Twenty-three new inscriptions on Memory of the World Register of Documentary CollectionsThe Declaration of the Rights of Man and documents pertaining to slavery in the Caribbean are among the 23 documentary collections from 20 countries selected for inscription on the Memory of the World Register of library and archive material during a three-day meeting of the International Advisory Committee (IAC) of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme in Gdansk, Poland, that ended Saturday.
Twelve new countries enter the Register: Barbados, Brazil, Chile, France, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Serbia and Montenegro, Tajikistan, Thailand, and Uruguay. A total of 91 properties from 45 countries are inscribed on the Memory of the World Register, which was established in 1997 to preserve and promote documentary heritage of universal value.
In a message to the meeting, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura expressed his determination and UNESCO’s willingness “to encourage and pool efforts at all levels to protect unique and endangered books, manuscripts, archival documents, audio-visual materials, e-heritage and oral traditions through the use of state-of-the art technologies conducive to wider accessibility and dissemination.”
The Memory of the World Programme was set up by UNESCO ten years ago to preserve and promote documentary heritage, much of which is endangered. The programme helps networks of experts to exchange information and raise resources for preservation, digitization and dissemination of documentary material. The inscriptions are determined by the IAC, a body of 14 leading specialists appointed by the Director-General.
The complete list of properties selected by the International Advisory Committee of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme follows:
Austria - The Atlas Blaeu-Van der Hem of the Austrian National Library. This 17th century work has been described as “the most beautiful and most remarkable atlas ever composed”. Luxuriously produced by Laurens Van der Hem (1621-1678), a lawyer in Amsterdam, the 50-volumes of the Atlas contain more than 2,400 maps, prints, drawings, architectural prints and portraits, most of them painted by well-known artists, and a set of four volumes originally made for the Dutch East India Company. It is an inestimable source of information about all that was known in the 17th century concerning geography and topography, as well as archaeology, architecture, sculpture, ethnography, folklore, heraldry, technology, navigation, fortification, and warfare.
Barbados - Documentary Heritage of Enslaved Peoples of the Caribbean. This is a unique corpus of documentary evidence, including legal documents, plantation ledgers, estate and shipping inventories, rare books, original prints and paintings, relating to the lives of enslaved Caribbean people through the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, preserved by the Barbados Museum & Historical Society. The collection provides invaluable source material for scholars studying the history of Barbados, which has been described as the model for the development of the plantation economies of the Caribbean and North America. Such sources are particularly valuable in view of the loss of family history and the absence of “ancestral memory” among the majority of the Caribbean, African and African American people, whose ancestors had little control over their own destiny or direction. Access to these records can assist in the articulation of an integrated sense of the political and social evolution of New World plantation communities and their impact on modern social patterns. Its study could help recover the lost heritage of millions of people.
Brazil - The Emperor's Collection: Foreign and Brazilian Photography in 19th Century Brazil. This is a unique collection, named after Empress Thereza Christina Maria, of 21,742 photographs, assembled and left to the National Library of Brazil by Emperor Pedro II in 1891. The largest collection of photographs in Latin America, it provides an accurate portrait of the 19th century, reflecting customs, intellectual and industrial developments at the time. It features works by the first photographers in the world and is housed in the National Library of Brazil. The collection forms part of the history of the Brazilian people, whose changing circumstances throughout the 19th century it reflects. But it also covers Europe, Africa and North America and testifies to numerous areas of human activity such as agriculture, archaeology, architecture and town planning, the performing arts, the visual arts, astronomy, biology, botany, education, engineering, war, immigration, medicine and public health, and ethnography. The collection consists of both negatives and positives in a wide range of techniques and formats. Although most prints are silver on gelatine, some are coloured with sulphur and/or selenium (sepia), copper (red) and iron (blue/green).
