Kim Eberhard And Colleen McEwen 2014-02-11 11:14:25
Archives record decisions, actions, and memories. Archives are a unique and irreplaceable heritage passed from one generation to another. Archives are managed from creation to preserve their value and meaning. They are authoritative sources of information underpinning accountable and transparent administrative actions. They play an essential role in the development of societies by safeguarding and contributing to individual and community memory. Open access to archives enriches our knowledge of human society, promotes democracy, protects citizens’ rights, and enhances quality of life. The concepts expressed in this tightly worded preamble to the Universal Declaration on Archives (UDA) were officially recognized by UNESCO. For the first time, a statement specifically about the importance of archives and the role of archivists in caring for them has been included among UNESCO’s standard-setting instruments as part of its role as a global guardian of culture and heritage. Inspired by the Déclaration Québécoise Sur Les Archives, the Universal Declaration on Archives was developed by a multilingual and multicultural working group of the International Council on Archives (ICA) between 2007 and 2010, when it was unanimously adopted by the ICA Annual General Meeting. In a momentous event for the archives profession, the UDA was officially adopted by the 36th Session of the General Conference of UNESCO on November 10, 2011. The UNESCO vote was the culmination of intense efforts led by Papa Momar Diop, the UNESCO Ambassador of Senegal and former national archivist of Senegal, supported by Jens Boel, the head archivist at UNESCO. In adopting the UDA, UNESCO cited it among other powerful statements concerning knowledge and information, including UNESCO’s own constitution, which stresses the desire of member states to help “maintain, increase, and diffuse knowledge” as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides that “everyone has the right to seek, receive, and impart information And ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.” Together with the principles expressed in the Charter on the Preservation of Digital Heritage and the Memory of the World Programme, the UDA strives to ensure the preservation and universal accessibility of the world’s documentary heritage. UNESCO’s endorsement enhances the UDA’s purpose as a powerful advocacy and promotional tool informing the world about the importance of archives. To date, the UDA has been officially translated into twenty-five languages, and there are plans to produce more as volunteers offer their services. These translations are available on the ICA website at http://www.ica.org/13343/universaldeclaration- on-archives/universal-declarationon- archives.html. Register Online to Show Your Support Since July 2012, it’s been possible to show personal or institutional support for the UDA and what it represents by signing the virtual register of support. This is available at https://icarchives.wufoo.com/ forms/register-your-support-for-the-uda/. To date, the UDA has gathered support from individuals and organizations in the United States, Italy, Canada, France, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, Australia, China, Austria, and 152 other nations. ICA has set a goal of reaching one million signatures by 2016 to indicate global Awareness of the UDA. Archivists and allied professionals are encouraged to spread the word about the UDA among their local professional community and beyond, ideally to reach those with a vague understanding about what archives are and what archivists do. Promoting the UDA Plans to promote the UDA have been developed; they include a range of activities that use the UDA to advocate for archives or the profession. Ideas include holding signing ceremonies, hosting seminars to discuss different aspects of the UDA, or developing a campaign featuring the UDA graphic. A promotional poster also was developed and was recently updated to incorporate the UNESCO logo. It’s available for download from the ICA website in English, French, Spanish, and Chinese. In addition, a template with the UNESCO and ICA logos is also available from the ICA office for producing posters in other languages. What’s Next? During the past eighteen months, workshops were held in the United Kingdom and Pacific region to stimulate thinking about the uses of the UDA. The ideas that came out of the workshops were astounding; they include: lobbying for a global “Year of Archives,” developing localized campaigns using public relations experts, incorporating The UDA into archival teaching programs, and requiring newly sworn public officials to express their commitment to the UDA’s principles. An ICA working group was created to continue raising awareness of the UDA. To gauge the reach and effectiveness of the UDA, the working group aims to list where the UDA has been promoted (such as on the SAA website). A suite of case studies is being collated that detail how and where the UDA has been used to advocate on behalf of archives—including those under threat of closure or amalgamation and those facing budget or staffing cuts. On a more upbeat note, the working group also will be seeking positive news stories that detail when the UDA has been used successfully to enhance the reputation or standing of an existing archives facility. It’s also hoped that further outreach into non-English-speaking cultures will occur; translation of the UDA into different languages, usually spearheaded by the local professional association, is seen as a key activity in this regard. The working group will only be able to do so much to inspire and promote. It’s then up to individual archivists, a workplace, or an organization to embrace what the UDA represents and make their own contributions. Envisioned as a tool that would work well at a grassroots level, the UDA has the potential to engage and excite the profession, creating a groundswell of enthusiasm that is irresistible to those who are unexposed to the joy of working with and using archives. That’s the dream, and together we can make it happen. We encourage you to read the text and think about what it really says— and what archives really say—about democracy, accountability, cultures, and communities. For further inquiries, please contact Kim Eberhard, chair of the ICA UDA Working Group at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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