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 https://twitter.com/icarchiv

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! 

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.

The Importance of International Archives Day

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Neela Morari

International Archives day falls on June 9th every year and was a result of a resolution of 2000 participants of the 2004 international Congress who requested that the United Nations create an International Archives Day. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness of national archives—the importance of archives to the public, the benefits of records management to the decision makers and the need to preserve the archives for one and all.

This summer, I had the opportunity to participate as a researcher for the IDNA project. My research on the West African country, Guinea, led me to an article describing exactly what the International Archives day was created to accomplish. In Guinea, the 2017 celebrations were attended by several personalities, from political figures to historians. The Director of National Archives stated that “the objective of the day is to make the public aware of the importance of archives as a basis for rights and freedoms” (Nabé, 2017). The message that concluded the ceremony was the wish that the following year a whole week would be dedicated to raising awareness instead of only one day. 

Just a few short weeks into my position as an IDNA project researcher, I much appreciated a different International Archives day celebration that raised my own awareness.  Experienced researchers from past and current semesters delivered a presentation entitled “Lessons learned while gathering data for the International Directory of National Archives.” Social media as resources, understanding cultural privacy versus the right of access to information, and challenges that may be faced when it came to dispersion of archives and resources were some topics that helped me during my research. Google Translate was another useful tool recommended to help in retrieving information from webpages not in English. The presentation also clarified the iterative nature of the whole research process from gathering data from multiple resources, social media and research articles, to narrowing down to the most current and accurate information. 

I have had the opportunity to visit a handful of countries and was always interested in learning about the local history. This interest had led me to applying for the position of a researcher for the IDNA project. My usual go-to for information would be history books at a local store. However, in the future, when an opportunity presents itself, I will definitely perform some online research on national archives of a region prior to my visit. For now, I will make some virtual international visits through the International Council on Archives website which has an “About page” on International Archives Day with links to a list of how various regions of the world have celebrated the day since 2009.

References

About the International Archives Day: https://www.ica.org/en/about-international-archives-day

Lessons learned while gathering data for the International Directory of National Archives.  (2017): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Asq6en8yqIM

Nabé, A. (2017). The national directorate of archives of Guinea celebrates the international day of archives. Guinée Culture: http://www.guineeculture.org/La-Direction-Nationale-des-Archives-de-Guinee-celebre-la-journee-internationale.html