Chile - Human Rights Archive of Chile. Originating from several collections, including those of human rights organizations active during the military dictatorship (1973 to 1989), the archive notably includes: Press clippings about human rights abuses from 1974 to 1990, (arrests, political executions, banishments, torture and disappearances); audiovisual material, an important photo register of nearly 1,000 of the people who disappeared during the dictatorship, and cassettes and videos that tell the history of the disappeared; the audiovisual archive of Teleanálisis featuring video reports about the defence of human rights from 1984 to 1990; and documents on the participation of human rights institutions in the social, political and juridical life of the country; the digitalized documents gathered by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the 3,877 human rights abuse cases it investigated, and juridical archives with material regarding numerous trials, appeals and actions concerning the disappeared. The purpose of the nomination is to prevent the continued deterioration of the historical memory of human rights violations and the defence of human rights during the military dictatorship, documented in various archives of national institutions.
Chile - Jesuits of America. The documentary cultural heritage of the Jesuits of America Fund under the custody of the Archivo Nacional de Chile contains documents produced by the Jesuits as well as inventories of their vast properties. It includes account books, royal orders, correspondence, reports and abundant information on religious, educational and economic activities. The Fund is indispensable for the study of the continuity, in Spanish America, of the work of the Society of Jesus and the vast network of schools and missions that educated both the elite and the indigenous populations they evangilized. The information contained in over 128,000 pages is intrinsically associated with the history of the West and of the vast Spanish Empire of the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries. The material is divided into eight sections corresponding to one country each: Chile, Peru, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Several other countries are represented with smaller volume of documentation: the Antilles, Spain, Philippines, Panama, and Venezuela. The documentary Fund is a unique testimony to the intricate network of influence and interactions between the old and the new continent.
China - Ancient Naxi Dongba Literature Manuscripts. A collection of 1,000 volumes housed in the Dongba Culture Institute in Lijiang (China), Dongba literature covers a wide range of contents and subjects including formation of the heavens and the world, the Genesis for all things and mankind, and the formation of ethnic groups. It spans the period of “age of God” to the “age of human being” (from ca 30 A.D. to the Tang Dynasty). It is rare to find literature covering such a long history written in archaic characters. There are still a few masters left, who can read these scriptures, in a pictographic script of more than 2000 characters, which is more primitive, in terms of phonetic transcription and calligraphy, than the inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells of the Chinese Shang Dynasty. It is the only surviving script of its type. The literature covers politics, philosophy, economy, military affairs, culture, astronomy, farming and more. The Naxi people are the descendants of the ancient Qiang tribe, of northwest China. 300,000 Naxis today live at the juncture of Yunnan province, Sichuan province and Tibet Autonomous Region.
France – The original Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789-1791. Preserved at National Historical Archives Centre in Paris, the Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen, this text is of universal value as a landmark in the development of human rights. It is, in fact, a whole collection of documents connected to the proclamation and entry into force of the Declaration. These documents, including the first printed edition of the Declaration held by the Bibliothèque nationale de France, are meaningful in their relation to one another as the symbolic and political importance of the Declaration and the historical context in which it was drafted can be fully appreciated only if these documents are considered together. A comparison of all the existing versions of the Declaration shows that there are six different versions, dating from the beginning of the discussion stage to the promulgation of the French Constitution in 1791 and not, as historians and folk memory still seem to suggest, just one single text. However, only two versions meet the criteria for legal validity, both were adopted by the National Assembly, received royal approval, were promulgated by letters patent or law and, finally, were officially published. The version included in the Register is the first, i.e. the Declaration of the Rights of Man of the 3rd of November 1789, along with a signed note and letters patent by King Louis XVI approving the text of the Declaration and various decrees adopted by the National Assembly between August and November of that year.
Germany - Illuminated manuscripts from the Ottonian period produced in the monastery of Reichenau (Lake Constance) for Emperor Otto III (983-1002) and for his successor Heinrich II (1002-1024). This dispersed set of ten manuscripts, which survived the upheavals of an entire millennium, epitomizes book illustration of the Ottonian period in Germany. During the Ottonian period, German book illustration achieved artistic pre-eminence in Europe for the first time. It reflects the spirituality of the time, and was inspired by the paintings of Late Antiquity, the Carolingian period and Byzantium. The illuminations in the Reichenau manuscripts feature miniatures on the life of Christ, which were to influence the art of subsequent centuries. Furthermore, the portraits of emperors, which were integrated into the liturgical manuscripts, have received special recognition as works of art and historical sources of the first rank. They express the view of the ruler as protector of the Church who was installed by God himself. The manuscripts are preserved as part of the holdings of public libraries in Munich, Bamberg, Darmstadt, Trier and Paris, as well as the cathedral treasury at Aachen and the Archaeological Museum of Cividale del Friuli, Italy.
