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Our Digitisation Journey

We started our digitisation project in April 2019 with the creation of McMillan Memorial Library’s first-ever digital catalogue, consisting of 137,705 books. 

This exercise allowed us to get to know the collection – what needed to stay, what needed to go, and what material was the most endangered. In October 2020, digitisation of the endangered archive started  and has continued since. So far, the digitised collection contains approximately 31, 549 items which include gazettes, colonial photographs, county minutes and newspapers.  See what we’ve done so far 

We are now aiming to digitise more of the collections, the goal being to digitise all the material at the McMillan Memorial Library that is rare and damaged. We think this might take us a couple of years – but we’re discovering lots as we go!

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There are many facets of Kenyan life we do not see in this collection...

We’ve quickly noticed that this collection, while important, is incomplete. There are many facets of Kenyan daily life we do not see in this archive. While these collections speak to key historical moments in our recorded history, they would benefit from more material capturing public memories from various times.

This discovery was the inspiration for our next archival project. Presenting…

The Missing Bits! 

Presenting... The Missing Bits

This project will add crowd-sourced audio and images to the #NRBLibraries digital archive! You are invited to visit the Kaloleni Library in Kaloleni, Eastlands Library in Makadara and McMillan Memorial Library on Banda Street to record conversations about your version of events surrounding key moments in your life and in Kenya’s history. You are also invited to bring your photos, letters and other personal archives, digitise these, and add them to these libraries’ digital collections.

How to get involved

We are inviting anyone aged 5 years old and above to contribute to an archive anchored in public memory. Share your own and others’ past, present and hopes for the future with a larger public for generations to come! Did your Grandmother tell you stories about the music she listened to in the 1970s? Did an Uncle share stories about Kenya’s fashion scene in the 1980s? Perhaps a Parent told you about their Secondary school days? Let’s get these stories recorded and preserved! There are so many ways to get involved in building an archive that centres our own experiences and memories, so do please join us on this exciting journey!!!

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Digitise your Personal Archives at Kaloleni Library, Eastlands Library & McMillan Memorial Library!

Visit these three libraries, where you can digitise your own personal archives (photo albums, letters and much more) at a digitisation booth. Book Bunk’s team will be on site to guide you through the process and have you digitising like a pro in no time! If you are eager to get started, this video can help you get going!

Record Your Story for Future Generations

Do you have a grandmother, an uncle or a friend who always seems to have the best stories about Kenya’s first Jamhuri Day? Or fashion in the 1960s? Or music in the 1970s? Everyone has a story and the libraries’ archives have room for them all! We are inviting members of the public to utilise audio booths and record their versions of events, in the ways only they can tell them! These stories will be recorded in audio format and uploaded (with your permission) on the archive site we have been building, currently consisting mainly of gazettes, ordinances, photographs and other material dating back to the late 1800s (You can access this here). This strand of archiving is inspired by Story Corps.

Photo Credits: Paul Munene/Quaint Photography
Photo Credits: Paul Munene/Quaint Photography

Panel Discussions with Baraza Media Lab

The digital age we’re living in presents more possibilities for archiving materials, but it’s also one in which the question of curation and power requires an even more thoughtful approach. This panel will explore the work of digital libraries and archives in capturing cultural memories in the past and in our present, the challenges – and innovative approaches to overcome them that archivists are leaning on, and the lessons we can learn from global libraries in this regard.

Film Screenings with Docubox

In partnership with Docubox, we will host film screenings at all three libraries that speak to the thematics of the libraries’ digital collections and the gaps we are finding. Join us for an exciting line-up of films about archives, public memory, repatriation of items, collective history and other related themes. In some instances, these screenings will be accompanied by conversations with the cast or directors of these films, so don’t miss out! Take a look at what we’ve screened so far….

Photo Credits: Paul Munene/Quaint Photography

Exhibition with The Nest Collective

The archive we are currently digitising, brought to you as an exhibition of images by The Nest Collective! This exhibition will bring the libraries’ archive alive by showcasing a cross section of the material we have worked on so far including ordinances, gazettes, old newspapers (dating back to 1906!), photographs (dating back to the late 1800s!) and much more so stay tuned!

A Playlist for the Ages!

What music did soldiers conscripted to fight in the King’s African Rifles listen to upon their return, living in Kaloleni and other parts of Eastlands? This segment of the project is a powerful imagination curated by Wer JoKenya‘s Wairimu Nduba and features music from Kenya’s past straight to your ear, via playlists on all leading music platforms! Turn up the volume and twist away to some classic Zilizopendwa while learning some historical background about the sounds of times past.

Now Available on  

Photo Credits: Angela Wachuka
Photo Credits: Paul Munene/Quaint Photography

A Live Music Set with Ketebul Music

In addition to the playlist curated by Wairimu Nduba, a musical performance by Nairobi City Ensemble featuring some of our best Rhumba will be performed and recorded at Eastlands Library! We kick off with music from the 1940s into later decades, with music by Henry Makobi, Fundi Konde, Paul Mwachupa, Fadhili William and Esther John. Live from the newly-renovated Eastlands Library to your screens…

Thank you to Our Partners

The British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund, in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, supports projects which protect cultural heritage at risk due to conflict or climate change, mainly in the Middle East and parts of North and East Africa. More information on the Cultural Protection Fund is available here. 

Don’t forget to visit the archive here and our video content on digitisation work here.

Interested in collaborating with us? Please reach out to: sahar@bookbunk.org 

For all media enquiries please contact: fundraising@bookbunk.org