Cooperative Africana Microform Project: Forty Years of Collaboration and Scholarship

In May 2003, with little fanfare or demonstration, the Cooperative Africana Microform Project (CAMP) marked its fortieth anniversary. An international cooperative collection development effort, CAMP has established itself as a critical resource for Africana librarianship and African studies and a model for subsequent collaborative programs.

Roots of Cooperation

Africana libraries in the United States began discussing cooperative efforts as early as March 1955 at a meeting called by Melville J. Herskovits, founder of the African studies program at Northwestern University and the first (and largest) library devoted to African studies in North America. At this gathering, the assembled librarians and scholars considered strategies for strengthening research libraries in African studies. It was decided to establish a professional association dedicated to African studies, with interlibrary cooperation and information sharing among its top priorities. The Library Committee of the newly founded African Studies Association met first in 1958 and established an agenda of goals that included greater acquisition of publications from Africa, preparation of guides to Africa-related archival holdings, and support for national bibliographies in African countries.

In May of 1963, Africana librarians from 12 institutions gathered to discuss the need to preserve African materials not generally available to U.S. institutions. The Center (then the Midwest Inter-Library Center) proposed to host a cooperative endeavor to film a limited number of African periodical titles on a subscription basis. The group formed a consortial agreement, dubbed the Cooperative Africana Microform Project in 1964, to identify African newspapers, serials, and political ephemera and work towards their preservation. The Center’s Board of Directors supported the effort and made provisions to contribute financial assistance, to be matched by participating institutions.

While the program had preservation as its primary focus, it became apparent that widespread access to material was also critical to its success. Thus, the objective of preserving unique titles also incorporated purchase of existing material in microform to make these more widely available to U.S. institutions. At the time, a number of viable organizations, including the Center, were microfilming African newspapers, and CAMP identified microfilm holdings of these periodicals to acquire from such producers as Microfile in South Africa and ACRPP in Paris.

Aside from overseas film purchases, CAMP’s earliest materials were assembled mainly from the collections held in U.S. libraries. These included parliamentary debate papers and journals held by the Library of Congress, and personal collections assembled by preeminent Africana scholars. Early collections of this nature include field notes, oral texts, traditional histories, and collections of unpublished and published material issued by various political or social groups. Examples include:

  • Cameroun political ephemera, 1952-1961, assembled by Drs. David Gardinier and Victor Le Vine and consisting of government documents, speeches, and pamphlets from individuals and organizations in the struggle for Cameroon liberation and unification.
  • Leo Kuper papers, 1952-1966, consisting of interviews conducted between 1957-1963 with more than 100 members of South Africa's black professional class, as part of Kuper's sociological analysis presented in "An African Bourgeoisie" (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965).
  • Rhodesia and Nyasaland political ephemera, 1956-1963. Documents of the United National Independence Party.

However, it was quickly discovered that other organizations in Europe and Africa were engaged in similar collecting and preservation activities. The British Public Record Office, for example, was organizing and conserving its colonial and foreign office documents relating to its former territorial claims. The Kenya National Archives was preserving its government records in cooperation with Syracuse University. Coordination of information on activities happening worldwide and exploration of collaborative activities became another priority for CAMP.

Exporting Collaboration

In the late 1960s and 1970s, CAMP began working more closely with overseas institutions to identify collections and assist in preserving their material. Because of U.S. interest in southern Africa, CAMP focused heavily on South African institutions and political struggles. In addition to its long-term collaboration with scholar and journalist Benjamin Pogrund (see Inside Apartheid article), CAMP partnered extensively with groups like the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) in preserving the material held in their archives. Under this effort valuable collections relating to political parties, labor and student unions, women’s organizations, and the institutional archives of SAIRR itself (documented in two large archival collections of records, press clippings, files, and a microfilm index of the SAIRR library catalog) were preserved. Other institutions, such as the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and University of Ibadan in Nigeria conducted important preservation projects under the CAMP umbrella, and these materials in microform were added to the burgeoning collection at the Center.

During the 1980s, CAMP’s collection grew to include missionary society archive material, newspapers, and journals in many European and African languages, and a wide array of major microform sets (such as “Government Publications relating to African countries prior to independence” including annual reports and government gazettes). CAMP’s coffers were sufficiently stocked to acquire and engage in large microfilming activities. Additional projects in the late 1980s that radically extended CAMP’s core offerings included copies of microfilm produced through the “Great Collections” preservation projects at Northwestern University and Michigan State University. These films have increased CAMP’s holdings by over 14,000 monographic titles and more than 1,500 newspapers and serials.

One noteworthy example is the large collection of primary source materials collected by Gwendolen M. Carter and Thomas Karis for their multivolume political history of South Africa, From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa 1882-1964. A subsequent and equally important collection of ephemera assembled by Karis and Gail M. Gerhart expanded this collection of material to cover the period 1964-1990 (see Carter-Karis and Karis-Gerhart article). However, because of the immense challenges related to establishing strong linkages with institutions across the ocean, the work with archives and institutions in Africa has been slow to develop. Despite the increasing ease of technical outreach, true partnerships cannot prosper without trust, personal commitment, and intensive project management. The African studies library community is small; the needs of African institutions are immense.

Since 1993, CAMP has increasingly worked to expand and strengthen the preservation capabilities of its partners. CAMP has appointed a standing Task Force on Archives to identify opportunities for international projects and potential sources of funding extend its work with African partners. Rapid technological development, growing awareness of preservation needs, and increased professionalism in librarianship in Africa have presented new opportunities for CAMP and its members. Funds provided for cooperative library activities by individual Title VI National Resource Centers have allowed CAMP to launch important preservation efforts in Senegal (see Fall 2002 FOCUS article related to this initiative) and more recently Morocco and Liberia.

CAMP considers its continuing relationship with the National Archives of Senegal a model of international cooperation and points to the latest collection of materials received as proof of its continuing success (see sidebar below). So, after its work and building of the past 41 years, within the next decade CAMP should see its labors develop into truly equal partnerships among U.S. and African institutions, formed with the objective of global access to scholarly material emanating from this important region of the world.

For more information on CAMP and its continuing activities, please visit the Area Studies section of the Center Web site.

African Archives Cooperative Project – Senegal

Affaires politiques et administratives de Sénégal, sous-serie 10D : 1785-1964
Sous-Serie 10D: Administration centrale de la colonie du Sénégal

The National Archives of Senegal contains many important resources for the study of colonial Senegal (1816-1958), Afrique Occidentale Française (1895-1959), and independent Senegal (since 1958). The material is organized by fonds relating to these three periods and is separated into series and sub-series according to broad subject categories (administration, military affairs, correspondence, etc.). The Archives also possesses a library of secondary and periodical sources on Senegalese and French colonial history.

In 1995 the Cooperative Africana Microform Project established a microfilming operation at the Senegalese archives, which has been steadily preserving these archives. Recently the Center received 171 reels of material from the archives relating to general governance of colonial Senegal. Sous-serie 10D contains information on the central administration of the colony. Originating from the office of the Governor and other central departments (including Director of Political Affairs, Director of the Interior, Attorney General, Controller, and Commander of the Military), this material contains valuable historical documentation including a large body of correspondence between the Governor (variantly titled Lieutenant-Governor and Head of the Territory of Senegal), his ministries, and the Governor-General.

  • 10D1: Affaires politiques et administratives
    • Généralités
    • Réclamations et plaintes
    • Traités et conventions
  • 10D2: Consulats
  • 10D3: Correspondance
  • 10D4: Notes et rapports
  • 10D5: Notices et monographies
  • 10D6: Tournées, voyages et missions