Kazakhstan - Collection of manuscripts of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi at the National Library of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The collection of three medieval Turkic language (Chagatai) manuscripts dating from the 17th century preserves the heritage of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi and his followers who had a great influence on the development of spiritual culture of the ancient Turks and promoted the development of the Turkic language and literature. The creative work of the 12th century Sufi master Yasawi and his successors also contributed to spread of Islam in the Turkic world. These very fragile manuscripts, works of the man considered to be one of the fathers of Turkic literature and of his followers, were inaccessible until the end of the Soviet era.
Luxembourg - Family of Man. The photographic exhibition mounted by the photographer Edward J. Steichen in 1955 for the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) was donated by the Government of the USA to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. It is preserved in the Clervaux Museum. The exhibition consists of 503 photographs taken by 273 photographers, both professional and amateur, famous and unknown, from 68 countries. It has been described as the “greatest photographic enterprise ever undertaken”. A huge undertaking, with unique cultural and artistic dimensions, it had a considerable influence on other exhibition organizers, stirred public interest in photography and proved exceptional in its ability to communicate a humanist message that was both courageous and provocative. The Family of Man exhibition has become a legend in the history of photography. It went far beyond the traditional view of what an exhibition should be and it can be regarded as the memory of an entire era, that of the Cold War and McCarthyism, in which the hopes and aspirations of millions of men and women throughout the world were focused on peace.
Mexico – Los olvidados. The original cellulose nitrate negative of the 1950 film Los olvidados, released in English as The Young and the Damned, of Spanish-Mexican director Luis Buñuel was lost for 20 years, and is now preserved in Mexico City, in the vaults of Filmoteca of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, where it was deposited by its present owner, Televisa S.A. The film is a timeless portrait of children in an urban slum. The work of the golden age of Mexican cinema influenced the cinematographic movements of the Realist School such as the New Latin American Cinema, the New French Wave, Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray, Italian directors such as Pier Paolo Pasolini and Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, as well as Carlos Saura from Spain. The film, which won Buñuel best director award at the 1951 Cannes Film Festival, was highly controversial when it was shot as it showed street children turning to crime because of society’s failure to provide them with an alternative. Initially, screenings in Mexico had to be stopped because of protests but after the Cannes award, the film re-opened successfully and went on to win 11 awards from the Mexican Academy of Arts and Sciences. Fearing that the film would be banned because of its bleakness, Buñuel made another, more optimistic ending for Los olvidados, which is also preserved at the Filmoteca. The condition of the original negative is bad and will require restoration if it is to be preserved for future generations.
Netherlands - Archives of the Dutch East India Company. Founded in 1602 the Dutch East India Company was the largest of the early modern European trading companies operating in Asia. It received the authority of the Dutch government to trade between South Africa and Japan to erect fortifications, appoint governors, keep a standing army, and conclude treaties in its name. Statistically, it eclipsed all of its rivals in the Asian trade. Between 1602 and 1796, the company sent almost a million Europeans to work in the Asia trade on 4,785 ships, and netted for their efforts more than 2.5 million tons of Asian trade goods. It also carted shiploads of documents. Most of the papers found in East India Company archives were produced by locally stationed company officials, but much was also produced by the people with whom they interacted: kings and noblemen, traders and middlemen, shippers and harbour masters. The 25 million pages of records that remain concern political, economic, cultural, religious, and social circumstances over a broad area. They are preserved in the Netherlands, in The Hague, and in the Company’s former administrative centres in Jakarta (former Batavia), Colombo (Sri Lanka), Chennai (India), and Cape Town (South Africa). These exceptional archives include inscriptions in stone, manuscripts on palm-leaf and bark, and printed court chronicles, trade correspondence, travel reports, and the records of civic administrations. Stretching over more than four shelf kilometres, the archives of the company contain data relevant to the history of hundreds of Asia’s and Africa’s local political and trade regions over the 17th and 18th centuries. The collection is also of scientific importance and meteorologists, for example, use its thousands of weather reports for research concerning the El Niño phenomenon. The archives include thousands of maps and drawings many of which are the first representations ever made of the people, houses, landscapes, flora or fauna of their regions.
