Handover of the digitised Rivonia Trial tapes


On March 17 2016, the French National Audiovisual Institute (INA) officially handed over to South Africa the latest batch of digitised audio files from the Rivonia Trial – during which Nelson Mandela and some of his ANC comrades were sentenced to life in prison. On this occasion, a training agreement was signed with the South African Ministry of Arts and Culture.

Laurent Vallet, President of the French National Audiovisual Institute, handed over the latest batch of digitised audio files to South African Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, in the presence of French Ambassador to South Africa, Elisabeth Barbier. The 591 dictabelts were entrusted to INA in October 2014, in the framework of an historic cooperation agreement signed between INA and the South African Ministry of Arts and Culture on 20 December 2013 to restore and preserve the audio records of the Rivonia Trial.

The dictabelts, flexible vinyl cylinders (totaling 230 hours of audio records), hold the recordings of the Rivonia Trial which took place in Pretoria between October 1963 and June 1964 in the Supreme Court. These recordings offer a unique testimony of those involved in South Africa’s history and have become one of the symbols of the fight against the apartheid regime. The official handover was the final step in the preservation of this unique collection, which has been part of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme since 2007.

The handover took place in Courtroom C of the Palace of Justice in Church Square - the same venue where the Rivonia Trial took place.

Laurent Vallet, President of INA said : “Our teams at INA, in cooperation with LARHA (History research center of Rhône-Alpes) and the ENS Lyon (École Normale Supérieure), are extremely proud to offer their expertise and know-how in safeguarding such a universal testimony in the fight for human rights. This partnership is the perfect example of the international ambitions of INA, but it is above all an illustration of the mutual trust established between INA and the Republic of South Africa”.

Nathi Mthethwa, South African Minister of Arts and Culture : “Let me take the opportunity to thank France ; INA and FIAT, for assisting our country in restoring and digitising the Rivonia trial dictabelts, and in this way contributing to our government’s endeavour to provide access to information for all. Armed with these digitized recordings of the Rivonia Trial, we shall be able to tell the full story of this trying period in our history with sound, words and silences to present and future generations in all its glory, its horror and ultimately its triumphs.”

Elisabeth Barbier, Ambassador of France to South Africa : “This partnership is part of the privileged relations between France and South Africa. Trust is at the core of our relationship, all the way back to the visit of President François Mitterrand to newly-elected President Nelson Mandela in July 1994. It is an honour for France to have contributed, thanks to INA, to preserving this exceptional heritage. The cooperation agreement is a sign of our will to contribute to the transformation of South Africa, in particular through the development of professional training”.

Renowned for their expertise in the preservation of audiovisual archives, INA used its collective know-how to safeguard and preserve this exceptional national treasure :

-* Digitisation and restoration

In 2013, INA started digitising, restoring and inventorying sound records in close cooperation with the LARHA (History research center of Rhône-Alpes at ENS Lyon) and more specifically with Henri Chamoux, who created the “archéophone”device. The project also received the support of the International Federation of Television archives, as part of the Save your Archive programme.

-* Training and skills transfer

The objective is to enable the teams from the South African Ministry of Arts and Culture to digitise and restore the remaining dictabelts themselves (estimated to be dozens of thousands) themselves. Four training sessions will take place between France and South Africa between the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017. The skills transfer programme was officially launched on the occasion of Laurent Vallet’s trip to Pretoria through the signature of a partnership between INA and the Republic of South Africa.

-* Documenting and making the recordings available to the public

After the whole programme has been completed, South Africa will be free to use the digitised and restored records for any purpose. As part of its public service commitment, INA will make the digital archives of the 591 dictabelts available to researchers, students and teachers in all disciplines, who will be granted full access to this piece of global heritage at all the INA resource centers (Ina-THEQUE).

For more information, the complete story of the digitisation process and the restoration of the dictabelts :

-  https://vimeo.com/153908350 (French video)
-  https://vimeo.com/153908346 (English video)

publie le 24/03/2016

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