Friday, June 3, 2011

The Weekly Archivist interview: Afrikaans Archivist in the SABC Radio Archives: Karen du Toit

Karen du Toit
SABC Radio Archives
The SABC Radio Archives has Archivists who focus on specific collections for future preservation for our cultural heritage, rebroadcasting and research. This is part of a series of weekly interviews where we will all answer the same questions addressed to us.

It is a way of getting a better understanding of what an Archivist do, as well as gets a better insight into the scope of our collections in the SABC Media Libraries.

The Archivist answering the questions this week is Karen du Toit. She is a member of the cataloguing Team in the SABC Radio Archives. She focuses on the Afrikaans collection, which mostly comprises of the Afrikaans radio stations of the South African Broadcasting Corporation. She has been with the Radio Archives for 6 years.

This week I am answering my own questions, as were addressed to all of the other archivists.
My Life and career.

I grew up in Kempton Park where I went to school.
I acquired a Library and Information Science degree in 1988 at the Randse Afrikaanse Universiteit, now called the University of Johannesburg (UJ). In 2001 I completed a BA Afrikaans Honors at UJ, and in 2005 I completed a BA Information Science Honors, also at UJ.

I started to work as a librarian in 1989 at the Transvaal Provincial Administration in the Library and Museum Services, where I helped indexed and catalogued the books being sent to all the provincial libraries.
After that, in 1990, I started to work as an Archivist at the SABC in the SABC News Archives. We worked in shifts and edited catalogued and classified audio-visual material of broadcast news. We also had to do requests for journalists and producers.
In 1998 I started to work as a Reference Librarian in the Newspaper Cutting section of the SABC Information Library. It involved the Digital selection and cataloguing of newspaper articles to make it electronically available to the journalists and producers.
In 2005 I got the job of the Afrikaans Archivist in the SABC Radio Archives. It combined my love for the Afrikaans language and literature beautifully with my passion for information mining. As an archivist I have to make sure that the broadcasted material of today will still be available as a cultural heritage for the generations to follow!

Personal Life:
I got remarried again seven years ago, and now I have a toddler of two and a half, as well as a teen of nearly eighteen.  We stay in Roodepoort. We enjoy the reconstructed family life tremendously now with the little one!

Please tell us about a normal day in your studio. What material do you work with?

Each archivist is a specialist on his own field of focus, because we are only one Archivist which focuses on a language or radio Station. In my case it is Radio Sonder Grense. My days do not look the same. I have to verify the existing collection. I have to catalogue and add new material to our collection. I also need to catalogue different formats, such as min-discs and reel-to-reel tapes, and have to convert it digitally to CD or to Dalet, a Digital Audio System. I have to help with requests if the relevant request team member is not available or when there are a crisis.
I also help with our Web 2.0 presence of the SABC Media Libraries. We have Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as a SABC Media Libraries website and a blog that needs constant updates and content.

Tell us more about the collection you focus on and the scope of material you need to preserve.

My collection consists of Afrikaans audio and broadcast material going back as far as 100 years.
The collection consists of material from Die Afrikaanse Diens, Radio Suid-Afrika  and Afrikaans Stereo of previous years. Since 1996 it called Radio Sonder Grense. We also have audio recordings done in the studio, as well as recordings in the field, such as Afrikaans festivals and interviews.
I still get a kick out of listening to poets reading their own poetry that was recorded long ago. They have of course died long ago as well, but they left us with this valuable legacy!

Do you struggle with technical difficulties, and if so, what?

As audio archivists, we always have an issue with the correct recording and transfer rates, as well as getting the most perfect storage bit rates. There is also the issue of restoration vs destruction of our audio collections. How far do we need to restore our collection, before we actually start to damage it more? New software comes on the market, but we do not always get access to it because of budgetary constraints.
I am also looking forward to the Digital Library project which will digitize our collections. It wiull solve many of our issues with the different formats and it becoming obsolete.

If you have an anecdote about a specific piece of interesting audio material, please share it with us.

I hear interesting audio material every day. This week I catalogued the 2002 interview with Isidor Davis, a former archivist here at the SABC, who tells of how the SABC recorded messages from South African soldiers during World War Two. They did the recordings on acetate records. When the shelling and fighting got very bad, the needle jumped too much, and they could not record. We still have that recordings in our archives, and the BBC were also very interested in acquiring it.

Tell us why you enjoy doing the work that you do.

I love working with historical material that I know is of great heritage value. I also love hearing stories and interviews with inspirational people. I learn new things every day.
How many people also can say that they get to listen to radio dramas and poetry as part of their job? That is the best!

Related posts:
The Weekly Archivist Interview with the Manager of the SABC Radio Archives
The Weekly Archivist Interview: acetate restoration in the SABC Radio Archives
The weekly archivist interview: Sound engineer in the Radio Archives
The weekly archivist interview: Ikwekwezi FM
The weekly archivist interview: Music archivist
The weekly archivist interview: News and actuality
The weekly archivist interview: Sport archivist
The weekly archivist interview: Channel Africa collection

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