Anti-apartheid and southern Africa solidarity collection at the International Institute for Social History (IISH) in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

In 2008 the IISH acquired an extensive collection of archival materials relating to the anti-apartheid and southern Africa solidarity groups in The Netherlands. It concerns the archives and related library and documentary collections of the three former anti-apartheid groups which merged into the Netherlands institute for Southern Africa (NiZA) in 1997. The collected archives consist of documents from organisations such as the South Africa Committee (from the 1960s), the Dutch Anti-Apartheid Movement, the Angola Committee/Holland Committee on Southern Africa, the Eduardo Mondlane Foundation, Institute for Southern Africa and Broadcasting for Radio Freedom.

Since then the archivist of the collection, Kier Schuringa, processed all the audio-visual materials of the former anti-apartheid groups in the IISH collection, including some 13,500 photographs and over 500 slides, 1100 posters, 300 buttons 800 video-tapes, exhibition materials, t-shirts, audio cassettes, etc, Also, the archives of the South Africa Committee and the Dutch Anti-Apartheid Movement have been processed, including the production of full inventories. Currently, the Archives of the Angola Committee/Holland Committee on Southern Africa are being processed.

The results if this work, including many scans of the visual materials, can be seen on the IISH website. A useful introduction to the collection can be found here and which also features a background section, including links and a webdossier on the history of the anti-apartheid solidarity movement in The Netherlands (also in English).

Contributed by Kier Schuringa

DISA recently hosted another intern - this time from the African Union (AU) based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Stephen Mayega is a cataloguer in the AU Archives and the purpose of his internship was to better understand the digital cycle of creating, managing and preserving digital data. The African Union has a large collection of AU reports going back to the 1960’s and their aim is to digitise and make these available to all their members through their website.


Stephen Mayega

All AU reports are published in 4 languages, English, Portugese, French and Arabic. This provides challenges for content management and creation of metadata. The ability to create metadata once, in English, with translation into the other languages would be a huge time saver. Drupal, with its powerful taxonomy module, was demonstrated to Stephen, as an extensible and scaleable content management system. In addition Drupal is able to operate in mutiple languages simultaneously - a really important consideration for a multi-language collection.  The entire process of digitisation, including hardware and software requirements, were covered in a week of intensive theory and practical exercises.

Stephen’s internship was sponsored by the American Embassy Mission to the African Union Commission.

DISA kicked off the year with a training programme that was attended by two interns from the National University of Lesotho. They are currently involved in setting up an institutional repository and came out to SA to acquire the hands-on training. It was an intensive two-week  programme. The DISA staff designed individual training modules for the various processes involved in setting up a digital library/archive. The interns were advised on the necessary hardware and software requirements. Extensive hands-on training was offered on file management, file naming conventions, the digitization process, the post processing of the scans, the creation of metadata for each document/item using Dublin Core as well Greenstone models, workflow processes, database management, quality control and digital rights management. Much of the first week of training focused on digitization and the interns were given the opportunity to digitize different types of media. In the second week, preservation and storage of digital objects was covered and finally the creation of a website from which to serve the digital archive. 

The two interns were instructed on how to write their own guidelines which they took home with them to guide their own process of training others at the University library. At the end of the two-week period the interns felt a little overwhelmed but also well informed on the processes involved and the ins and outs of setting up a digital repository.

Internships serve a vital function between training and implementation. Overall it was a valuable learning experience for the trainees as well as the host and based on the positive outcomes, DISA is planning to host more internships in the future.

For more information send an e-mail to


Welcome to the new DISA blog.

In setting up the DISA blog, we have several aims in mind.

Firstly, this blog aims to encourage dialogue and debate about digitisation, digital collections and repositories, digital services and all other issues related to building online collections, particularly in an African context.  Implementation issues, standards, best practices, guidelines and IT issues are likely to be of interest to a wide audience and the DISA blog will be a useful platform for sharing of experiences.

The DISA website has a rich collection of materials relating to the struggles for freedom in South Africa during the period from 1950 to 1994. The second aim of this blog is to highlight content in our collection, encourage feedback and hear from users how the content is being used and how we can improve our services. The DISA website also hosts several other projects such as the South African Music Archive Project (SAMAP) Durban In Motion and the Centre for Visual Methodologies. We hope the blog will stimulate discussions around the content of the hosted projects, particularly around indigenous music from South Africa.

Lastly, the blog aims to post announcements and news about events, workshops and conferences that are happening in our fields of interest.

Guest bloggers are encouraged to submit blogs for publication and if you would like to write a guest blog, please email Pat Liebetrau at