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Archives machine broken down, govt stuck with 2m files

A microfilm reader machine

The Uganda’s National Archives and Records Centre has failed to read over 2 million micro files containing Uganda’s history, following the breakdown of the micro film reading machines in 2004.
According to officials at the centre, the machines that have never been replaced include; a micro film reader for projecting micro film images to readable proportions, micro fiche reader that shows information from a micro machine to a screen, a micro filming camera and a micro film developer.

A microfilm is used to store many lengthy documents in a small bits. Uganda currently has 200 microfilms with British and Ugandan history before, during and after independence. The machines were donated in 2000 by the Danish Development Agency (Danida), who had also helped Uganda secure the files from London following a request from the government.
Justine Nalwoga Lukwago, the acting government archivist, says that currently Uganda cannot read and make use of the information preserved by the British on the microfilms despite being in possession of it.

She states that the micro files contain blue books used by the British to store vital information about the Uganda protectorate, but emphasized that the details cannot be got since its not readable.
She states that as it stands now, many researchers cannot get some vital information about Uganda, yet it could be found o the micro films.

“We cannot actually access what is inside them. They are minute in nature, like I told you a microfilm roll can store like 10,000 files on it. So it is micro in nature and it needs equipment to read them. Since we don’t have this equipment, we cannot have access to those records. We don’t know what is actually inside, even us unless we get the equipment to read those files. They are lying idle there [and] unless we get equipment. It is basically donors who have been helping us out. They basically use those ones and we keep the originals. Like I told you, the originals become brittle because of always touching them. Many researchers touch them but if they are microfilms they can easily be accessed by many people in the search room”, she said.

Meanwhile, government is seeking to retrieve archives and records from the district level to headquarters in Kampala so as to preserve them.
Mary Nakangu Ssesanga the principle records officer at the ministry of public service notes that as they transition from the old archiving and records system, it is important to put most of the data in digital form despite it being in hard copy. She says researchers, students, developers and tourists are in need of information and many of them can’t be easily accessed.

She says with the new development, Uganda’s cultural heritage and history will be preserved.

“[We need to] analyse those records, we establish the value. We go file by file to establish the value. Is it of any value? If it has to be kept for more days or more years, we decide, where should it be kept. Should it be kept and remain at the district, or can we take it to the new centre depending on the period it is supposed to be kept. Then we decide what is for permanent value, it is like a land title, never touched. Permanent”, she said.

The national archives centre was first set up in the 1950s, as the secretariat archives under the chief secretary’s office in the colonial administration of the British territories.

At Independence in 1962, the archives became property of government, under the department of Management Information Services, in the office of the president. The centre was located at Entebbe at the former colonial administration building.

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