Improving African Futures Using Lessons from the Past


Banda Through Time is a digital collection of cultural heritage materials relevant to the Banda Traditional Area of west central Ghana. It includes archival materials from the collections of researchers associated with the long-term Banda Research Project (1982-2014) as well as recent works produced by the collaborative community-based Banda Heritage Initiative. This initiative has been supported through Michigan State University’s Institute on Digital Archaeology Method & Practice (2015-2016), by University of Victoria internal research funding (2016), and through Improving African Futures Using Lessons from the Past (IAfF), a Partnership Development Project (2018-2021) funded by a Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Council (SSHRC).


This exhibit draws dynamically on a permanent repository of digital works curated by the University of Victoria Libraries. Many of these works come from the private and research collections of individual researchers associated with the long-term Banda Research Project (1986-2014), which focused on how West Africa’s historical involvement in global networks affected daily life in rural Banda. Using archaeological, oral historical and documentary sources, the project studied the region’s involvement in Saharan trade networks from the late second millennium CE; its growing involvement in Atlantic networks from the 16th century; and the effects of expanding British colonial rule from the 19th century. Over the project’s duration of several decades, daily life in the area continued to be reshaped through dynamic networks, with the building of a hydroelectric dam ushering in dramatic changes at the start of the 21st century. The assembled works and exhibits introduce site visitors to the Banda area’s dynamic landscapes and lifestyles, its peoples’ rich cultural heritage, and the ways in which knowledge about the past can enrich life today and tomorrow.

Kinds of material:

The collection includes materials from Banda Research Project and other research archives: 20th-century photographs of people, landscapes and objects; photographs of archaeological artifacts and contexts; audio recordings and written versions of oral histories; posters produced for community events and outreach; and cultural heritage videos. Also included are public domain documents relevant to Banda’s history. Working collaboratively with Banda community members and the Banda Heritage Initiative, these archival sources provided prompts for the 21st-century digital cultural heritage works also included in this collection: films and audio recordings of cultural performances and conversations with Banda elders sparked by interactions with archival materials. Thanks to Canadian taxpayer-funded support, the commitment of the University of Victoria Libraries, and an ethos of sharing on the part of individual researchers and Banda community members, these open-access online materials can be respectfully used to enrich intercultural understanding and deepen appreciation for how durable connections have shaped our shared worlds.

The project:

The Banda Through Time digital exhibit and repository of cultural heritage resources has been developed through the Banda Heritage Initiative (BHI). This collaborative venture brings together scholars and Banda-area communities through a formal partnership with the Banda Traditional Council. Our shared work since 2016 has involved community consultation and conversation prompted by the archival photos, audio recordings and texts included in the repository. These interactions have focused particularly on community Elders. Researchers from the University of Victoria, the University of Ghana and from Banda area communities have met with these knowledge holders to reflect on the insights and remembrances prompted by the digital resources. The interviews and performances sparked by the resources have been filmed by members of the BHI Local Committee, which is comprised of community members of diverse ages. BHI research has been guided by ethics protocols approved by the University of Victoria’s Human Research Ethics Board (Protocol Number 18-128).

Banda Through Time resources are intended to educate people in Ghana, Canada and elsewhere about the rich history and cultural heritage of the Banda area. The resources have been developed to support school curriculum that helps young people appreciate the dilemmas and challenges faced by people in the past and their ingenuity in addressing those challenges. The curriculum encourages youth to “look to the past” for inspiration in approaching situations today, not with the goal of “returning to the past,” but instead to appreciate that knowledge about how people lived in the past can help us to expand our possibilities for dealing with present-day situations. The exhibit’s curricular theme—“Our grandmothers and grandfathers were knowledgeable people”—was developed collaboratively through consultations with curriculum specialists in Ghana, Banda area teachers and students and Banda community members.

Project team:

  • Banda Heritage Initiative Committee: Chair, Enoch Mensah. Members: Sampson Attah, James Anane, Afua Grace, Irene Mensah, Patrick Mensah, Jerry Manu, Osei Kofi. Banda, Ghana.
  • Faculty Specialists
  • Ann B. Stahl, Banda Research Project & IAfF Principal Investigator and Project Manager, Professor of Anthropology, University of Victoria, BC, Canada
  • Lisa Goddard, Associate University Librarian, Digital Scholarship & Strategy, University of Victoria, BC, Canada.
  • Dr. John K. Boateng, Associate Professor, School of Continuing Education, University of Ghana, Legon.
  • Graduate Student Assistants and Researchers:
  • University of Victoria: Veronique Plante (Anthropology, MA, 2015-2016); Naomi Shields (MA, 2020-21), Allison Balabuch (Education/Curriculum PhD, 2021-22).
  • University of Ghana, School of Education: Esther Attiogbe (PhD, 2019-2020), Emmanuella Allor-Anan (M.Ed., 2019-2020).
  • University of Ghana Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies: Esi Koah Arkoh (MPhil, 2019), Kelvin Asare (MPhil 2019-2020), Rexford Kedze (MPhil 2019), Elikpim Kuto (MPhil, 2019).
  • Undergraduate Student Assistants and Researchers:
  • University of Victoria: Elisa O'Malley (2019), Holly Marsh (2019-2020).
  • Computer Resource Staff, University of Victoria Libraries: Braydon Justice and Tiffany Chan.

Banda Through Time is a dynamic resource that will grow over time as we digitize additional material from shared collections and Banda community members continue to develop new digital heritage resources through interactions with the archives.


The Banda Research Project (1986-2014) generated many of this site’s materials. The project was generously funded over the years by several agencies: the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (1989; Gr 5133); the National Geographic Society (1990; grant 4313-90); and the US National Science Foundation (1994-97, SBR-9410726; 2000-03, SBR-9911690; 2008-2011, BCS-0751350 ). Ann Stahl's doctoral dissertation research (1982) was funded by a Social Science Research Council International Doctoral Fellowship, a University of California Regents Traveling Fellowship, and a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement grant (BNS-8213368).

All archaeological research was conducted under license by the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board and all archaeological objects presented on this site are the property of the Ghana National Museum whose assistance and cooperation over the years of the Banda Research Project is gratefully acknowledged. The project benefited immensely from fruitful collaboration with the Banda Traditional Council and countless community members who participated in project activities over the years. Numerous students from North American universities and the University of Ghana also contributed substantively to the project over the years.

Funding for the Banda Heritage Initiative and the development of the Banda Through Time exhibit came through several sources. The US National Endowment for the Humanities sponsored the Michigan State University Institute on Digital Archaeology Method and Practice (2015-2016) through which a pilot version of "Banda Thru Time" was developed. An internal research grant from the University of Victoria supported Banda community consultations in 2016. Major project funding has come from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Partnership Development Grant entitled "Improving African Futures Using Lessons from the Past" (Grant 890-2017-0003). All of these sources are gratefully acknowledged, while none are responsible for the specific content of the exhibit.

Special thanks to colleagues and former Banda Research Project collaborators who authored works included in this collection: Andrew Black; Dr. René Bravmann; Alex Caton; Dr. (Maria) Dores Cruz; Dr. Amanda L. Logan; Leith Smith; Devin Tepleski; Dr. Brian Thomas.

Use and reproduction of digital materials:

The digital exhibit and digital heritage resources on this site are made available through a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) license. This means that you are free to share and build upon the material so long as you give appropriate credit and indicate if changes were made, and you do not use the material for commercial purposes. The Banda Heritage Initiative encourages the respectful non-commercial use of these digital heritage resources with appropriate citation.

Citation of digital materials:

UVic Libraries requests that materials reproduced from their digital collections are properly cited, regardless of use. Citation should include: title of the item; name of the Collection it belongs to, in this case, “University of Victoria Special Collections and University Archives; Banda Through Time”; creator of the resource; url for the page the item was found; date the item was viewed. For multipage items, include the name of the whole resource, along with the page number, if available. See the beige box beneath each digital resource for details.

Example: To cite this poster resource: Learning from the past. Poster, 2014. University of Victoria Special Collections and University Archives, “Banda Through Time,” created by Dr. Amanda L. Logan;; accessed 1 May, 2020.