Safeguarding Nzema history. Towards an archive of Chieftaincy in south-west Ghana

The history of traditional rule and local chiefdoms of West Ghana is documented in the archives of the Traditional Councils. Documents from the 19th and early 20th century trace the changes in structure of the élite in power. They represent a new source of information on the history of the region.

The Nzema Maanle Council in South-West Ghana is composed of seven Paramountcies, each with rich archival heritage. The Traditional Councils Archives hold records and Acts regarding land rights and traditional rule. These shed light on how traditional rule and land management evolved in the region, from the Colonial era to the process of independence. The physical documents are not accessible to scholars and, through digitisation, they represent a new source of information for the history of the western coastal area of Ghana.

The collection is endangered by the lack of trained personnel able to curate it, as well as inadequate storage conditions. The high humidity and other environmental factors put the archives at risk. Moreover, the documents are spread across various locations, and there is no clear catalogue of the material. This makes the collection inaccessible to scholars.

Stemming from a previous pilot survey project, the team cleaned and organised the documents chronologically, set them in appropriate archival boxes and moving them to more suitable rooms. The papers in each archive were catalogued and the most endangered series digitised. In collaboration with the University La Sapienza in Rome, a team was trained in archival practices, as well as in preservation of heritage.

Project Details

Location: Ghana, Western Africa, Africa Organiser(s): Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) Project partner(s): Fort Apollonia Museum of Nzema Culture And History Funder(s): Arcadia Funding received: £30,976 Commencement Date: 12/2014 Project Status: Completed
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