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Coastal historical documents digitized

As the country observes Mashujaa Day to honour pre-independence freedom fighters and post-independence country’s posterity contributors, efforts are being made to archive public records for future generations.

The National Archive and Documentation Services have automated over 400,000 public archival materials dated back to Oman Arabs and British East African protectorate along the Coastal region.

Mr. Hamood Salim Al-Hinai, Specialized Director for archives, scans a document for digitization into the National Archives digital domain. Photo by Andrew Hinga

The project supported by a technical officer from the government of Oman has seen tens of thousands of historical documents preserved in digital forms.

Coast region National Archivist Joshua Muthui observed that some of digitalized documents are dated 1904, majority being lands ownership documents, like title deeds issued by the Oman Arab administration that replaced the Portuguese as rulers after capture of Fort Jesus in 1698.

“The Coast has a very unique history. This is where public institutions were established before Nairobi. We are preserving this history for our children, our country. It has been very significant to us as the country,” he added in an exclusive interview with Kenya News Agency.

Other historical public documents include colonial and postal independence court proceedings, deeds, colonial land ordinances and official letters written by the Omar Arab sultanate officials and British colonial administrators.

Muthui further added that the National Archive and Documentation Services collected historical valuable documents from individuals and state agencies for permanent preservation as archives in digital forms.

The digitalization of historical documents is undertaken with the support of Omanis government which deployed a Senior Specialised Director for Archives Hamood Salim Al-Hinai, with 28 years’ experience in documentation of historical documents.

Mr Hamood and his team have scanned and stored dozens of files containing current and past public documents into electronic data storage devices.

“Each physical file is scanned and a digital folder containing the replica documents is preserved digitally,” observed Mr. Hamood.

Muthui observed that the digital historical documents will be easily retrievable with the click of a button since they will be catalogued within the digital storage devices.

Some of tattered historical public documents are also shipped to Oman for restoration and laboratory screening against viruses before being returned for digitalization.

The National government with support of Omanis government embarked on the digitization of public archival documents of historical values along the Kenyan Coast started in 2016.

Muthui noted that the region has rich historical documents that are in the custody of the department of National Archive and Documentation Services and private individuals.

“We survey for documents of historical public importance both in public offices and with citizenry. For members of the public, we request them to donate for permanent archival and we offer incentives for documents we find to be of importance to the nation,” he added.

Muthui, who has worked for over 20 years with the department, noted that the country lost valuable historical documents in the 50s after fire gutted down the British colonial repository archive located at the present day Jogoo House.

“There was a directive from the Queen that public records held in the field stored in one center and on her orders, the administrators dispatched valuable documents, which were raised down in the fire. Those documents would have been of great importance to our nation today,” he noted.

By Galgalo Bocha

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