ICA YAOUNDÉ 2018: A celebration of governance, memory and heritage

By Dr. Patricia C. Franks, Professor & MARA Coordinator, iSchool, SJSU

The ICA Yaounde Conference held in Cameroon in November 2018 was a tremendous success for participants, presenters, and the archival community at large.  Here are some reasons why:

Cameroon enjoys high-level support for their National Archives and for the ICA Conference

Press conference with the Prime Minister, Director of ICA, Minister of Arts and Culture, and Director of the National Archives
Figure 1: In attendance, along with David Fricker, President of ICA(#1), were Dr Esther Olembe, Director of theNational Archives of Cameroon (#2); Narcisse Mouelle Kombi, Minister of Artsand Culture of Cameroon (#3); and Philemon Yang, Prime Minister of Cameroon(#4).

The official opening of ICA Yaoundé 2018 was conducted by, Philémon Yunji Yang, the Prime Minister, Head of the Government of Cameroon (see Figure 2).

Prime Minister welcoming conference attendees.
Figure 2: Philémon Yunji Yang, Prime Minister, Head of the Government of Cameroon. Hear his message on Twitter 

Greetings were also extended by the Minister of Arts and Culture and Chairman of the Board of the National Archives of Cameroon, Professor Narcisee Mouellé Kombi. From him we learned the government has implemented an ambitious plan to save the national archives of Cameroon currently lodged at the National Museum in Yaoundé and also in Buea (see figure 3).

The plan consists of rehabilitating buildings, improving security, and digitizing all archives. To this effort, the government has made available three billion Central African Francs (CFAs).

Education and Training at the Forefront

Educational sessions were held throughout the conference.  On Monday, November 26, I had the opportunity to share some of the information gathered when developing the International Directory of National Archives.  The presentation titled A Snapshot in Time: The Archives of 54 African Nations covered archival mission and vision, legal foundations, examples of treasured artifacts, physical access, digital infrastructure, events impacting holdings, and outreach through websites and social media (figure 4).  

First slide of Franks' presentation.
Figure 4: Opening slide for presentation, “A Snapshot in Time.”

A pdf of the slides can be downloaded here.  If anyone would like the actual slide deck,they should contact me via email.

One of the tweets shared during this session (figure 5) emphasized the need for assistance from ICA for the National Archives of Cameroon and other African National Archives to gather, preserve and make available their current and historical records.

Figure 5: Captured Tweet during the November 26 presentation.  See this Tweet and more at https://twitter.com/icarchiv

In keeping with the goal of preserving not only physical but also digital records, Digital Records Training was provided for African Archivists for two days immediately following the educational sessions.

Opportunities to Learn and Network

During the conference, archives staff displayed and described some of their most precious holdings (figure 6).

Display of archival materials.
Figure 6: National Archives staff members display archival materials.

Members of singing and dancing groups (figures 7 and 8) provided a glimpse into Cameroon’s cultural heritage.

Figure 7: Cameroon singing group performed during the conference. 
Figure 8: Cameroon dancing group performed outside the Palais Des Congres, conference site.

As usual, conferences provide the opportunity to meet with colleagues we haven’t seen in a while. It was an unexpected pleasure to catch up with Jian (Jenny) Wang of Renmin University (figure 7). Jenny enlisted a student, Wenran Fan, in the School of Information Resource Management to collaborate on the IDNA entry for the State Archives Administration of the People’s Republic of China.

Pat Franks & Jenny Wang.
Figure 9: Pat and Jenny Wang, Renmin University, Beijing, China.

Parting Thoughts

Although this was my first visit to Africa and my first ICA conference, it definitely won’t be the last! Congratulations to ICA and the host city and country of Yaoundé, Cameroon, for providing an educational, enlightening, and thoroughly engaging conference. Well done everyone! 

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