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History of the Archives

The Manhyia Records Office (now Manhyia Archives) was established as part of the Ashanti Research Project. The Ashanti Research Project was conceived by the Institute of African Studies , University of Ghana in 1962. The project was launched in May 1963 at the University of Science and Technology, Kumasi by the Institute of African Studies .

The Institute felt that the project would be of interest to scholars at the University of Science and Technology and that it would offer a basis for fruitful co-operation between Legon and Kumasi .

As defined at the conference, the Ashanti Research Project covered not only the geographical area of present Asante but also other parts of Ghana and areas outside Ghana which either formed part of pre-colonial Asante "Empire" or came under influence. The project thus had a basic historical orientation and it was intended to provide depth studies of the social, political, economic and cultural institution of the West African region from pre-colonial time to the present.

The Institute of African Studies initially tried to finance the project from its limited resources. The UNESCO and the Rockefeller Foundation donated small non-recurrent grants for the collection of oral traditions and documents to the Institute.

Otumfuo Osei Agyeman Prempeh II, the Asantehene, expressed active interest in the Ashanti Research Project and very kindly made available to the Institute of African Studies valuable archival materials under his control. The material included files of the old Native Authorities and State Councils, the records of the Native Tribunals and Native Courts, records of the Ashanti Confederacy (and later Asanteman) Council.

To ensure that this material will be available to scholars in Kumasi and others who may wish to study it in its social and cultural context, the Asantehene gave the building formerly occupied by his Lands Department to the Institute of African Studies in 1964, so that it could be developed as a Record Office for the Ashanti Research Project.

The personalities involved in Ashanti Projects were Dr. Thomas Hodgkin, the first Director of the Institute, Professor J.H. Nketia, second Director of the Institute, Mr. A.S. Y. Andoh, the then Administrative Secretary of the Institute of African Studies, later Private Secretary to the Asantehene, and Professor Ivor Wilks, eminent historian of Asante. The late Mr. J. Agyeman-Duah, then Assistant Secretary to the Kumasi Traditional Council, was appointed by the Institute as a part-time Research Assistant to collect the Stool Histories of the Kumasi state and also compile and collate the available court records.

It is honour and pleasure to place on record the appreciation of the Institute of African Studies , and the University of Ghana , for the foresight and trust of the late Nana Osei Agyeman Prempeh II in permitting the establishment of the Manhyia Records Office, now the Manhyia Archives in 1964.

In 1980's, the capacity of the Institute to maintain the Archives declined. However, in 1989, Professor Kwame Arhin, who assumed the post of Director of the Institute rekindled the interest of the Institute and revived the management of the Archives. He appointed a Research Assistant and a Typist to maintain the records and continue with the collection of the stool histories. About the same time, the Asantehene's office made contact with the German Embassy in Accra for financial assistance to refurbish the Archives and succeeded. In the first phase, metal shelves, card boxes, steel cup-boards and two air conditioners were provided at the cost of ¢9.5m.

Subsequently, the German Embassy also provided a canon photocopier, stabilizer and two fire extinguishers and 300 archives boxes.

In 1997, Professor George P. Hagan, who succeeded Professor Kwame Arhin as a Director of the Institute, made a number of personal visits to Kumasi to consult the Asantehene's Secretariat, and secured an agreement to establish a permanent joint (Institute/Manhyia) Committee for the management of the Archives. During the tenure of office of Professor Hagan, a professional Archivist in the person of Mr. Thomas Kwame Aning was appointed to process the records for preservation and to facilitate their use. Professor Hagan arranged with the Federal Republic of Germany Embassy in Accra to donate one electric generator to Manhyia Archives when there was a constant interruption of electricity from the national grid.

When Dr. Irene Odotei became the Acting Director of the Institute, after Professor Hagan tenure of office, she also contributed immensely to the development of the Archives. During her time, the Ford Foundation refurbished the Archives and provided it with archive boxes, two air-conditioners, vacuum cleaner, and personal computer and its accessories.

It should be put on record that during the tenure of office of Dr. Odotei, she did not only develop the Archives but sealed the relationship between the Institute of African Studies and the University of Ghana with the Manhyia Palace , as she became associated with His Majesty Otumfuo Osei Tutu II. It was under her auspices that the death, burial, and funeral of the late His Majesty Otumfuo Opoku Ware II, Asantehene were documented. The installation and enstoolment of Otumfuo Osei Tutu II was also documented under her patronage.