Netherlands - Library Ets Haim – Livraria Montezinos. This museum and specialized library is part of the specialized educational and research institute of the Portuguese-Jewish Seminary Ets Haim (Tree of Life). The library collections contain 30,000 printed works (from 1484 to the present day) and 500 manuscripts (from 1282 to the 20th century) focusing mainly on the humanities: all aspects of Jewish studies and cultural history, as well as science and skills. Sixty-five percent of the material in the collection is in Hebrew, the rest in Aramaic Latin, Greek, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, English, Yiddish and other languages. The collections are maintained at the Portuguese Synagogue complex in Amsterdam, built in 1675. They reflect the scope of Sephardic Jewish culture, which in Spain where it originated was characterized by an open exchange with its initially Islamic and later Christian environment. By integrating without assimilating, Spanish Jews often acted as mediators in acquainting Christian Europe with the scientific achievements of the Islamic world. In this spirit, the curriculum of Ets Haim insisted on a thorough Jewish education in combination with an excellent knowledge of literature, philosophy, rhetoric and science. The institute trained its students to take up leadership positions in the various Sephardic communities in Europe, America, notably in the Caribbean and New York, and in North Africa. With an educational programme that combined a strong Jewish identity and a thorough knowledge of its non-Jewish environment, Ets Haim has made an important contribution to a society in which several religions coexisted peacefully. Sheet music from the 17th through the 20th centuries is also preserved, including many vocal and instrumental compositions produced especially for the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam.
Philippines - Radio Broadcast of the Philippine People Power Revolution. The collection of sound recordings of 44 audiocassette tapes (61 hours & 33 minutes) and 1 mini-disc (25 minutes) document the actual, unedited day-to-day radio broadcasts of private, Church-owned and public radio stations during four days in 1986 when the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos was overthrown through a spontaneous non-violent popular uprising. This unbroken radio record of these days is an unvarnished chronicle of a nation and its people at a crucial time in its history. The recordings document in detail the events as they unfolded through radio, which became the dominant form of communication media linking the military rebels, the key civilian players and the multitudes who kept vigil at designated centres. Since the recordings are unedited and spontaneous, they are a valuable source of original research.
Poland - The General Confederation of Warsaw. The parchment documents of the Confederation of Warsaw which, on the 28th of January 1573, granted religious tolerance to the Polish nobility as part of a consensual pact to maintain social order and preserve the union of Poland and Lithuania. The document is unique in that it testifies to a democratic compromise between equal parties (the Catholics and the representatives of the Lutherans, Calvinists, Orthodox, Armenians, and Muslims), and is not an edict issued by a king. Religious tolerance was particularly important in a country that was inhabited by different ethnic groups of different denominations. The Confederation created a legal basis for a new political system and at the same time secured the unity of the state. The document can be considered as a proto-constitution that guaranteed the nobles freedom of religion and civic liberties as we now know them. More than 200 seals are appended to the parchment, testimonies of personal commitment of the nobility at the Confederation. They form part of the property registered.
Poland - Twenty-One Demands, Gdañsk, August 1980. The birth of the Solidarity trade union – a massive social movement. The 21 Demands are the demands made by the Strike Committee in August 1980 in Gdansk, which led to the creation of Solidarity, the first free trade union within the Communist bloc. These political demands marked a watershed in the history of the Communist bloc as they included demands for the establishment of free trade unions, the abolishing of censorship and the release of political prisoners. The Communist Party’s consent to these demands resulted in a breakthrough, which after the imposition of martial law, paved the way for the first democratic elections in the Communist bloc in 1989. The 21 Demands are at the root of a movement that later influenced events in other East European countries in their quest for a peaceful transition to democracy. This is why the 21 Demands of August 1980 constitute a document of great importance: it bears testimony to a turning point in the history, which not only changed Poland, Europe and the world at that time, but also changed their future fate. Wooden Boards with the 21 Demands are stored in the Polish Maritime Museum in Gdansk. The registered property also includes a collection of documents on the birth of the Solidarity movement, preserved at the Karta Centre in Warsaw. This collection includes texts, leaflets, bulletins, posters, publications etc, produced by Solidarity between August 1980 and December 1981. It also includes statutes and manifestoes (1981-1987) and documents pertaining to various strike actions in support of Solidarity, as well as 2,000 hours of audio recordings of the founding sessions of the movement.
