The Daily Graphic has learnt with pain that the country risks losing some of its vital historical documents at the Public Records and Archives Administration Department (PRAAD) and in the few research libraries nationwide.
This is because some of those facilities of critical national importance have been left in deplorable states, typical of the fate that befalls most national monuments throughout the country.
When the paper visited PRAAD and some key libraries in Accra yesterday (see our front page lead story), some of the national records, dating from independence, were discoloured and almost brittle.
This is a blot on the national psyche that should be addressed with urgency to help preserve remaining priceless documents.
For Ghana to fail to properly maintain its archiving institutions means that the country is on its way to losing key historical documents which will be critical to the country one day.
Already, it is sad that Ghana’s Independence Proclamation Document that was signed by the Queen of England stands the risk of being lost.
Beyond serving as avenues for history, national archives are crucial in determining which country owns what and why.
A case in point is how the under-funded PRAAD and its documents helped the country to win the maritime dispute with neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire.
The department produced historical documents that backed Ghana’s stance that the area under dispute did, indeed, belong to Ghana and that played a crucial role in getting judges at the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), a creation of the United Nations (UN), to declare the case in Ghana’s favour in September 2017.
This explains why the country should pay particular attention to the activities of PRAAD by resourcing it with funds, technical expertise and modern ways of preserving documents to serve as the engine room of documents on the country.
In this era of digitisation, the Daily Graphic would want to appeal to the Ministry of Communications to use its numerous agencies to develop a digital archiving system for PRAAD to move its documents onto it.
This will not only create a back-up but also store the documents on a platform that can be accessed concurrently by those allowed access.
Another area of importance to explore is storing the documents on a website.
The paper is aware that the PRAAD had, in the past, experimented with this idea and the results were welcoming.
We, therefore, encourage the government to support the PRAAD to acquire more data, technical expertise and human skills to be able to apply this strategy to most of the documents.
It must, however, be noted that these strategies can only be applied to documents that are available and can be processed.
For those that are lost, it is left to be seen if the country can ever reclaim them.
This is why support for PRAAD and all relevant institutions keeping national records must be prioritised and treated with urgency.