Digitising Herman Charles Bosman – An initiative based on special collections projects by the North-West University’s Library Services (Potchefstroom Campus).
Digitisation of hardcopy documents, books, correspondence and other data is increasingly being used by institutions such as libraries to create and deliver digital representations, in order to define new avenues of understanding in the humanities (Terras, 2012:48). Consequently, institutions of higher learning are increasingly committing resources to digitisation projects, since they enhance learning and research and could ultimately have a profound impact on the quality of output these institutions provide (Terras, 2012:49). Moreover, digitisation of any collection allows for closer collaboration between institutions that may be thousands of kilometres apart (Carter, 2013:97). Consequently, any endeavour that an institution of higher learning might undertake to digitise a particular collection, would be worth the expense, time and labour it might entail.
In line with the above, the North-West University’s (NWU) Library Services (Potchefstroom Campus) has been involved in several special digitisation projects of its more valuable collections. These projects include, but are not limited to, the Bibliography of the Afrikaans Language (DBAT); ISAM (Information Centre for Southern African Music); the Pierneef collection which consists of information about and digital copies of the works by landscape artist, Jacobus Hendrik (Henk) Pierneef; the Cloete manuscripts which is a restricted access database containing manuscripts that were donated by the family of the late T. T. Cloete; lastly, the Ossewabrandwag collection which contains digitised archival material related to this mid-20th-century movement. In addition to the above mentioned digitisation projects, the NWU will be hosting a multi- partner South African Centre for Digital Language Resources, that is tasked with creating and managing digital resources and software that can be applied to research related to all of South Africa’s official languages (Department of Science and Technology, 2016:36). This initiative, which will be the first of its kind for Africa will provide ground-breaking research and development based on Digital Humanities. Consequently, given its past involvement with digitisation projects, it is envisaged that not just Library Services (Potchefstroom Campus), but all the NWU Library Services will be involved in future Digital Humanities projects.
Given the above, NWU Library Services will become not just willing partners in Digital Humanities (DH) initiatives but, more importantly, should be active participants and initiators of DH projects that will enhance and promote research and development in this field, whilst collaborating with the Faculty of Arts and Humanities in prioritising projects.
Therefore, NWU’s Library Services has endeavoured to initiate a digitisation project of the collected works and all other available materials of Herman Charles Bosman. Bosman was a South African author who was born in 1905. He began his career as a teacher in the Groot Marico district, which became the setting for many of his stories. He also worked as a journalist and literary editor, while also publishing his own work (van Bart, 2016). Needless to say, the breadth of his own work and other resultant documents, articles, court cases, etc. has provided a profound amount of literary and linguistic research. The NWU Potchefstroom’s School of Languages recognises this; and their interest stems from the fact that Bosman spent much of his youth in Potchefstroom, which is situated in the North-West Province and also is the setting for many of his stories (van Zyl, 2016). Moreover, Bosman’s particular literary style incorporated both Afrikaans and English into much of his work and, hence, the linguistic and literary interest in him (van Zyl, 2016). A comprehensive digital repository of Bosman will, consequently, drive the DH agenda of the NWU.
With any new project involving the digitisation of hardcopy materials, several factors need to be considered. These include feasibility, cost, labour, access to and preservation of materials, copyright matters, available technological software and hardware infrastructure, and many more. In order to address these factors in the proposed presentation, an overview of the existing special digital collections of the NWU’s Campus Libraries will be provided by the presenting librarians. The
overview will assess how these projects addressed the factors above. In addition, possible hindrances or benefits will be identified that can be utilised for future digitisation projects, such as the proposed Bosman digital repository.
The presentation will therefore continue by outlining a road map for the proposed Bosman digitisation project, beginning with an overview of what has been accomplished during the period September 2016 to January 2017. The road map will continue by addressing concerns regarding the factors mentioned above and how each factor will be approached going forward.
In summary, the presentation will conclude with considerations regarding the viability of the project and, lastly, how it can contribute to increased cooperation between academic libraries and Digital Humanities initiatives.