/ Forschung, Studium

Namibia1953.com: An online portal enables access to text, sound and photos at the BAB archives

During this year’s Visual History Lab, a group of students created a website that helps the Namibian public to access text documents, sound recordings and photos in the "Ernst & Ruth Dammann Collection" at the Basler Afrika Bibliographien (BAB).

The Visual History Lab 2020, a week-long workshop organised by ZASB, was concerned with the Ernst & Ruth Dammann Collection at BAB. During their research in Namibia in the 1950s, the Dammanns made numerous sound recordings of African languages and took many photographs. Given its material richness and its intermediality the Dammann collection is one of the most interesting and complex collections on Namibia in Basel. 

In collaboration with colleagues at BAB and the Museums Association of Namibia, students explored ways of making the Dammann collection more accessible to Namibian publics. To this end, they created the website Namibia1953.com, which includes a list of names of Namibians the Dammanns photographed, recorded or have written about. The website allows users to learn about the number of images and sound recordings available for each individual person, as well as the availability of written records. 

The website also includes a number of profiles that provide a more detailed sense of the materiality and acoustic quality of the archival sources. Students contacted families of those documented in the collection and secured their permission to produce the profiles. These first contacts between students and Namibian publics showed that there was great interest in accessing archival collections and information they contain about relatives, friends or neighbours. 

The Museums Association of Namibia therefore agreed to launch the website during Heritage Week in Namibia in late September 2020. This year's Heritage Week is about exploring ways that the internet can be used to provide access to archives, museums, and cultural heritage despite the present restrictions and difficulties.