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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2014 / 12 

Virginia Tech creates digital repository for Kenya law archive

December 16, 2014

Group photo of 83 attendees from the Law Via the Internet Conference.
Attendees at the Law Via the Internet Conference held in Cape Town, South Africa. Virginia Tech faculty members Gary Worley and Brett Shadle, third row back, fourth and fifth from left, attended the conference.

Brett Shadle, associate professor of history at Virginia Tech, has partnered with Kenya Law and the Virginia Tech Discovery Commons to offer a freely accessible digital archive of the Kenya Gazette

The Kenya Gazette is the official record of all laws, ordinances, and appointments made by the colonial and independent governments of Kenya.

The historic database currently covers the years from 1977 to 1989, and will eventually include all Kenya Gazettes published since the 1890s. Topics covered include the abolishment of slavery, the alienation of African lands for white settlers, and the prohibition of the anti-colonial Mau Mau movement.

The database is Virginia Tech’s contribution to the movement to provide free access to legal information in Kenya, pioneered by Kenya Law. 

“Until now, the primary archive of Kenya’s printed law documents was located in the capital, and access to the Gazettes was restricted for anyone who couldn’t make a trip to Nairobi, or who wanted to download a complete digital copy for personal use," said Gary Worley, director of the Discovery Commons online repository. "The new online repository will be very helpful, even allowing access via mobile devices."

Discovery Commons is a unique service offered by Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies, a unit of Information Technology, which allows researchers to develop high-quality curated digital repositories dedicated to their field of exploration.

“The Gazettes are critical documents in Kenya’s history," said Shadle. "Academics, court officials, government researchers, and members of the general public can trace changes in the law, and see how successive governments have worked to shape Kenyan society, economy, and politics. I have already received thanks from several scholars for helping to make these documents more easily accessible.”

The new online archive was presented at the Law Via the Internet Conference, sponsored by the Free Access to Law Movement held in October in Cape Town, South Africa. 

Shadle and Worley attended the conference and presented their work. There was interest from participants in how the digital repository was organized, and the ways that it could promote open and stable government and free access to law.

Graduate students in Virginia Tech's History Department use the table of contents in each Kenya Gazette to supply searchable keywords and phrases for the repository. In partnership with Kenya Law, Shadle hopes to secure funding to hire more students to complete this part of the repository, and possibly expand it to include the official reports of the colonial Legislative Council and post-colonial Kenya Parliament. 

The full record would include over four thousand editions of the Kenya Gazette.

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