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Archives/ICA In the News – Disaster Recovery and Heritage Preservation Conference

Heather Kohles
Author Heather Kohles

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.

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CARBICA Logo (Courtesy of carbica.org)

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.

 

 

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Doppler Imaging of Hurricane Irma on September 8, 2017 (Courtesy of nationwideradiojm.com)

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.

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Doppler Imaging of Hurricane Maria (Courtesy of weather.com)

 

 

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.

Now What?

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.

References

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

The Daily Herald (July 30, 2018). Four-day conference on disaster recovery, heritage preservation.  Retrieved from: https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/79062-four-day-conference-on-disaster-recovery-heritage-preservation.

World Vision (2018). 2017 Hurricane Irma: Facts, FAQs, and how to help. Retrieved from: https://www.worldvision.org/disaster-relief-news-stories/hurricane-irma-facts.

World Vision (2018). 2017 Hurricane Maria: Facts, FAQs, and how to help.  Retrieved from: https://www.worldvision.org/disaster-relief-news-stories/hurricane-maria-facts.

The National Archives of Japan

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Author ~ Nicolette Hall
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The National Archives of Japan, Tokyo, Japan.

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
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Letters and other documents on display as part of the exhibit Edo shogunate, the final fight – “Bunmuta” reform at the end of the Edo period, National Archives of Japan

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.  

Japan’s Modern History
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Election Act amendment granting women’s suffrage, 1945. This amendment also lowered the voting age and the age for election to the House of Representatives.  In the 1946 election, 39 female Diet members were elected

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.

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.

Digital archiving: Disrupt or be Disrupted

This article by John Sheridan, Digital Director of The National Archives (TNA) of the UK, provides three reasons why established archives (and therefore archivists) are in the best position to develop new capabilities to preserve digital records:

  • Trust: National Archives are already trusted based on their proven commitment to preserving records that document the nation’s history and making them accessible to the public.
  • Longevity: National Archives are long-established institutions with a proven track record that ensure the likelihood for the continued maintenance, preservation, and accessibility of archival holdings is very high.
  • Capacity for Change: As Sheridan states, “change is nothing new for archives.” The core purpose and commitment to preserving the public record requires continual change in order to respond to emerging technology and societal expectations.

Read this article in its entirety in the July 2018 Information and Records Management Bulletin (issue 204), published by the Information and Records Management Society.

National Treasures: Preserving and Providing Access to Cultural Heritage

National archives are often at the forefront in preserving the cultural heritage of the Slide10world, one nation at a time. However, not all archives are on equal footing. Archives’ abilities to govern, preserve, and provide access to invaluable records is impacted by, among other factors, colonialism and post-colonialism, access to technology, and natural and man-made disasters.

Slide02On June 9, 2018, International Archives Day, responding to questions from moderator Alyse Dunavant-Jones, researchers of the International Directory of National Archives (IDNA)— Traci Mitchell, Angie Conrow, and Faezeh Jahan Shiri—shared insights they discovered from their investigation of national archives around the world and the national treasures the archives govern, preserve, and share.

The three main questions asked and answered by each panelist based on the countries they studied are: How does the National Archives govern? How does the National Slide04Archives preserve memory and cultural heritage? How does the National Archives provide access? Among the National Archives discussed are those of the following countries: Afghanistan, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Denmark, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Republic of Morocco, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Additional topics explored by the panelists centered on colonialism, disasters, and technology.

 

Celebrate International Archives Day June 9, 2018 with us!

banner_smallWhen: June 9, 2018 | 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. pacific.
Where: Zoom at: https://sjsu.zoom.us/j/875876132
What: Panel presentation on National Treasurers: Preserving and Providing Access to Cultural Heritage
Who: Alyse Dunavant-Jones, Taci Mitchell, Angie Conrow, and Faezeh Jahan Shiri

Abstract: National archives are often at the forefront in preserving the cultural heritage of the world, one nation at a time. However, not all archives are on equal footing. Archives’ abilities to govern, preserve, and provide access to invaluable records is impacted by colonialism and post-colonialism, access to technology, and natural and man-made disasters. In this panel discussion, join researchers of the International Directory of National Archives (IDNA) as they share insights from their research of national archives around the world and the national treasures the archives govern, preserve, and share.

Join moderator Alyse Dunavant-Jones and panelists Traci Mitchell, Angie Conrow, and Faezeh Jahan Shiri for a discussion on National Treasurers: Preserving and Providing Access to Cultural Heritage based on their research for the International Directory of National Archives. More information and a link to the live presentation can be found here.

