Each year UNESCO dedicates an entire year to an initiative of special significance. For example in 2017 the initiative for the year was International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies. This year UNESCO has chosen to spotlight indigenous languages and bring awareness to the dwindling numbers of speakers of the thousands of indigenous languages spoken all over the world.
When we hear the word endangered, it conjures images of animals or plants that are on the brink of extinction, we don’t think about languages. However, UNESCO reports that, of the 7 thousand languages spoken in the world, 2,680 are indigenous languages in danger of becoming extinct. According to Jason Oxenham “A dead language is a language that no longer has any native speakers, although it may still be studied by a few or used in certain contexts” (Oxenham 2016). This leads to a disappearance of indigenous cultures.
Nations like Australia, Ecuador, Estonia, France, Gambia, Saudi Arabia, and Bolivia are lending their support for this initiative, along with other professional organizations in the areas of linguistics and language education.
This year long initiative officially began on January 28, 2019, with a ceremony held at UNESCO’s world headquarters in Paris, France. Leaders and indigenous peoples gathered from all over the world to discuss the challenges to the continuation of these native languages.
In addition, I encourage you to research indigenous languages in your area. UNESCO has created a wonderful tool, the Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger http://www.unesco.org/languages-atlas/. When searching the region where I live, I discovered that one of our Native American languages, Paiute, is in danger of becoming extinct. According to UNESCO, there are only 400 speakers of the Northern Paiute language left in the world.
The USC Shoah Foundation’s Information Technology and Services is showing two of our researchers, Inna Gogina and Svetlana Ushakova, some love. Inna and Svetlana were two key contributors to the IDNA project. The Shoah Foundation, where the two work, recognized their efforts in a recent blog post.
Inna and Svetlana researched and authored 16 archive profiles for the IDNA project. Their research concentrated on Eastern European and Middle Eastern countries.
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
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).
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).
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.
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).
Members of singing and dancing groups (figures 7 and 8) provided a glimpse into Cameroon’s cultural heritage.
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.
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!
Recently, the UNSECO Archives celebrated World Day for Audiovisual Heritage. This particular Audiovisual Heritage Day was marked with the launch of a two-year project, in cooperation with the Japanese government and Picturae BV, to digitize audiovisual materials within the UNSECO Archives’ collection that had begun to show their age. Through this initiative, people will be able to access these resources online. The hope is that, “The collections also document more than UNESCO itself. UNESCO’s records provide evidence of a history of international cooperation; of individual countries and newly independent states participating in and developing activities relating to education, communication, culture and sciences. With the ability to readily search and discover records within digital catalogues, users will be able to increase and extend the use of UNESCO’s invaluable documentary heritage” (UNSECO November, 2018).
Currently accessible online are 45 hours of 16mm film from the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s; 30 hours of video from the 1980’s; and 8,000 hours of audio recordings from the 1940’s to 1980’s. These digitized collections join 560,000 governmental body records and 5,000 photographic images documenting UNSECO’s efforts starting in the 1940’s.
This November, Dr. Franks will be traveling to Yaounde, Cameroon, to speak at the 2018 International Council on Archives Conference. This year’s theme is Archives: Governance, Memory and Heritage. This will be the first ICA Conference to be held in an Africa country. As such, during this conference, the challenges that face African nations in regards to the preservation of the national heritage will be front and center.
Dr. Franks will be discussing a Snapshot in Time: The National Archives of 54 African Nations:
Not all 54 African nations have official national archives, although all have officials and citizens who understand the value of their cultural heritage and are dedicated to the pursuit of gathering, preserving, and providing access to archival materials that can be used to tell the story of their countries. This presentation will provide a glimpse into the status of national archives in the 54 countries based on data gathered between September 2016 and December 2017.
Organizers hope that this conference will bring together archivists and information professionals from all 54 countries on the African continent. ICA believes this will provide the best environment for nations to discuss their archival objectives as a means of furthering Africa’s development.
To learn more about the conference, click on the link provided.
Over the last week key players in archival preservation have come together in Philipsburg on the island of Sint Maarten, at the Disaster Recovery and Heritage Preservation Conference sponsored by the Caribbean Branch of the International Council on Archives (CARBICA). This conference is the first time regional policy makers, cultural heritage stewards and first responders have come together since September 2017, when hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the Caribbean region.
The theme of this four-day conference is “Archives at Risk.” On the final day of the conference a memorandum of agreement will be signed to create the Caribbean Heritage Protection Network and subsequent working groups within the Network. This working will attempt to address ICA’s goals in the region “for the protection and enhancement of the memory of the world and to improve communication while respecting cultural diversity” (The Daily Herald).
What Lead to This Conference
On August 30, 2017, Hurricane Irma began off the coast of Africa. By September 5, it had reached the Caribbean region and had escalated to a Category 5 hurricane, then headed to the U.S. mainland. Irma finally dissipated on September 13 over western Tennessee.
Then on September 18, less than a week after Irma finally dissipated, Hurricane Maria hit the Caribbean region. While in the region Maria fluctuated between a Category 3 and Category 5 hurricane.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria brought into sharp focus and renewed the drive of the international archival community to address the need for improved response whenever a natural or manmade event threatens culturally significant holdings.
