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Collecting material culture and oral traditions as forms of collective knowledge is fundamental to the preservation of traditional knowledge, national history and culture. As the destructions of manuscript collections and historical buildings in Timbuktu (Mali) have shown, national heritage archives and collections can be threatened by unforeseen political events with unpredictable repercussion on the perception of national history and identity. The people of The Gambia have recently mastered the transition into a new political era but they are likewise entering a time of political and cultural self-determination in the Digital Age.

Preservation of cultural artefacts through digitization has come in handy for solving some important issues, as well as offering potentials for better access to collections. Digital cultural documents allow to  participate in a virtual experience through text and audio documents. In this way, local knowledge resources can also be preserved and will continue to be accessible to local researchers, scholars and future generations. Digital documents can certainly ease access to collections and enlarge the number of potential users, including educational users in colleges and universities.

This symposium intends to highlight the importance of collecting oral traditions and collective cultural knowledge as demonstrated in the work of the collector and scholar Al Hadji Bakary Kebba Sidibe, to whom we owe the oral archive of the National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC), as well as the founding of the Gambia National Museum in 1983. It will likewise raise the question of how to present and extend what has been achieved in the Digital Age for future generations.


Hon. Hamat N.K. Bah, Minister of Tourism and Culture, The Gambia, will open the deliberations, followed by a press conference after the opening ceremony.

Alhaji Bakari Sidibe, honoree of the Symposium event, will speak on the genesis of the archive of more than 5000 recordings which he bequeathed to the National Centre for Arts and Culture in The Gambia, the scope of the collection which covers the greater Senegambia region, and the challenges the archive faces in the modern world.

NCAC Director General, Baba Ceesay & Prof. Henning Schreiber, University of Hamburg will make a presentation the National Digital Oral Archive project, which is funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation.

Dr Momodou Tangara, Gambia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, a scholar who has made extensive use of the archives in his studies, will deliberate on the topic: ‘The Research and Documentation Division (RDD) of the NCAC: A pristine “gold mine” in danger‘.

Many other researchers and academics from Gambia, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, USA, United Kingdom, Germany will be presenting papers around the theme.

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