Nelson Mandela Foundation

My state of readiness for the Covid-19 pandemic

In light of the impacts of Covid-19, as an archivist at the Nelson Mandela Foundation I had to quickly adapt to working remotely and staying productive. One source of comfort for me is that most of our digital preservation work requires a browser and a reliable WI-FI connection in order to get things done. Below is what I do in order to stay productive and deliver value no matter where I might be working from during the pandemic.

Accessioning, arranging and preserving

This is a good time for us to tackle and clear our backlog, such reviewing and arranging our collections, enriching our metadata. This includes revisiting any arrangement and description issues in existing entries/fonds; adding copyright information and publishing draft materials and making them available to the public.

Staying relevant

It is our biggest priority to keep Nelson Mandela’s digital archive a living thing. To achieve this, we curate our archival materials in all our social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and in the Google Arts & Culture digital museum. This helps us to drive traffic to our digital archive in our website and help us provide digital tours of our online archive during this lockdown. Moreover, to stay relevant whereas keeping myself productive despite the fact that I am working remotely I use this time to familiarise myself with the latest metadata standards and editing tools by watching the online training videos on YouTube.

Staying present online

We ensure that that our stakeholders can easily browse, search and find our archive online. This is very important especially during this time of the pandemic now that our stakeholders cannot visit our premises for touring our archive and exhibitions (both permanent and temporary).

Staying connected with industry peers and professionals

Instead of trying to figure things out on my own trying to adapt to this new normal, collaborating with others is what I do, especially during these trying times of the global pandemic. Staying connected helps me to interact and collaborate with other Archivists locally and worldwide. I sign up for archives and records-keeping webinars, online user groups like the Atom South Africa user community. This helps me to discover the latest developments in archives and digital preservation and to share best practice.

Below is a list of some of the campaigns and institutions that I engage with and one of the webinars I attended:

o   Atom SA User Community

o   South African Society of Archivists (SASA)

o   International Council on Archives

o   #Archive30


o   National Archives SA

o   Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA)

o   #LibrariesFromHome – A campaign that was launched by Libraries Connect with the aim of showcasing the best digital services and resources that are offered by public libraries in Ireland.

o   International Archives Week 2020 Webinars – 14 June 2020: The Future of the Archives Profession (#LessonsLearnt)

Not a day goes by without breaking news regarding some artificial intelligence development that have the potential to change our lives. As an Archivist, I always ask myself, “What about me?”.

When I first learnt about the automation of archives I was so devastated thinking that machines are going to take over my job. Deep down I knew and I still know that automation for archives is compulsory, especially for the reason that the volume and variety of materials we need to appraise and select at the Foundation is not getting any smaller. Attending the webinar made me learn that the automation of archives will not take over my role as an archivist since there is still a need to take into consideration the implications of automation with specific reference to ethics and terms of practice, such as measuring accuracy. It is actually a balance. As Archivists, we need to acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of computers and that of ours as humans.