Interview with Majid Sultan Al Mehairi, Executive Director of the National Archives of the United Arab Emirates

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National Archives of the UAE

Interview Conducted by Kate Eminhizer

 

 

While attending the ALA-ICA conference in Mexico City in November 2017, I had the privilege of speaking with Majid Sultan Al Mehairi, the Executive Director of the National Archives of the United Arab Emirates. His areas of expertise include information technology, digital preservation, government records and leadership.

When did you assume your duties? What prompted you to accept the challenge?

I became the Executive Director in May 2008. I was previously the Director of the Department of Support Services and Head of the Information Technology Section at the National Archive. Accepting the position provided me with the opportunity to continue advancing the country’s electronic management system and to focus on project management.

What is the mission of your national archives? How do you explain/present this to your funding authorities?

The National Archives concentrates on collecting government records and those records that have national value. This is mandated by the government, so they ensure that there is appropriate funding available to be successful in that mission.

If you could tell me one thing special about your archives, what would it be?

A. The National Archives works very hard in making sure that records are accessible to the public. The more people who access the Archives’ records, the more connected they will be to the nation’s cultural heritage. There are many apps that the public can download to their mobile phones so that they may learn and interact with the nation’s history quickly and accurately.

What international partnerships or collaborations do you have or are you working for (aside from ICA)?

The Archives is very supportive of the vision of UNESCO PERSIST. UNESCO PERSIST is an international effort to advocate for the long-term preservation of digital documentary heritage. In late 2018, the Archives plans on being able to make available online the product of a collaboration with the National Archives of the United Kingdom. The Arabian Gulf Digital Archives will exhibit over 500,000 reports, letters, maps, and ships’ logs that pertain to the history of the region.

How much has the work of the national archives changed in light of digital technology? How has this impacted the way records are accessed by the public?

In 2017 the United Arab Emirates launched the UAE Artificial Intelligence Strategy. The purpose is to introduce the latest technology into all aspects of government to improve performance and efficiency. The date by which the country is striving to be fully digital is 2031, but the hope is to complete the transition for government records by 2020. Having born digital records would mean there would be less of a delay in providing access to those records to the public.

What is your vision for the future of the national archives?

The National Archives has a vision of preserving those records that best exemplify the nation’s history and cultural heritage. As more and more records are created in a digital format, appropriate metadata must be applied from the date of creation. Also, long-term digital preservation options must be a priority.

What advice do you have for those beginning their careers in archives?

It is best for everyone to embrace technology. The advances in technology are going to provide multiple options for the long-term preservation of our cultural heritage.

Interview with Jeff James of the National Archives of the United Kingdom

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Jeff James CEO and Keeper of the National Archives of the United Kingdom

Interview Conducted by Kate Eminhizer

My formal interview with Jeff James occurred on November 28th, 2017. He and I had already met throughout the course of the conference; therefore, we had already established a bit of a rapport by the time the interview took place.

When did you assume your duties? What prompted you to accept the challenge?

I became the Chief Executive Officer and Keeper of the National Archives of the United Kingdom in July 2014. I wanted to further expand my leadership and managerial skills.

What is the mission of your national archives? How do you explain/present this to your funding authorities?

The National Archives is the custodian of the public record and the government’s trusted expert in managing, preserving and using information. We also manage the Crown Copyright and provide publishing guidance for all government publications. All funding comes directly from the treasury as directed by Parliament.

If you could tell me one thing special about your archives, what would it be?

The most important thing about our archives is the connection people can have with the records. While we are the keepers of some of the country’s oldest documents, such as the Doomsday Book, it is the relevance our contents have with the public that makes us special.

What international partnerships or collaborations do you have or are you working for (aside from ICA)?

Part of the National Archives’ strategic ambition is to increase our collaborations worldwide so that we may drive the development of archives around the world. We continually look for ways to expand and enhance our reputation in research and collections management. The National Archives has contributed records access to the International Research Portal for Records Related to Nazi-Era Cultural Property, and we have encouraged increased international participation in our digital preservation program PRONOM.

How much has the work of the national archives changed in light of digital technology? How has this impacted the way records are accessed by the public?

There has been a ten-year decline in usage at the archive itself but our online access has increased by 400%. Digital technology will allow us to continue to increase the accessibility of our records to the public. There is also a large demand to digitize records. The increase in digital records will also force funding to be diverted to digital preservation.

What is your vision for the future of the national archives?

I see the future turning archives into a more digital environment. I also see the opportunity to increase educational programming at the archive.

What advice do you have for those beginning their careers in archives?

The biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone is to ask questions. Do not simply accept the status quo; challenge it to make it better.