The International Council on Archives (ICA) is celebrating International Archives Week June 3-9, 2019. Archival organizations from all over the world will be hosting on-site and online events for everyone to enjoy. Please visit the ICA website International Archives Week 2019 Events page for information about all the events.
The International Directory of National Archives (IDNA) will be hosting a blog event, 6 blogs in 6 days. The blog will be profiling archival news and getting sneak peaks into what archives are working on right now, including those projects with international connections.
Recently I acquired documents and photographs documenting my family’s history. Included in the bins and piles was a passport belonging to the person I believe is my great great grandfather, Johann “John” Verhota. The passport was issued by the Austro-Hungarian Empire circa 1879. My family always identified as being of German ancestry, sometimes narrowing the scope to Bavarian, but as it turns out, we are of Bohemian ancestry. Information gleaned from the passport has Johann’s place of origin as Brulic, in the district of Wittengau, which is modern day Třeboň in the Czech Republic
With this new information and using the International Directory of National Archives as a resource, I started down the rabbit hole to uncover more information about Johann. The directory provided the perfect starting point, the website of the National Archives of the Czech Republic. From there Google Translate allowed me to navigate as best I could through the website, identifying finding aids, digital repositories and other important information about the Archives. When I reached a dead end, I went back to the Directory, where I found the email contact for the Archives. I reached out, asking for any assistance they might be able to give me.
Further I go…
The National Archives was not able to assist me in my search; however they did provide me with the contact information for the Třeboň Regional Archives and that is where I hit what felt like the mother lode. I received an email back from Markéta Hrdličková, the Head of the Fund and Collections Management Department. Included in the email was an offer to make a genealogy for me of my family in Bohemia and she also provided me with the correct family name, Vrchota not Verhota. Perhaps Verhota was one of those Americanized Ellis Island names given or chosen by Johann. Ms. Hrdličková asked for a copy of the passport to review, which I excitedly provided.
Where She Stops…
This rabbit hole would have been much longer and more circuitous if I had not used the International Directory of National Archives. The Directory gave me information in a familiar language and direct points of contact to begin my journey. Hours that would have been spent finding the Archives’ website and trying to decipher its contents and contacts were drastically reduced, making the research process enjoyable and fruitful. As of this writing, I am waiting for a response from Ms. Hrdličková regarding my genealogical inquiry. I will keep you posted on my progress.
Crazy to think, but International Archives Week will be here before we know it, June 3-9, 2019. This year’s theme is Designing the Archives of the 21st Century and creating a human centered-design at a global scale.
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.