Dear Readers,

After much thought it is not without regret for me to say that I am putting this blog out to pasture.  Over the last several months I moved to Norway and found a job here which is so far removed from where I started off professionally with respect to my aspirational interests as reflected in this blog.  As such, I’ve found it difficult to maintain this site while my job occupies so much of my days.

I feel it is necessary to tell past and future followers of this blog that I am retiring the blog because I am still often contacted by many out there interested in being involved in one form or another of human rights documentation.  It was my hope to relegate slowly from the fore of being the sole writer of posts here and delegate stories and forums to someone or a few on whom I could trust to maintain the spirit and integrity of the blog.  I also hoped that from time to time, in the background, I could check back and continue to maintain the vision of Archivists Watch.  But even this I haven’t had the time to carry out.  In any event, there are sites out there already that do this job quite well and I have littered my blog with posts about their activities.

Going forward, should any of you ever wish to contribute regularly, or irregularly for that matter, or start a web forum through this blog, please do not hesitate to express your interest to me.  I want Archivisits Watch to live on even if it means passing this blog on to someone else and no longer being there 100% of the time.

Thank you for reading.


Aileen Cornelio

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SwissPeace Joint Venture on Archives Dealing with the Past

The Swiss Peace Foundation (or simply SwissPeace) recently began a new project called Archives and Dealing with the Past.  It is a joint venture between the foundation, the Swiss Federal Archives, and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.  The project mandate is to offer a hub between archivists/documentalists and human rights activists dealing with the past.   Members of the ICA Human Rights Working Group serve on their Advisory Board.  Consequently, one aim of the project is to foster knowledge exchange between the two professional communities (of archivists and activists) and engage in knowledge management activities.  In fact, SwissPeace reached out to the ICA HRWG Directory Project last month and discussions to converge on parallel projects are taking place.

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UNESCO/UBC Vancouver Memory of the World Declaration

At last month’s conference, “Memory of the World in the Digital Age: Digitization and Preservation”, a declaration was adopted addressing the challenge of digital amnesia.  The four page document, made available on UNESCO’s website last week, is an extension of a principle in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  That is, each individual should be guaranteed access to information, including in digital format, and that national policies should be established to promote the right to information, open government and open data.

Also highlighted during the conference and its consequent declaration was the growing importance of industry in digitization and digital preservation among trusted digital repositories.  The conference declaration adopted a call on industry to ensure long-term accessibility to trustworthy information contained in legacy formats.  It further encouraged professional associations work with industry for the development of requirements of systems that embed preservation concern and assist in the development of a cohesive and practical vision of the way forward in addressing the management and preservation of trustworthy recorded information in all its forms in the digital environment.

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Newly Released Documents Reveal Responsibility for Katyn Massacre

An article from BBC News this week shares a report by the Associated Press revealing information to suggest that the Katyn massacre was suppressed at the highest levels in Washington.  It has long been believed that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not want to question the version of events put out by Stalin, an ally whom the Americans were counting on to defeat Germany and Japan.

Katyn expert Allen Paul told AP some of the material did not appear in the record of Congressional hearings in 1951-52 held to investigate the massacre, suggesting it had been deliberately kept hidden.  Among the new evidence is a report sent to President Roosevelt by the then British Prime Minister Winston Churchill – who did not challenge Stalin’s claim either – which also pointed to Soviet guilt…

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Archives & Activism Symposium

As part of New York Archives Week next month, the Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York, Inc. (ART) and the New School Libraries and Archives are pleased to co-sponsor a symposium on archives and activism.  They have posted a preliminary schedule and are still accepting registrations for the October 12 event.

The symposium covers topics surrounding the contention between activists movements pushing for reforms vis-a-vis conceptions of the archivist’s role in handling materials of cultural and social significance as one originating from hegemonic and traditional institutional frameworks.  This symposium thus offers to reconceptualize the role of the archivist as societal needs evolve and technologies emerge while balancing the archives’ commitment to the institutions that fund and administer them…

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Register Your Support for the Universal Declaration on Archives

To raise awareness of the profession, the International Council on Archives (ICA) is enlisting the support of the public to promote Universal Declaration on Archives (UDA) by signing the UDA online register.  The UDA has been endorsed by the ICA as a key pillar of its outreach and advocacy policy and strategy.  Followers and supporters may also share the link to further publicize the Declaration.

The UDA was adopted in principle in 2009 at the ICA Annual General Meeting in Malta.  It was developed by a special working group of the ICA, the SPA (Section of Professional Associations), based on the model of the “Déclaration québécoise des Archives“.  On 17 September 2010, the ICA unanimously approved the text of the UDA at their Annual General Meeting held in Oslo.  On 10th November 2011, the UDA was officially endorsed by UNESCO and adopted by the 36th plenary session of the General Conference of UNESCO .

The Declaration concisely outlines the unique characteristics of archives and the management requirements to provide ongoing records access. It has been conceived as a basis for advocacy and promotion to support archives and the profession, and addresses a wide public. Available in 25 languages, it is a statement of the relevance of archives in modern society and marks an important step in improving understanding and awareness of archives among the general public and key decision-makers.


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Archives & Activism Symposium to be Held by Archivist Round Table of Metropolitan NY

The Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York (ART) has shared its call for participation in an upcoming symposium in the fall with AW and its readers:

“The rebellion of the archivist against his normal role is not, as so many scholars fear, the politicizing of a neutral craft, but the humanizing of an inevitably political craft.”
— Howard Zinn “Secrecy, Archives, and the Public Interest,” Vol. II, No. 2 (1977) of Midwestern Archivist.

The boundaries between “archivist” and “activist” have become increasingly porous, rendering ready distinctions between archivists (traditionally restricted to the preservation of records, maintaining accountability, and making critical information available to the communities they serve) and activists (who, with greater frequency, look to archives or adopt elements of archival practice as a means of documenting their struggles) virtually unsustainable. In the past year, archivists and citizen activists collaborated to document the Occupy Wall Street movement, and archivists committed to open government worked with the New York City Council to advocate for keeping the Municipal Archives as an independent city agency. While the apparent convergence of archival and activist worlds may appear a timely and relevant topic, these distinct communities often deliberate their roles separately with little dialogue.

ART and the New School Archives and Special Collections are sponsoring a symposium to bring together a diverse group of archivists, activists, students, and theorists with the aim of facilitating discussion of their respective concerns.  Among its proposed topics, the symposium will address potential roles that archivists may engage in as activists, as well as how archivists can assume a greater role in documenting and contributing toward social and political change.

Possible areas of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:

– Archivists documenting the work of activists and activist movements
– Activists confronting traditional archival practice
– Possible models for an emergent “activist archives”
– Methodologies for more comprehensively documenting activism
– Archivist and activist collaborations
–  Community-led archives and repositories operating outside of the archival  establishment
– Archives as sites of knowledge (re)production and in(ter)vention
– Relational paradigms for mapping the interplay of power, justice, and archives…

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