Saudi Arabia – Earliest Islamic (Kufic) Inscription. This very well preserved inscription is located on a red sandstone block of rock south of Qa'a al Muatadil, north of Sharma in al-Ula, northwest of Saudi Arabia on the ancient trade and pilgrimage route connecting the early Islamic city of al-Mabiyat with Madain Saleh. It is the oldest Islamic inscription found so far. It mentions the date of the death of the second Caliph of Islam, Omar bin al-Khattab and reads as follows: “In the name of God, I Zuhair wrote the date of the death of Omar the year four and twenty (Hegrah)”. Caliph Omar bin al-Khattab died on the last night of the month of Dul-Hajj of the year 23 Hegrah, and was buried next day on the first day of Muharram of the new year 24 Hegrah (corresponding to 644 AD).
Serbia and Montenegro - Nikola Tesla’s Archive. A unique collection of manuscripts, photographs, scientific and patent documentation, indispensable to the study of the history of electrification. Serbian-born American inventor and scientist, Nikola Tesla (1856 - 1943), was a pioneer in electrification who significantly influenced technological development with his polyphase system inventions. This system is the cornerstone of modern electro-energetic production, long distance transmission and use of electrical currents, and communication. Beside inventing the alternate currents motor, he invented the Tesla coil – a high frequency transformer, which is an essential part of all contemporary high frequency devices. Tesla also pioneered research into other effects produced by his currents, such as the possibility of induction heating, ozone production, and effects on the human organism. The plasma production technique that he invented was pioneering work in this field, which only recently became important for the production of computer chips. His inventions have been crucial to the development of many of today’s technologies including radio, radar, television, motors of all kinds, and computers. He is also credited with predicting the emerging energy problem as early as 1900. The Archive, in Belgrade, has a collection of 160,000 pages of patent documentation, scientific correspondence, scientific papers, manuscripts, technical drawings, scientific measuring data, personal documents, and legal papers and around 1,000 original photographs of Tesla’s experiments and inventions. This material was brought to Belgrade after the scientist’s death in New York in 1943. It comprises the most complete record of Tesla’s inventions and forms an essential source of information for researchers and historians of science.
Tajikistan - Manuscript (14th century). This rare manuscript is a great example of Tajik-Persian Classic Literature, considered a brilliant achievement of the world’s cultural heritage. While western Europeans became acquainted with this literature in 16th century, it was appreciated by Indians, Arabs, Armenians, Georgians and Turks from the very beginning. The manuscript contains the complete works ("Kulliyat") of the celebrated Tajik-Persian writer Ubayd Zakoni and "Gazalliyt", by the well-known poet Hafiz Sherozi. This is the most ancient manuscript of Ubayd Zakoni and Hafiz Sherozi in the world, the only one of its kind. It was transcribed only 35 years after the death of Ubayd Zakoni and nine years after the death of Hafiz Sherozi. The manuscript has a special design by which Hafiz’ poems are placed around Ubaid Zakoni’s text. The Manuscript is kept in the Institute of the Written Heritage of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tajikistan in Dushanbe, and is in need of serious restoration. It bears testimony to the spiritual and artistic achievements of the Tajik people of Central Asia, born of the meeting of different cultures.
