The sound archive of the department of Ethnomusicology of the Royal Museum for Central Africa at Tervuren (Belgium) contains a collection of sound recordings of traditional music from Central Africa, with a particular focus on Congo and Rwanda. The sound archive contains about 3,000 hours of music recordings, the oldest of which date from 1910 (Edison cylinders recorded by HUTEREAU in the Uele-province in Congo).
The archive contains several sound carriers (Edison cylinders, Sonofil wire, magnetic tapes, audiocassettes, disks, CD’s …) with associated metadata (paper files) and contextual data (photographs, films, video’s, books, documents of all kind).
The collection was created during and after the colonial era of the Belgian Kingdom in Central Africa. The RMCA collection forms for an important part the musical memory of Central Africa and in terms of size, documentation and musical quality, it is – without any doubt – the world's most important sound archive for this region.
The most urgent objective is to preserve old recordings. All audio files recorded on delicate carriers must be digitized. In addition, all meta-data linked to the audio files needs to be digitalized as well, in order to be able to access the information in a much more convenient way. Contextual documentation requires either digitization or more elaborate meta-data description. In order to open the archive and make it available to a broader public, database facilities and internet access are necessary. It is very important that thess database facilities and internet access are integrated within the global ICT strategy of the Museum. This is the most challenging and innovative part of the project. Open access to this important collection will raise the interest of researchers and promote the study and respect of a rich cultural tradition that at this moment is suffering from local wars. Our society has the moral duty to provide the best possible conditions for stable and secure preservation, documentation and access to such an important collection.