About Project Sponsors

The African Studies Center at Michigan State University is a coordinating office for the approximately 160 faculty who have expertise in various fields about Africa. The faculty are engaged in nearly 100 projects of research and development about Africa (see http://africa.msu.edu/research.php) and are able to offer 30 African languages for graduate study of Africa. For almost 20 years, MSU has produced more Ph.D. dissertations on Africa than any other North American higher education institution.

MATRIX: Center for the Humane Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences Online at Michigan State University is a pioneering research center devoted to the application of new technologies in humanities and social science teaching and research. MATRIX strives to use Internet technologies to improve education and increase the democratic flow of information throughout the world. By merging research in new computing technologies with research in the humanities, MATRIX develops online educational and academic resources, provides training in computing and Internet-enhanced pedagogy, and creates forums for the exchange of ideas and expertise in the humanities and in new education technologies. MATRIX has focused on many projects in and about Africa, including Diversity and Tolerance in the Islam of West Africa, the Africa Online Digital Library, Africa Past and Present podcasts, South Africa National Cultural Heritage Project, and others.


The archives of the Community Video Education Trust (CVET) in Cape Town comprise approximately 2,500 tapes and cover a wide spectrum of video of the brutalities of apartheid and the anti-apartheid struggle.

Culture, Communication, and Media Studies (CCMS) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal has developed many reviews and synopses of African film and video, much of which already is in the database. CMS also holds 200 films and videos from the Film Resource Unit in Johannesburg and M-Net Awards.

The National Film, Video and Sound Archives (NFVSA) of the South African National Archives holds images and narrative on colonial South Africa, World War II, and the coming to power of the Nationalist State in 1948; the interpretation of apartheid by the State; acadstrongic and state-sponsored ethnographies of African peoples; presentations of popular culture of Afrikaner and English South Africans; and much more.

The African National Congress Archive contains approximately 10,000 units of video and film, most not yet incorporated into edited productions. These materials focus on the activities in exile of the ANC, SACP, and SACTU with videos and films from Zambia, Angola, Lesotho, Botswana, Uganda, Tanzania (especially the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College at Mazimbu).

The African Media Program (AMP), a project of MSU’s African Studies Center begun in the early 1980s, offers an on-line database reference guide to approximately 12,000 film and video materials concerning Africa. Data include complete catalog citations and, for many of the itstrongs, synopses, minute-by-minute content inventories, topical keywords, reviews, ratings, and critical evaluations, full-text reviews, and distributors offering the materials for sale or rental. The African Studies Center is a coordinating office for 160+ faculty at MSU who are expert on aspects of Africa. The faculty are engaged in nearly 100 projects of research and development about Africa (see http://africa.msu.edu/research.php) and offer 30 African languages for graduate study of Africa. For almost 20 years, MSU has produced more Ph.D. dissertations on Africa than any other institution.

MATRIX: Center for the Humane Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences Online at Michigan State University seeks to advance critical understanding and promote access to knowledge through world-class research in humanities technology. MATRIX researchers use networked technologies to advance, mediate, and inform the humanist disciplines of history, literature, language, philosophy, as well as disciplines within the arts, social sciences, and education. MATRIX has focused on many projects in and about Africa, including the Africa Online Digital Library, South Africa National Cultural Heritage Project, “Overcoming Apartheid” online curriculum, and others.

Needs of the SAFVP

This project is urgently needed because of the pressing call in both South Africa and the U.S. for scholarly and popular materials concerning South Africa.

The project also has the potential as an experiment in methods and models to open new possibilities for first inventorying and then saving what remains of the film and video record of the African continent which deteriorates each day.

In South Africa there is a strong interest to link to the increased demand in the U.S. for research and teaching materials on South Africa, including film and videotape for addressing many of the academic fields and even secondary school curricula, where South Africa is popular in middle school and high school social studies. Some of the university academic fields interested in these materials are African Studies (including African history, African film studies, African literature), U.S. history (especially comparative race relations and civil rights struggles), sociology and anthropology (including comparative race and ethnic relations, political sociology, etc.), world history, women’s and gender studies (on which there is a great deal of video material), and political science and international relations (especially comparative politics, democracy studies.)

U.S. scholars and many other U.S. constituencies have a strong interest in the new South Africa and its history because of the extraordinary engagement of U.S. businesses, government, churches, and travelers in the country, as well as the vibrant anti-apartheid movement in the U.S. over a period of 40 years; the dramatic transition to democracy in South Africa — perhaps the most extraordinary case of the 20th century; and the strong interest in the overarching issues of race, ethnicity, multiculturalism, gender, and democratic organizing that link our two societies.

Finally, this project is significant because it addresses a global need to take quick action to capture our moving image heritage on film and videotape before it is lost. Cataloging unique materials, providing public access to information about archival holdings, and setting priorities for copying and preservation of South African film and video are all elements of this project.

Goals of the SAFVP

Objective #1: Jointly build a content-rich, searchable database accessible to everyone via the Internet that describes all possible films and videos about South Africa, found largely in South Africa and the United States.

Objective #2: Develop this database utilizing the U.S. Library of Congress Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard (METS) and Open Archive Initiative (OAI) protocol as well as current best practices and conduct additional research on the uses and best practices of such networked databases.

Objective #3: Expand significantly the cataloging of film and video with detailed and rich metadata, including materials that never have been catalogued at any institution - and work to divide the labor so that all partners can draw on each other’s descriptions of films and videos for all of the institutional databases.

Objective #4: Establish film and video reading stations in several South African institutions that can be used to digitize selected older materials for preservation in digital tape formats. DVD/CD-ROM copies of these will both preserve these scarce materials and provide copies that can be viewed by teachers, scholars, and the public. Single copies, which will remain owned and copyrighted by the South African owners, will be deposited in the MSU Library for access by scholars and other users either at the library or through interlibrary loan.

Objective #5: Prioritize and select films and videos to copy for preservation in South Africa and for scholarly use in the U.S. Selection will be made in consultation between the South African archivists and collections managers, US-based Africanist scholars, and technical specialists and systems managers. These materials will be cataloged by the MSU Africana Librarian who is experienced in film cataloguing and has a PhD in South African history.

Objective #6: The partners will receive various computer hardware through the project and will receive training in maintenance, enhancement, and adding entries to the databases. Software will be provided for coping with the specific needs and exigencies of each of the partners.

© 2009 MATRIX

African Online Digital Library