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.
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!
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.
When: 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.
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.
David Fricker is an energetic individual, with a great sense of humor, who is very enthusiastic about archives. He is the current President of the ICA, but my colleague, Kate Eminhizer, and I first met him as the Director-General of the National Archives of Australia (NAA) at the FAN Meeting preceding the ALA-ICA 2017 Conference. Director-General David Fricker’s understanding of the fundamentals of data, information, knowledge, records and archiving is breath-taking and his vision of the archival community working together to improve access to records (especially digitally) across boundaries is one of the reasons that he supports FAN. Although Director-General Fricker was very busy (he was also a Key Note Speaker for the Conference) he willingly sat down with us after the Emerging Professionals Luncheon the first day of the ALA-ICA Conference, November 27, 2017.
Director-General Fricker earned his BA in Computing Studies, and began his career in the Australian Customs Services, holding several important positions before leaving to found his own consultancy business. In 2002, he joined the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) as CIO and was appointed to the position of Deputy Director-General in 2007. Given this background in computer science, I was curious how he ended up in archives. He explained that it was a natural outgrowth of working with computers and data. Data leads to information. Information leads to knowledge. Knowledge comes from organizing and analyzing information and data.
The processes of selecting, preserving and making accessible records that are vital to the archival process ensure that accurate and reliable information is preserved – not only for the society, but for the individual. The way archives are viewed needs to change. The immediacy of access to digital records is a game-changer for the archival community. There needs to be a conscious effort to move beyond preservation and limited access to reaching out to the community and becoming advocates on their behalf, thus showing the value of archives.
Director-General Fricker’s strengths in digital records management led to his appointment as Director-General of the NAA in 2012. In 2014, he was elected to the position of President of the ICA. At NAA, Director-General Fricker has worked to further electronic access to records. One of the most recent projects is a database of World War I service records (coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the end of the war). The database is designed to enable the public to upload information about the subjects of the records; and contribute their own material about the men and women that served during the first World War. This type of “crowd sourcing” provides the opportunity for the public to establish a personal relationship with the records, and in so doing keeps the memory of those individuals in the records alive and relevant to contemporary society. David pointed out that no matter which country you are in, the archive will always have something relating to any one individual, even if indirectly; and this differentiates Archives from other memory institutions. The more the public understands the personal connection they have to the records, the higher the demand will be to make those records available.
My final question to Director-General David Fricker was to ask for advice for those beginning their career in archives. He said that their ambition should include the democratization of information. Not only should archival records be authoritative and dependable, but they should also be available to anyone anywhere.
From the International Council on Archives website:
“The ICA believes that effective records and archives management is an essential precondition for good governance, the rule of law, administrative transparency, the preservation of mankind’s collective memory, and access to information by citizens.”
On June 9, 2018, member of the archival community are being encouraged to show that our profession is fun, inclusive, varied and that our expertise is helpful to everyone. iSchool students and alumni can once again take part in this international event! Last year 3 students presented lessons learned from their experiences working on the International Directory of National Archives. This year, we want to highlight your thoughts on the value of national archives. If you’re interested in writing a blog post, participating in a webinar, or have other ideas, contact Dr. Pat Franks at firstname.lastname@example.org We’ll begin planning our event(s) in April.