Preservation in a Time of War

We are still fascinated by the extraordinary stories of courage, cunning and perseverance during World War II. The work of the so called Monuments Men are no exception.  The Monuments Men were created in 1943. The unit was tasked with protecting historical buildings and works of art in the European arena of the war.

Monuments Men

Earlier this year, the post war diaries of one of the Monument Men, S. Lane Faison Jr., was donated to the National Archives and Records Administration of the Unite States.  Faison was a noted art historian. He was responsible for identifying and reporting on the art collections stolen by Adolph Hitler. However, the diaries donated to NARA are from a the time in his life after the war, working on the Munich Central Collecting Point, overseeing the return of stolen art and items of cultural significance to their country of origin.  He also played a part in the Nuremburg trials, investigating Nazi documentation to determine what happened to prominent pieces of art work and interrogating Nazi official to determine the location of the stolen art.

Fiason’s diaries will now be a part of the NARA’s Monuments Men collection, all of the official documents and reports generated by the unit for the United State government, as well as German documentation.  

For more information on Fiason’s diaries, the Monuments Men or the NARA collection please go to:  

https://www.timesofisrael.com/diary-of-wwiis-monuments-man-given-to-national-archives/

https://www.monumentsmenfoundation.org/

https://www.archives.gov/press/press-releases/2019/nr19-48


 

Remembering the War to End All Wars

Over the past year, the Nevada State Archives has been celebrating and remembering the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War I.  The collection exhibit includes war time pamphlets, political commentary and soldier’s service records.

Gambling with Gifts

In addition to the World War I exhibit, the State Archives has been given gifts presented to the Gaming Control Board, among other agencies, from their international partners.  The Gaming Control Board oversees and regulates gambling in the state of Nevada, but their influence reaches all over the world in the gambling industry. The gifts have come from all over the globe, from beautiful sculptures from China and Malaysia to a commendation from the country of Tonga.  

If you find yourself in the Carson City, Nevada area, please come by and enjoy their exhibits.   

 

2019 The International Year of Indigenous Languages

Images Courtesy of UNESCO

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.

To find out more about the Year of Indigenous Languages please visit https://en.iyil2019.org/

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.

References:

Oxenham, J. (2016, April 28) Why you should learn a dead language.  Retrieved from: https://www.rocketlanguages.com/blog/why-you-should-learn-a-dead-language/

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

IMG_7074
Author ~ Nicolette Hall

fig1
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

fig2
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

fig5
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.