Regional Archive at Cape Coast, Ghana: pre-colonial and colonial documents preservation project (EAP474)

Aims and objectives

This pilot project targets endangered archival collections in the Central administrative region of Ghana and will be undertaken in collaboration with the Central regional directorate of Ghana’s national archives - the Public Records and Archives Administration Department (PRAAD). The PRAAD building at Cape Coast holds a large body of documentary material including printed material, manuscripts, maps, drawings and photographic collections. These are held in a large room in the archive building ideally designed as a repository. However, irregular power supply, poor functioning and unsatisfactory maintenance of air conditioners as well as humidity and dust control problems have led to a deterioration in the physical conditions of the collections.

The project will focus on pre-colonial collections, particularly hand-written court proceedings and those most endangered by the unfavourable climatic conditions and passage of time. A complete inventory of endangered documents and other archival material will be undertaken. Some specific documents in need of urgent attention will be digitised, which will also be useful for exposing archival staff and research personnel to digital technology. The results of this pilot project will define and put in place the technical method for a larger project.

The Regional Archivist will be fully involved in the pilot project and the University of Cape Coast Main Library possesses what will be required to digitise any documents where necessary. The pilot project’s objectives are:

  • The assessment of the current state of conservation of archival documents at the Central Regional branch of PRAAD at Cape Coast and providing a full inventory of documents, identifying those that require the most urgent attention for better preservation through digitisation.
  • The training of staff of the archive at Cape Coast and research assistants from the University of Cape Coast’s Department of History in the digitisation of collections while at the same time enhancing their skills of preservation to meet the Endangered Archives Programme’s requirements.
  • Selection of particular documents requiring urgent attention for immediate digitisation and deposit at PRAAD, Cape Coast and the British Library.


Piles of documents had been deposited in the archives more than twenty years ago and had not been processed for the use of researchers. The state of preservation of these records was such that the Archivist in charge of the Regional Archive considered their sorting, arrangement/classification, and accessioning a first priority. The project therefore began with the processing of these endangered archives.

The project team processed the two largest piles of documents, originally titled as the Nyakrom-Nkum Urban Council record group, and the Public Works Department (PWD), Central Region, Cape Coast record group. The processed documents were placed into archival boxes and shelved. The PWD record group consisted of 95 archival boxes while that of the Nyakrom-Nkum as many as 154. Based on their original references, the newly accessioned archives were classified with the CRG series following the practice of the Public Records and Archives Administration Department (PRAAD). The PWD file arrangement became: CRG 13/1/1 - CRG 13/1/466 and the Nyakrom-Nkum group CRG 14/1/1 - CRG 14/1/959.

In addition to processing unclassified records, the project team also carried out a survey of existing classified archives, focusing on the largest record group, the ADM series. The survey concentrated on the ADM 23 and identified considerable numbers of documents which had actually decayed beyond recovery. Some records could not be digitised unless they had been professionally repaired. The Regional Archivist noted that the rate of deterioration of documents in the archive was rapid under the prevailing unfavourable conditions under which documents were held, especially the difficulty in regulating the temperature in the repositeries, due to the absence of air-conditioning in the tropical climate. Some trial digitisation was also undertaken, with two CRG files and two ADM files.

The research assistants in the Central Regional Archive in Cape Coast all gained much experience in processing a large body of documents. The research assistants from the Department of History at the University of Cape Coast became exposed first hand to the structure and functioning of an archive, gaining important insights into the technicalities involved in the processing and mounting of documents for the use of researchers. The project therefore equipped all participants with an enhanced knowledge of the structure, functioning and classification methods of archives, and also the technological processes and modern applications used in creating professional digital images.

Survey report (PDF document 135 KB)

The records copied by this project have been catalogued as: