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From bank to Nairobi landmark, the history of Kenya National Archives

Within its walls, approximately 40,000 volumes of records are carefully stored, serving as a treasure trove of knowledge.

A photo of the Kenya National Archives

Nestled amidst the bustling streets of Nairobi, the Kenya National Archives stands as a silent guardian of the nation's collective memory.

Located at Moi Avenue, next to Ambassadeur Hotel, the building has become a landmark to many of the visiting the city and even the capital's dwellers.

Within its walls lie treasures of Kenya's past, meticulously preserved for future generations to explore and cherish.

From ancient manuscripts to colonial-era photographs, the Archives offer a glimpse into Kenya's rich and diverse history, spanning centuries of triumphs, challenges, and cultural heritage.

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The national archives, however, boasts of a rich history. The building was constructed for the purpose it serves now. In this article, we look at the history of the Kenya National Archives.

One notable feature of the National Archives is the Murumbi Gallery, which is housed within the building.

This unique gallery showcases a remarkable assortment of African artefacts that were collected during the 19th century.

In pre-independence, it was a bank for Indians and still has a bank vault in the basement. The construction of the building began in the 1930s and housed the National Bank of India.

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It was later renamed the National and Grindlays Bank Limited following the merger between the National Bank of India.

After independence, the building was acquired by the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) and became the building that housed the bank.

It was KCB that popularized the area that is still known as ‘Commercial’. From his expansive office in the building that is now occupied by the Archive’s director, John Michuki, who once served as the bank’s chairman, oversaw construction of the new Kencom building across the street.

In 1965, the Kenyan government recognized the importance of documenting and archiving its history for future generations and accessible to the public.

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As a result, the National Archives Act was enacted, paving the way for the establishment of the Kenya National Archives.

Before the establishment of the National Archives, historical preservatives were preserved in the basement of the current Jogoo House Building.

Among the historical things stored in the National Archives include the first design of the Kenyan flag, the first draft of the national anthem, and the current constitution signed by former President Mwai Kibaki.

The Kenya National Archives also stores footage from the colonial time mostly stored on vinyl records and VHS records.

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Inside the building, restoration of historical sculptures and documents damaged by animals or moisture is done.

Temperatures in the building are regulated, and there are bunkers that are fireproof, which hold important historical documents.

Most records kept in the national archives adhere to the 30-year no-access rule and can only be made public after the specified time lapses.

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