11 February 2020

South Africa: Digitisation project in Cape Town

South Africa and the Netherlands work together on the preservation, digitisation and presentation of archival collections on their shared history.

The scan operators of the WCARS train to use their new scanner (photo: National Archives of the Netherlands).

Within the framework of the Shared Cultural Heritage programme, the Western Cape Archives and Records Service (WCARS) and the National Archives of the Netherlands (NAN) work closely together to preserve, digitise and present archival collections concerning the shared history of South Africa and the Netherlands. For that purpose, a Memorandum of Agreement for a long-term cooperation between both institutions was signed in October 2018.

Scanning facility 

In November 2019, a scanner was installed at the WCARS in Cape Town and their digitisation team received training on how to use the new equipment. In the upcoming years, the NAN and the WCARS will work together on the digitisation of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) archives vested in Cape Town, to enlarge the accessibility of these historical documents. 

Memory of the World

The VOC archives are listed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register because they are a unique source of information about the seventienth and eighteenth centuries history of many countries and cultures in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. The archives in Cape Town are complementary to the VOC records in other parts of the world and are unequalled in early modern history for their rigorous documentation of daily life in the Cape Colony over the course of nearly 150 years (1652-1795) of the Dutch presence in southern Africa.