85.00
iv. Four Rex coldwater Paste Powder – 12.5 kg L 150.00

Conservation Paper
i. Two rolls 100m PVC paper (black) L 190.00
ii. Two rolls 100m Malin/Linson cover paper (blue) L 110.00
iii. Two rolls “ “ (black) L 110.00
iv. Two rolls “ “ (maroon) L 110.00
v. Two rolls “ “ (green) L 110.00

Sub Total L16,595.00

Encapsulation Kit and Roll Film Unknown*

Chemical Supplies

i. Chloride of Lime Unknown*
ii. Permanganate Crystals “
iii. Sulphurous acid “
iv. Muriatic acid “
v. Wei ‘To’ Spray No. 10, 11 & 12 “
vi. Methol Cellulose “
vii. Renaissance Wax “
viii. Beechwood Creosote “
ix. Methylated Spirits “

(* = could not be ascertained at time of writing).

Total funds requested L18,000.00

Total funding or partial contributions should be sent to:

Sierra Leone Public Archives
Account # 1545953
Rokel Commercial Bank, Sierra Leone Ltd.
Siaka Stevens Street,
Freetown, Sierra Leone