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This study was undertaken to uncover the potential role that Institutional Repositories (IR) can offer to preserve in the long term the special collections (especially cultural heritage materials) so as to reap the advantages that these collections offer in terms of intellectual development in Africa.
The study involved use of scoping review which involves five stages: research question, identifying the relevant study, selecting the study, developing a narrative review (charting data), summarizing (collating) data and an optional consultation step. The study also involved a Focus Group Discussion (FGD) involving participants in the Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programme at the University of Pretoria from various universities in sub-Saharan Africa. The study found that the potential roles of IRs were mainly centered in three levels: at user level, researcher level and the institution level. In the cultural heritage context, the study found that IR offers opportunities to enjoy replicas of artefacts and museum environments from a distance and to avoid the spatial and temporal limitations of an actual visit to a museum. In turn, the increased accessibility of cultural contents would underpin a process of democratization of culture, which openly resonated, with the main proposals of the New Museology thinking of the 1970s and 1980s. Based on this study, it is recommended that the rich culture of Africa stored in the name of special collections should be made known to the world and whoever wishes to know more about the continent and its culture.