UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme promotes the preservation and access to humanity’s documentary heritage.
The main objective of the Programme is to ensure the preservation, by the most appropriate means, of documentary heritage which has world significance and to encourage the preservation of documentary heritage which has national and regional significance.
Another element of the Programme is to raise awareness in the Member States of their documentary heritage, in particular aspects of that heritage which are significant in terms of a common world memory.
The Programme seeks to develop products based on this documentary heritage and make them available for wide distribution, while ensuring that the originals are maintained in the best possible conditions of conservation and security.
The Memory of the World is the collective, documented memory of the peoples of the world their documentary heritage which in turn represents a large proportion of the world’s cultural heritage. It charts the evolution of thought, discovery and achievement of human society. It is the legacy of the past to the world community of the present and the future.
The Memory of the World resides mainly in libraries, archives, museums and keeping places across the globe and much of it is now at risk. The documentary heritage of many peoples has become dispersed because of accidental or deliberate displacement of holdings and collections, “spoils of war” or other historical circumstance. Sometimes, practical or political barriers hinder access, while in other cases deterioration or destruction are the threats. Calls for repatriation of heritage deserve sensitivity to circumstances as well as justice.
The dangers are manifold. Mostly composed of natural, synthetic or organic materials which are subject to chemical instability and breakdown, documentary heritage is continually at risk from natural calamities, such as flood and fire; man-made disasters such as looting, accident or war; and gradual deterioration, which may be the result of human ignorance or neglect in providing basic care, housing and protection. For audiovisual and electronic materials, loss also results from man-made technical obsolescence. This is frequently driven by commercial imperatives without any compensating development of more stable materials or technologies for preservation purposes.
Increasing awareness of these risks has generated a sense of urgency. Too much documentary heritage is already lost forever. For much of the remainder, preservation action will come at the last moment, if it comes at all. The skills and facilities needed to achieve this are unevenly distributed around the globe.
The Memory of the World Programme recognises documentary heritage of international, regional and national significance, maintains registers of it, and awards a logo to identify it. It facilitates preservation and access without discrimination. In addition, it campaigns to raise awareness of the documentary heritage, to alert governments, the general public, business and commerce to preservation needs, and to raise funds.
A truly international undertaking with a central secretariat, international, regional and national committees, and with partners in government, professional and commercial sectors, the Memory of the World Programme maintains a global perspective embracing all countries and peoples, whose collective efforts will be needed to ensure that the Memory is retained undistorted and undiminished.
Objectives of Memory of the World
The Memory of the World Programme has three main objectives:
a) To facilitate preservation, by the most appropriate techniques, of the world’s documentary heritage, which may be done by direct practical assistance, by the dissemination of advice and information and the encouragement of training, or by linking sponsors with timely and appropriate projects.
b) To assist universal access to documentary heritage, by means of activities that encourage the production of numbered copies and catalogues available on the Internet, as well as the publication and distribution of books, CDs, DVDs and other products, as widely and equitably as possible. Where access has implications for custodians, these are respected. Legislative and other limitations on the accessibility of archives are recognised. Cultural sensitivities, including indigenous communities’ custodianship of their materials, and their guardianship of access, will be honoured. Private property rights are guaranteed in law.
c) To increase awareness worldwide of the existence and significance of documentary heritage; this will include, but is not limited to, developing the Memory of the World registers, the media, and promotional and informational publications. Preservation and access, of themselves, not only complement each other, but also raise awareness, as access demand stimulates preservation work. The making of access copies, to relieve pressure on the use of preservation materials, is encouraged.
Chairman del Programa Memoria del Mundo
Abdulla M. El Reyes, Ph.D.
Chairman, UNESCO Memory of the World Program
Spécialiste du programme
Secteur de la communication et de l’information (CI)
Tel: 33-1 45 68 44 97
Fax: 33-1 45 68 55 83
Spécialiste adjoint du programme Secteur de la communication et de l’information (CI)
Tel: 33-1 45 68 38 13
Fax: 33-1 45 68 55 83