Zimbabwean museums to modernise documentation system

By Patience Nyagato

THE National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ) has embarked on a drive to modernise documentation of the country’s diverse collections to preserve them for posterity.

Rock paintings, metals, ceramics, reproductions, paper and photographs constitute part of the cultural properties that are at risk of loss due to the manual documentation system currently in place at the country’s museums.

As part of efforts to achieve international best practices in the documentation of national collections, the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ) is working towards adopting advanced systems that ensure that each object characteristics are captured in digital systems that allow audio, video and other security features.

“Currently most of the collections are documented using the manual system. And electronic and digital systems in place are basic Microsoft excel or access which do not allow other formats like attaching videos, audio, making searches and restricting access from other users and make it online. International best practices use ICom systems. They have developed an object ID standard that ensures that each object characteristics are well captured. Be it physical, digital, video audio or security features. So this international best practice is what we want to achieve.”

The American embassy is facilitating a relationship between the University of California and local museums as part of the process of modernising the country’s museums documentation systems.

“We are facilitating a relationship between the University of California and the NMMZ. With the idea of helping catalogue in a modern digital way and high-resolution Zimbabwe national collection. One of the challenges is that something gets stolen and you can’t prove that it’s yours and more importantly it will facilitate a more incredible history of Zimbabwe. Without ruining the object.”

The collections are part of the country’s cultural capital which is at risk of loss to vandalism or theft.

The documentation exercise is critical in the process of conserving and securing national cultural identity for future generations.