Original Research

Challenges in digitisation of cultural heritage material in the Western Cape, South Africa

Beatrice de la Porte, Richard Higgs
SA Journal of Information Management | Vol 21, No 1 | a1104 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajim.v21i1.1104 | © 2019 Beatrice de la Porte, Richard Higgs | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 May 2019 | Published: 30 October 2019

About the author(s)

Beatrice de la Porte, Cape Town Branch Library, University of South Africa, Western Cape Region, Cape Town, South Africa
Richard Higgs, Library and Information Studies Centre, Faculty of Humanities, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

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Background: Digitisation of cultural heritage material creates both opportunities and challenges for access and preservation for future generations.

Objectives: Digital cultural heritage can be sustainably preserved and used for information and research purposes if the challenges experienced during digitisation can be identified and addressed by memory institutions.

Method: A quantitative approach was used to analyse challenges for digitisation identified in the literature review. The theory of constraints was used as the theoretical framework for the study. Twenty-eight memory institutions in the City of Cape Town Metropolitan and Cape Winelands District municipalities were selected with non-probability sampling and data were collected with a cross-sectional survey, using a self-administered online questionnaire. Descriptive statistics were used to summarise the data.

Results: The digitisation of cultural heritage material is embraced by memory institutions and a wide variety of cultural heritage material has been selected for digitisation. Memory institutions are following professional or international guidelines, but the lack of a national policy on digitisation has possible consequences for interoperability and limited access. Open access to digitised cultural heritage material is encouraged, but access for use is still limited. The challenges identified in the literature review are experienced by the memory institutions studied, especially those relating to expertise and human resources.

Conclusion: Challenges in digitisation can be addressed with the knowledge of how to manage these constraints. International guidelines and policies can give directives to the management of digitisation if no national or local guidelines exist.


Archives; cultural heritage; digitisation; libraries; memory institutions; museums.


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