The National Archives of Senegal (Direction des Archives du Sénégal), is one of the premiere archival institutions in West Africa. Its collection 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 funds relating to these three periods and are separated into series and subseries 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.
As a region of interest, Senegal is a particularly "target rich" area, one with institutional and technological infrastructure sufficiently in place to undertake a regional filming project. The National Archives operates a microfilm lab that included two microfilm cameras and a film developer. The archives also had a functioning air conditioner in their microfilm stacks, which indicated an awareness of need to preserve the results of their work. The region has significant ties and linkages to Title VI institutions and to individual librarians and faculty. Finally, Dr. Saliou Mbaye (Directeur des Archives Nationales du Sénégal at the time) was very open and forthcoming about cooperation with CAMP and the Title VI libraries.
In July 1995, Dr. Yuusuf Caruso (Columbia University) traveled to Senegal on behalf of the Title VI libraries. The primary goal was to assess the potential for cooperative preservation and acquisition projects. Dr. Caruso toured various archives and research libraries in Dakar and Saint Louis. The trip resulted in the identification and selection of the National Archives as a partner to preserve a collection of French colonial court records. [See full site visit reports.]
By November 1995, the pilot material for the cooperative archives project was identified as the already well organized, film-ready “Justice Indigène, 1838–1954: sous-série 6M.” The National Archives of Senegal arranged to receive film supplies from France, and CAMP purchased the necessary equipment and shipped it to Dakar. After training and sampling, the film sample was deemed of sufficient quality to merit full production.
Over the course of the next four years, the National Archives staff diligently worked to preserve the 160,000 pages of material (323 boxes) in the series. The collection, now held in its entirety by CAMP, was preserved on 206 reels of film.
As follow-up to the successful cooperation in filming “Justice Indigène,” CAMP and the Title VI libraries (with Northwestern University) embarked on a second phase of cooperation with the National Archives to film “Affaires politiques et administratives de Sénégal, serie D.” The material in Serie D, a major collection on the history of Senegal and early French colonial rule in West Africa, complements “Justice Indigène,” though it is much larger in scope and size. It is located in the National Archives of Senegal, most of which is not held at le Centre des archives d'outre-mer (Aix-en-Provence, France) or in any other location.
The material provides valuable insight into political and administrative life (treaties and conventions, reports on native administration and justice, military recruitment, finances, electoral operations, demography), economic life (agriculture, breeding and fishing, public works, mines, transportation infrastructure), and social life (ceremonies, health, and education).
As of September 2004, the complete collection of “Administration centrale de la colonie du Sénégal : Sous-Serie 10D” was filmed. This collection encompasses 272 boxes (~100,000 pages) and was preserved on 171 reels. This subsection of Serie D 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).
Sous-serie 11D is substantially larger (1,573 boxes) and its preservation will require a significant infusion of new funding.