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Capacity to safeguard ancient documentary heritage increased in Democratic People's Republic of Korea

A workshop, entitled “Memory of the World – Protecting Ancient Documentary Heritage in DPRK”, was organized by UNESCO’s Office in Beijing last month in Pyongyang, Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Twenty-four participants from various national bureaux and departments related to archives, libraries and culture attended the two-day activity, which was facilitated by Prof. Simon Chu, Special Advisor to the Memory of the World Regional Committee for Asia-Pacific (MOWCAP).

The workshop took place from 10 to 11 July 2013 in the seminar hall of the Grand People's Study House (GPSH), which also serves as a national library with an expanded role in life-long education. GPSH holds a collection of about three million items, including approximately 40,000 books, manuscripts, documents, which are catalogued as being older than one hundred years, and some of them go back to the 13th century. In 2012, GPSH started the digitization of this valuable documentary heritage.

The event introduced the history of UNESCO’s Memory of the World (MoW) Programme, as well as its role, functions and importance for future generations. The workshop also focused on best practices for the establishment of MoW national committees, and the criteria for identifying significant documents to be submitted for inscription on MoW International and Regional Registers, such as authenticity, aesthetic qualities, importance, etc.

UNESCO’s Office in Beijing organized this workshop upon a request by the DPRK National Commission for UNESCO. The event especially aimed to raise awareness of the vision that the world’s documentary heritage belongs to all, should be fully preserved, protected and made accessible by all.

Recently, UNESCO’s Beijing Office has also raised awareness about the importance of digitization for the safeguarding of documentary heritage, through a workshop on digitization strategies and best-practices, which took place in June 2013. It was attended by more than twenty participants from GPSH, the National Archives of North Korea and some university libraries in Pyongyang. The three-day event was facilitated by Prof. Wang Xincai, Vice-Dean of School of Information Management at Wuhan University and Deputy Director of the Bibliography Professional Committee of the Library Association of China.