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

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! 

UNESCO Archives Celebrate World Day for Audiovisual Heritage

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.

World Day of Audiovisual Heritage is just one of many UNESCO celebration days and preservation-related initiatives.  For more information on other UNESCO Heritage celebrations, visit, and for more information about the World Day of Audiovisual Heritage project, visit

Source: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (2018) Digitizing our shared UNESCO history: Collections. Retrieved from:

ICA Yaounde 2018 “Archives : Governance, Memory and Heritage”

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.

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.

CARBICA Logo (Courtesy of

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.



Doppler Imaging of Hurricane Irma on September 8, 2017 (Courtesy of

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.

Doppler Imaging of Hurricane Maria (Courtesy of



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.


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:

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:

World Vision (2018). 2017 Hurricane Irma: Facts, FAQs, and how to help. Retrieved from:

World Vision (2018). 2017 Hurricane Maria: Facts, FAQs, and how to help.  Retrieved from:

The National Archives of Japan

Author ~ Nicolette Hall

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

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

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.