Digitising The National Museums of Kenya

The National Museums of Kenya (NMK) currently hosts one of the largest records of human cultural evolution in the world. With a mission to collect, preserve, study, document, and present Kenya’s cultural and natural heritage, NMK needed to find a way to digitise its artifacts and open up its collection to engage the world for exploration and research.

Working with Amazon Web service, Intel and Digital Divide Data (DDD), NMK is working towards Digitaising one of the largest collections of Archeology and Paleontology in the world, as well as create an interactive website that will serve as a virtual museum, giving more people access to these.

Dr. Frederick Manthi, Head of Earth Sciences at NMK shares the processes involved in preserving NMK's assets, involving Millenials and Generation Z on the digitaisation project and how they use technology to mitigate the risks involved.

What do you expect to achieve from the digitalisation?

There are two key audience groups that we are targeting with the digital archive and the virtual museum. The first group includes Generation Z and the Millennials – youth that are digital-first natives that will get exposed to Kenyan heritage and world history through the interactive website, and virtual museum. Our goal here is to provide a virtual experience that engages people and gets them interested in understanding and learning about Kenya’s cultural and natural heritage.

The second group is the worldwide scientific and research community that will be able to virtually access complex and detailed data sets, GIS information, 3D models on specimens and artefacts through the digital archive. This will act as a catalyst to accelerate research and data analysis and hopefully provide opportunities for new research projects and discoveries.

How do you expect to facilitate research on human evolution using the digital archive and database as a catalyst in training the next generation of researchers?

First and foremost, NMK and DDD will involve the Kenyan youth in the process of creating a digital archive and a ‘virtual museum’. This will enable the youth to take ownership of the project and Kenya’s natural and cultural heritage. Most importantly, digital archiving and databasing /data sharing will promote research on Kenya’s premier paleontological and archaeological collections.

How are you leveraging technology to mitigate the risk of losing valuable information during this process? Are you using any change management systems that enable safe transfer?

Our partner in the digitisation process is Digital Divide Data (DDD). DDD is a recognised leader in providing content, digitisation, and data science solutions to cultural heritage organisations. The project will leverage DDD’s expertise in large-scale digitisation of similar collections across the world.

Real time backup with state-of-the-art security on AWS Cloud will ensure that there is no loss of information and the backup is safe and secure.

The benefit of using AWS is that AWS offers storage solutions that are designed to deliver secured, scalable, and durable storage for the museum who is looking to achieve efficiency and scalability within their backup and recovery environments, without the need for an on-premises infrastructure.

The other aspect is that this landmark collaboration is significant as it provides NMK with the tools to showcase its one-of-a-kind collections to the world and engage various stakeholders using the reach and flexibility of the AWS Cloud.

It also provides DDD with the opportunity to provide competency-based training to Kenyan youth in areas of digitisation, cloud services, mobile technologies, and database administration. These are valuable next generation digital skills and one of the core components of DDD’s Digital Skills 2.0 initiative.

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