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New cutting-edge digitisation equipment for Wits Digitisation Centre

- Wits University

This addition marks a significant step forward in the ongoing efforts to preserve the University's vast archives and collections.

The newly acquired Phase One system (DT Atom) with a 150-megapixel camera, represents a significant advancement in digitisation technology. Azizo Da Fonseca, Manager Digitisation Services of the Wits Digitisation Centre, says the versatility of the new system includes the ability to digitised a wide range of materials, including 3D Objects, mounted and unmounted film, photographic prints, slides, glass plates, and artefacts.

"With this system, we can capture details that were previously inaccessible," he says. "It opens up new possibilities for researchers to explore our collections in greater depth."

Wits is home to thousands of world-renowned and priceless collections, and digitisation is key to preserving and sharing these treasures with local and international scholars and researchers, and to secure their long-term preservation. As such, and as the custodian of these invaluable collections, one of the eight strategic priority areas adopted as part of the University’s accelerated transformation programme, is Future-proofing our national treasures.

Reflecting on Wits’ journey of digitisation, Da Fonseca reminisces about the early days when the concept of digitisation was still in its infancy. "In 2002, no one knew what digitalisation was," he recalls. "But we saw the importance of preserving our cultural heritage and historical records for future generations."

Over the years, the digitisation projects at Wits have received funding from various foundations and organizations, enabling Wits Libraries to digitise a substantial portion of their archives. However, Da Fonseca highlights the challenges faced due to funding constraints. "Funding is crucial for these projects to continue," he emphasises. "Without adequate resources, we risk losing valuable pieces of history."

"Our Centre is dedicated to providing a service that empowers researchers to delve into the past," he states. "Whether transcribing handwritten letters or examining ancient texts, our goal is to facilitate research and discovery."

Da Fonseca also addresses the significance of digitisation in combating misinformation and preserving truth in a post-truth world. "By digitising historical records, we provide a reliable source of information for future generations," he asserts. "These archives serve as a testament to our shared history and help us navigate the complexities of the present."

As the university continues its digitisation efforts, Da Fonseca remains committed to ensuring these valuable resources are safeguarded for years. "Our work is far from over," he declares. "But with the latest technology at our disposal, we are better equipped than ever to preserve and share our collective heritage."

"Together, we are preserving the past and shaping the future," he concludes. "And with the new scanner in the mix, we are poised to embark on the next chapter of our digitisation journey."

Wits Digitisation Centre

About the Wits Digitisation Centre

The Wits Digitisation Centre, which has been operational since 2012, is actively involved in preserving and providing digital access to the University’s research outputs, as well as the incredible cultural and scientific heritage at Wits, thereby boosting research opportunities and supporting teaching and learning.

Through the Centre, Wits Libraries provides the infrastructure, expertise and technical capacity, use of international standards and best practices, and state-of-the-art equipment to assist Schools, Faculties and the Wits community more widely to undertake various digitisation projects.

For more information about the Centre and its offerings, contact Azizo Da Fonseca at

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Read more about the important role archives in universities play as active sites of research and custodians of collective memory in this article by Gabrielle Mohale from the Historical Papers Research Archive at Wits University: Unleashing the potential of university-based archives.