An Asia-Pacific Memory of the World capacity building initiative organized in China

A four-day Asia Pacific Memory of the World Training workshop opened on 24 March 2015 in the city of Suzhou, China. The initiative is sponsored by the State Archives Administration of China (SAAC) and is conducted by documentary heritage experts from the MOW Regional Committee for Asia and the Pacific.

This training workshop seeks to support and equip with necessary skills and nomination strategies under-represented Member States in the Asia Pacific Region or who have no items inscribed on the MOW international register and who lack experience in identifying and promoting their documentary heritage within the framework of the Memory of the World Programme. 31 participants from 7 countries are taking part in the capacity building activity, namely from China, the DPR of Korea, Indonesia, Mongolia, the Solomon Islands, and Viet Nam.  Participants have been selected from national heritage institutions in order to represent National Archives, Historical & Provincial Archives, the National Museum of Myanmar, the Hue Monuments Conservation Center in Viet Nam and the National Library of the DPR of Korea.

The Director-General of the State Archives Administration of China, Mr Yang Dongquan, opened the event by emphasizing the strong commitment of China to the preservation and promotion of documentary and cultural heritage of the Asia Pacific countries at  provincial, national, regional and international levels. Shortly after the Chinese national MOW committee was established, a ‘China Documentary Heritage Programme’ was established in 2000. Over the last 15 years, the Programme contributed to preserve and promote the country’s rich documentary heritage and some 113 items were inscribed on the national MOW register. The Programme not only succeeded in   building bridges for a much needed cooperation among national memory institutions, but also in providing critical financial and technological support for the preservation of endangered archives. As a current MOWCAP Chair, China expressed a strong commitment and wish to play a more active role in promoting the MOW objectives and making the Programme better known not only in the region but also globally by supporting new initiatives.

The UNESCO representative, Ms Iskra Panevska, Programme Specialist at the Knowledge Societies Division, pointed out that the Memory of the World Register has a very deep meaning. She argued that the Memory of the World Programme is not just about documents and books, but that it is deeply anchored in human experiences, it matters for belonging and identity, and carries universal value. She emphasized that from UNESCO’s perspective the Programme encompasses the great diversity of humanity’s expressions, in all languages, in all forms, coming from all cultures and it seeks to safeguard and promote humanity’s unique documentary heritage for the benefit of all. The Programme also aims at encouraging the quest for history and its impact, for knowledge of future generations and for sharpening their value systems.

The workshop will close with a session in which the three teams of participants will present six draft nominations which they have elaborated during the workshop.

UNESCO launched the Memory of the World Programme in 1992 to guard against collective amnesia calling upon the preservation of the valuable archive holdings and library collections all over the world ensuring their wide dissemination. The Programme vision is that the world's documentary heritage belongs to all, should be fully preserved and protected for all and, with due recognition of cultural mores and practicalities, should be permanently accessible to all without hindrance. The Programme is thus intended to protect documentary heritage, and to help networks of experts to exchange information and raise resources for the preservation of, and the access to, documentary and archival collections of valuable records.