When Professor Takyiwaa Manuh assumed office as Director of the Institute of African Studies , she continued the good works of her predecessors.

In consultation with the archivist, Mr. Thomas Aning, it was decided to expand the archives and a proposal was prepared. However, the amount of money required was beyond the means of the Institute as a result of the inadequate budgetary allocations from the government. The Asanteman Council and the Kumasi Traditional Council, the owners of the archives could also not come up with the funds. There was therefore the need for the owners and the managers to solicit funding for the project "Manhyia Archives Expansion Project" in phases, and this was discussed with management committee of the Archives. It was decided that approaches would be made to various bilateral and multilateral agencies in Ghana .

The Royal Netherlands Embassy in Accra wholeheartedly agreed to sponsor the first phase of the Manhyia Archives Expansion Project at the cost of €51,721.00 when the proposal was submitted to the Embassy.

The following activities were undertaken under the project - the conversion and furnishing of the then existing Manhyia Records Office and the offices of the Asantehene's Private Secretary which had been re-allocated to the Manhyia Archives by Otumfuo Osei Tutu II. The work involved the rewiring of the building, replacement of faulty doors and windows, provision of burglar proof and two security metal doors, the tiling of the floors and repainting of the building. The Archivist's office and second reading room were also furnished. The seating capacity of the two reading rooms increased from eight (8) to twenty (20).

To combat the acidification of the records, de-acidification spray and pumps were ordered from Bookkeeper in the United States for the de-acidification of the affected records.

Damaged court records and minute books were also rebound under the project. Fifty (50) bays of metal shelves were installed and the second repository for the proper storage of the records was created. Archive boxes to contain all the records in the archives were purchased for the preservation of the records.

One heavy duty Canon IR3300 photocopier and photocopying materials for the production of surrogates and reproduction of documents for our customers.

As part of the package under the Project, staff of the Asanteman Council, Kumasi Traditional Council, Manhyia Archives and other offices within the Manhyia were trained in Records Management and Electronic Records Management.

During that same period the French Embassy in Ghana also contributed three thousand euros (€3,000) towards the rebinding of some court records and minutes books and the binding of newspaper publications.

In July, 2005 the Federal Republic of Germany, represented by the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs also agreed to sponsor the Manhyia Archives Expansion Project II at the cost of twenty-eight thousand Euros (€28.000). The following activities were carried on: processing of the records (fast track); control of temperature and humidity; protection and prevention against fire; preparation, printing and automation finding aids and the lamination of fragile records of intrinsic value.

To fast track the processing of the records two archivists and three project assistants were employed for the period of six months. The records of Asantehene's Native Courts B, B3, B4, B5; Courts C and Court D were processed.

Ten (10) fire extinguishers and twenty (20) smoke detectors were installed at the vantage points within the Manhyia Archives. 764 Environmental Monitor was also purchased to measure the temperature, relative humidity, ultra violet and visible light. Two (2) split air-conditioners were installed in the archives.

Under the project three personal computers and accessories were installed in the two reading rooms and the office of the archivist for the automation Manhyia Archives. Finding aids were prepared to facilitate research.

A laminator and its accessories have been procured for the lamination of fragile records of intrinsic value. The badly damaged record books were also contracted to paper conservator for repair.

The objectives of the Manhyia Archives Expansion Projects have been achieved as the records are now properly preserved and conserved in good environment. The Manhyia Archives has been modernized and transformed to become a model archives for other traditional rulers in Ghana to follow and emulate.

The benefits of modernized Manhyia Archives cannot be over emphasised. It will assist the Asantehene, and other traditional rulers with accurate information in a timely manner in resolving conflicts and disputes. The Archives will give greater support for traditional governance through better access to information, promoting accountability, democracy, human rights and transparency. There will be increase in the usage of archival resource by chiefs, academics, students and the general public. It will also support research, teaching and learning of Asante history and culture.

The Phase III of the Manhyia Archives Expansion Project will include the automation of Manhyia Archives, microfilming and digitization, the establishment of website and the development of future archives network which will provide electronic access to finding aids and some key records of the Manhyia Archives.

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