Tanzania - Collection of Arabic Manuscripts and Books. The collection of more than 800 books and manuscripts under the custody of the National Archives is invaluable to the study of the social and cultural heritage of Zanzibar and the Eastern African region. Some of the material goes back 300 years providing data on many subjects and is of great interest to the study of various aspects of Islam, Arabic literature and rhetoric, the history of ideas in Zanzibar and Eastern Africa. As well as their cultural content, the manuscripts display artistic achievement with high quality calligraphy and embellishments. They are preserved in the Zanzibar National Archives, the oldest and richest archive in eastern Africa, which testifies to the importance of Zanzibar as a commercial and administrative centre for all of East Africa. The collection also reflects the role of Zanzibar as a seat of learning and as a centre of Swahili culture from which the language and Islam were disseminated over a vast region. The collection includes religious and secular works as well as correspondence: manuscripts on Islamic Sharia and theology, Arabic language and grammar, books on medicine including works on local medicine and witchcraft, astronomy, navigation, Sufism, slavery, divination, diaries, poetry, memoirs, Arabic magazine and more.
Thailand - The King Ram Khamhaeng Inscription. The King Ram Khamhaeng Inscription (RK) of 1292 A.D., is a siltstone pillar of 114.5 centimetres with four sides bearing inscriptions in the Thai language in Sukhotai scripts. It is preserved in the National Museum in Bangkok. The oldest known inscription in the Thai language, the RK was discovered by Prince Mongkut of Siam, later King Chomklao or Rama IV, in 1833 in the old city of Sukhothai during his visit there while he was a Buddhist monk. It can be divided into three parts: the first describes the personal background and heroic deeds of King Ram Khamhaeng from his birth to accession to the throne, using the personal pronoun "I" throughout; the second part describes physical, political and social aspects of Sukhothai city in detail; the third glorifies the King as the inventor of Thai scripts and ruler over an extensive kingdom. The absence of the first pronoun in the last two parts has given rise to speculation that they were composed by the King's successors. The inscription's value as a historical document was made evident when it was used to support Thailand's successful proposal to inscribe the Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns on the World Heritage List in 1991.
Turkey - The works of Ibn Sina in the Süleymaniye Manuscript Library. Abu Ali al-Hussain Ibn Abdallah Ibn al-Hassan Ibn al-Ali Ibn Sina (980-1038), often known by his Latin name of Avicenna, has been described as possessing the mind of Goethe and the genius of Leonardo da Vinci. Ibn Sina was not only a great physician and scientist but a philosopher as well. He contributed to fields such as psychology, geology, mathematics, chemistry, astronomy and logic. The collection at the Süleymaniye Library is a complete collection of all the manuscript copies, some of them dating back to the 10th century, of surviving works by Ibn Sina. All these manuscripts are unique and some are rendered more precious because of their caligraphic styles, illuminations, miniatures, illustrations and bindings. The collection of manuscripts is widely used by Turkish and foreign scholars. It numbers some 600 works by Ibn Sina, some of them short essays, on philosophy, logic, philosophy of religion, mysticism, linguistics, literature, mathematics, physics, chemistry, medicine, politics, geography, and astronomy. The medical encyclopedia “Al Qanun fi’l Tıbb” (The Canon of Medicine) was translated into Latin and other Western languages and was taught between 1400 and 1600 A.D. as the main medical text in various medical schools in Europe.
Uruguay - Original records of Carlos Gardel - Horacio Loriente Collection (1913-1935). This private collection of 800 original records with their original paper sleeves by Carlos Gardel is the most complete in Uruguay. It preserves the experience of the complete artistic career of the French-born Argentinian “zorzal criollo” (creole nightingale). The records produced in Buenos Aires, Paris and New York include the 29 musical genres and the different styles, which made up Gardel’s repertoire preserving the singer and film actor’s unique voice and art. The tango, of which Gardel was a master, developed at the same time, in exactly the same way, in the two main ports on the Rio de la Plata: Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Gardel spread the tango worldwide. Following his success in Europe and the USA, tango academies were opened in Paris, Buenos Aires and Montevideo during his lifetime. Today they exist all over the world: throughout the American continent, in almost every European country and in Japan and Hawaii. Nowadays, 60 years after his death and 90 years after his earliest recordings were made, Gardel still has many admirers, and 34,247 internet sites (according to one search engine) are devoted to him.
For more information about Memory of the World see: http://portal.unesco.org/ci