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Digitization of rare books at McMillan library to cost Sh31.2m

Without digitization, rare and special collections remain obscure and hidden.

In Summary

•The second phase will see an estimated 43,200 copies of rare old books, newspapers, and documents get fully digitized.

•Following its completion, the project now seeks to engage with diverse audiences and create compelling new media. 

Workers at the McMillan Library on January 19.
LIBRARY: Workers at the McMillan Library on January 19.
Image: COURTESY

Book Bunk Trust has today launched the second phase of the digitization campaign dubbed The Missing Bits which is expected to cost Sh31.2 million.

The Trust said the move is in a bid to preserve and promote the paper-based collections housed at the McMillan Library in Nairobi. 

The second phase will see an estimated 43,200 copies of rare old books, newspapers, and documents get fully digitized.

This follows a successful first cycle that digitized 31,549 archives featuring documents and newspapers tracing back to Kenya's colonial and early post-colonial eras. 

"This second strand of digitization work is vital because it seeks to engage with the public on the missing bits of their individual and collective memories that make us Kenyan," said Syokau Mutonga, Research, and Inventory Manager

"Through this offering of public programming, we aim to develop further a repository of Kenya's public memory around key events and make these accessible to all."

The public can now visit Kaloleni Library, Eastlands Library in Makadara, and McMillan Memorial Library on Banda Street to access digitization equipment to digitize their personal archives, including photographs, albums, letters, and other cherished personal items. 

Additionally, Book Bunk is also seeking to grow the archive with crowd-sourced audio stories about key moments tied to Kenya's colonial past and present.

Kenyans can now record their recollections of key times and choose to donate these recordings to the public archive.

Public programming for this segment also includes panel discussions, film screenings, exhibitions, and other diverse offerings in partnership with organizations in the creative sector, including The Nest Collective, Baraza Media Lab, Docubox, and Ketebul Music. 

The digitization of archives at the library began in November 2020 and focused on providing public access to the newly digitized archives as the project's main outcome.

Following its completion, the project now seeks to engage with diverse audiences and create compelling new media. 

"We are excited to explore the potential that crowd-sourced archives will introduce to Nairobi's oldest library's collection, and how these diverse narratives will further showcase the breadth of our shared memories as well as how we can use existing technology to safeguard public memory for current and future generations to explore and enjoy," said Angela Wachuka, Founder & Managing Trustee at Book Bunk 

The project, which is supported by the British Council's Cultural Protection Fund, and in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, will provide Kenyans with an opportunity to carefully examine the country's history.

Ultimately, this project feeds into Book Bunk's larger goal of transforming these spaces into centres of cultural leadership, heritage, public art, knowledge production, shared experiences and information exchange.

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