25.02.2005 -

Slave Trade Archives Project Completed

A project to improve the conservation and accessibility of slave trade records, the so called Slave Trade Archives Project that was set up by UNESCO in 1999 and funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), is now completed but should continue as the recently published final report recommends.

The Slave Trade Archives project was an attempt to improve the conservation and accessibility of slave trade records. It dealt with original documentary sources bearing witness to the trade, mainly in the form of written documents. Digitization of these sources, particularly those at risk from deterioration, will help to establish a collective memory of this part of history. The project was based on a desire to guarantee the protection and accessibility of documents with universal value through digitization. It did not aim to restore or reconstitute the original collections themselves.


The project main goal was to improve access to and use of documents related to the slave trade and its various forms, in order to highlight its impact and lasting consequences. An access strategy has been outlined with a view to establishing on-line access through the UNESCO website and other sites devoted to the slave trade, as well as publishing multimedia CD-ROMs on the slave trade, acts of resistance to slavery, etc. The website dedicated to slave trade archives has been created with this in mind.


The project operated in eleven countries: Benin, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana and Senegal in Africa, plus Argentina, Brazil, Barbados, Colombia, Cuba and Haiti.


Regarding the initial goals the following results were obtained:

  • At least 14 institutions were provided with computer equipment.
  • Six seminars were given in African countries, with 114 participants, as well as other seminars in
  • Colombia and Cuba by local initiative.
  • Eight multimedia CD-ROMs were produced, and two more are being prepared.
  • Eight websites were created, with two more under construction.
  • 11 databases were created and loaded with references to over 10.000 documents.
  • About 200.000 objects (images and documents) were digitized.
  • An international evaluation meeting was held in Havana, Cuba.
  • At least 16 reports were published, two books, a bibliography, several notes in Gazettes, Newsletters, and press releases. A wide diffusion was given to these activities in all participating countries through radio and television news.

The final report recommends continuing with the Project in the future, incorporating some of the almost 40 candidate countries. This would allow encompassing holdings to unify large geographical and linguistic areas.

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