The Birth of a Nation: preserving records on the Kenya-Uganda railway line (EAP1143)

Aims and objectives

The proposed project aims to establish the extent of the Nairobi railway museum’s archive and carry out a digitisation exercise on a sample of its invaluable collection. The collection which primarily holds records on the building of the Kenya-Uganda railway (1896 – 1901) provides one of the key resources on pre-industrial Kenya and East Africa at large. The material contained within the collection is a blend of photographic, audio-visual, cartographic and text-based records that document the social and environmental landscape of the region prior to European settlement. The collection goes on to further capture the region at the turn of the 20th century during the construction of the railway and the period that came after.

At this stage we expect to produce a primary catalogue that will detail - record names, type, date, condition among other important identifiers. In part, we also aim to digitise a small sample of the collection, primarily from the photographic compilation. We are looking at digitising approximately 50 -100 photos from the 1896 – 1900 albums as these are the items of highest priority within the collection. A written report detailing the state of the archive based on the catalogue produced, shall form the primary basis of a future research project which will focus on the digitisation and restoration of documents and files as identified in this initial stage.


The cleaning and clearing of the archive room, presented an opportunity to catalogue individual albums. The data entry at this point involved capturing the following details:

- A description of the album (including Date, Event, Details)

- Album reference number (if present)

- Condition of photos

- Number of photos within the album

- Number of photos missing from the album

- Condition of Album (Whether mould, damp, dusty, discolored and or torn)

- General Remarks (Further description and details on the Album condition e.g 29 photos have no description, Dusting and repair of torn pages is needed)

- Action taken on album (e.g Cleaned, Repaired, Dusted)

63 photographs were submitted as part of the sample digitisation and the survey was in the form of two lists.

The records copied by this project have been catalogued as: