The preservation of invaluable documentary heritage in Tanzania supported by UNESCO and the European Union

Along Garden Avenue in Dar es Salaam stands a small building where for thirty years the liberation committee established by the Organization of African Unity in 1964 met. A street away from Garden Avenue is New Africa hotel, once a popular meeting place for revolutionaries. FRELIMO, the Mozambique liberation party was founded in 1962 in Dar es Salaam. Through Mwalimu Nyerere's leadership, Tanzania was the physical, theoretical and political base for many liberation movements and ensured that a generation of African leaders was prepared to assume its role at the independence of their respective countries.

Thus, for instance, the audio visual records at the Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation are an important testimony to the rich heritage that requires continuous attention for its effective preservation. All these and other similar records would perish if consolidated efforts to preserve them were not undertaken.

That is why UNESCO and the European Union are teaming up through the 10th European Development Fund support for culture in order to collect, document, preserve and commemorate the mosaic of Africa's irreplaceable documentary heritage accumulated in Tanzania during the period of the independence movements.

Through this support, and with the additional resources secured for a total amount of near one million euros, training on the digitization of photographic and audio records have been delivered to archivists and information professionals from the Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation, the National Museum of Tanzania, Tanzania National Records and Archives and the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation. Also, interviews of the remaining witnesses of the liberation movements are underway, and the refurbishment of the Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation's rich audio-visual archives is in progress as well. At the same time, the General Survey of tangible Tanzania’s Heritage Archives Collections is ongoing and will be recorded and distributed through an electronic database that is currently being developed.

When asked about the involvement of the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation in this major initiative, Mr Gallus Abeid, representing the Foundation, is very positive about the work undertaken on the preservation of the heritage archives: "We really hope all these efforts will end up with a recognition by registration of these sets of archives in the Memory of the World Programme of UNESCO".

Dr Boyan Radoykov, Chief of the Universal Access and Preservation Section in UNESCO’s Knowledge Societies Division underscores: “People and societies must realize that documentary heritage in all its forms, and especially the one of outstanding and universal value, is constantly under attack and threat of destruction, and that consenting to its disappearance would be the biggest failure of our times. For many years, UNESCO, together with its members and partners is striving to raise the awareness of national authorities and other relevant stakeholders about the necessity to improve the conditions for the preservation of, and the increased access to the common heritage of humanity. The project in Tanzania is the perfect illustration of these institutional efforts.

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.