Stories from the Aftermath
Very few Caribbean island archives went undamaged in the wake of Irma and Maria. Damage ranged from blown out windows, water damage and mold to the almost complete destruction of the building where archives were being housed. Archivists and other staff took steps to secure archival materials, from moving cabinets away from walls and windows to securing artifacts in governmental server rooms (these rooms tend to not have windows and have more robust environmental control systems).
The one story that stood out to me was a story from the Island of Sint Maarten. The caretaker for the island’s archives, Alfonso Blijden, removed the entire of contents of the Archives to his home. The Archives were housed in the Old Government Building, which was already run down and in need of repair. During Hurricane Irma, the section of the Old Government Building belonging to the Archives was destroyed.
As the one year anniversary of Hurricane Irma and Maria looms, the region continues to recover. This conference signifies a shift from a concentration on recovery to looking to the future to prevent this from happening again. I look forward to seeing the results of the collaboration between CARBICA, Caribbean Heritage Protection Network, and regional archivists. The lessons learned and procedures put into place in the Caribbean could be a driving force for improved archival emergency response in the region and the world.
Caribbean Regional Branch of the International Council on Archives (2018). Disaster recovery & heritage preservation: A working conference to be held at St. Maarten 30th July – 3rd August 2018. (Retrieved from: http://www.carbica.org/News/Events/Disaster-Recovery/.
Martens-Monier, Valérie (2018). Mission British Virgin Islands – Damage assessment cultural heritage on paper after hurricane Irma and Maria.
Martens-Monier, Valérie (2018). Mission Dominica – Damage assessment cultural heritage on paper after hurricane Maria
Martens-Monier, Valérie (2018). Mission St Maarten – Damage assessment cultural heritage on paper
While recently traveling in Tokyo, I had the opportunity to visit the National Archives of Japan. Having assisted with the International Directory of National Archives (IDNA) project last year, it was exciting to have a chance to visit one of the institutions that our team had been researching. While at the archive, I was able to see two exhibitions that were on view, each covering transitional periods in the government, society, and culture of Japan entitled Edo shogunate, the final fight – “Bunmuta” reform at the end of the Edo period and Japan’s Modern History.
Edo shogunate, the final fight – “Bunmuta” reform at the end of the Edo period
The first exhibition looked back 150 years to the Emperor Meiji’s consolidation of power through the imperial force’s removal of the shogunate. This was presented in four sections as a progression of the imperial forces northward through Honshu, the largest island of the Japanese archipelago. Though the accompanying didactic panels were entirely in Japanese, with the use of Google Translate it was incredibly fascinating to gain even a superficial understanding of this pivotal moment in Japanese history. The materials presented included official documents, letters, diary entries, architectural drawings, prints, and photographs. Though only 150 years ago, this shift radically altered Japanese society and would be a large stepping stone towards the rapidly approaching changes of Japan’s modernization.
close up of a journal with edge printing
Byakkotai (“The White Tiger Force”), 1889, lithograph. This depicts a famous moment during the Battle of Tonoguchihara when 20 teenage samurai of the White Tiger Force’s shichū squad were cut off from the rest of their squad. From their hilltop view they mistakenly believed that the castle had fallen and committed seppuku, only one of the Byakkotai survived. This lithograph was completed 20 years after the event to commemorate them
Japan’s Modern History
The second exhibition focused on major events from the Meiji period (1868-1912) onward. The exhibition materials on display were selected to bring historical events to life for modern viewers and to show the importance of preserving historical records for future generations. Didactic panels in this exhibition were presented in both Japanese and English, and provided insight into the historical significance of the articles on display. Some of the artifacts in this exhibition included the Petition for an Elected Assembly of 1874, diagrams and drawings related to the installation of arc lights (an early form of electric street lamp) in Tokyo in 1882, the Sino – Japanese Peace Treaty (Treaty of Shimonoseki) of 1895, the granting of women’s suffrage in 1945, the Treaty of Peace with Japan (the San Francisco Peace Treaty) of 1952, and the Okinawa Reversion Agreement of 1972. One of the most interesting displays was the side by side juxtaposition of the Constitution of the Empire of Japan (February 11, 1889) with the Constitution of Japan (November 3, 1946). One of these documents establishes a form of constitutional monarchy for the Empire of Japan while the other establishes a parliamentary system that changed the role of emperor to a ceremonial position, all in the span of less than 60 years.
Constitution of the Empire of Japan, February 11, 1889
Constitution of Japan, November 3, 1946
It was quite exciting to have the opportunity to visit the National Archive of Japan and see in person one of the institutions that will be a part of the upcoming International Directory of National Archives book. Having the chance to learn about some of the historical artifacts of Japan held within the archive really enhanced my experiences as I was traveling. Seeing and learning about the documents presented in both exhibitions provided additional context and put into perspective the historical significance of locations visited in both Tokyo and Osaka. As a visitor it was also fascinating to see efforts that were made to accommodate and be inclusive to non-Japanese speaking visitors to the archives. While the archives seemed a little off the beaten path for most tourists visiting Tokyo, that added bit of accessibility combined with the kindness and approachability of the staff made for a really enjoyable and educational experience. Overall, the National Archives of Japan felt like a wonderful example of how national archives work to bring the historical and cultural history of a nation to life for its people.