Archive for category Publications

The Iraq Memory Foundation, Baath Party Archive & Wartime Plundering of Cultural Property

University of Colorado professor, Bruce P. Montgomery shares with AW a revealing journal publication he has authored.  It is an excellent study on the question of territorial provenance, ownership, and custody.  In it Montgomery looks in depth at the unique dynamics between the Iraq Memory Foundation (IMF), the US military, and the long-held contentious cultural property of Iraq in the hands of private US institutions.  Cultural property in the form of the former Iraqi government’s archives, the Baath Party Archive, normally fall into a category of state records that should be opened to citizens “‘in service of transitional justice, national reconciliation, and democratization'” as seen with the former Stasi regime archive, the Tuol Sleng Archives, inter alia.

Montgomery purports that through the extenuating circumstances of wartime Iraq in 2003 (as the emergence of civilian defense contractors under the US military like the IMF) and through a lack of legal frameworks, the IMF was able to evade direct contraventions to existing international laws and conventions that define cultural property theft or pillaging when the group transferred records out of Iraq.  Montgomery reveals that the legal status of contractors can be considered ambiguous at best because they ostensibly operated outside legal mechanisms. He presents arguments that the IMF, in the backdrop of this largely chaotic and tumultuous period for Iraqi citizens and the Hussein government, was able to leverage the situation to their advantage, circumventing legal protocols to transfer the Iraqi documents.  Consequently, the archives are not accessible to the citizens who could benefit from its use.  Thus, the circumstances surrounding the current fate of the archives has also been a barrier to legitimizing straightforward accusations of wartime pillaging of records.

Montgomery also traces the actions of various cultural and national institutions, non-government groups, and key officials in securing the country’s archives and the laws ensuring its possession.  He also outlines relevant international laws and conventions alongside the case – the Hague, Geneva, and UN conventions…

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Universal Declaration on Archives

The ICA and UNESCO have announced this statement today:

In the one of the most significant developments for archives at the international level for many years, the General Conference of UNESCO has today adopted the Universal Declaration on Archives proposed by the International Council on Archives. This landmark decision is an important step in improving public understanding of archives. It provides a splendid opportunity to raise still further awareness of archives among the general public and key decision-makers.

The Declaration is a powerful succinct statement of the relevance of archives in modern society. It emphasizes the key role of archives in administrative transparency and democratic accountability, as well as the preservation of collective social memory. While not neglecting the traditional concern with meeting the needs of historical research, the Declaration repositions effective archives management as an essential function which underpins modern public administration, good practice in private business, and ready access to information by citizens.

The first version of the Declaration was written by archivists in Québec in 2007. It was then adopted by the Section of Professional Associations (SPA) in ICA, who developed the text and made sure that its key messages were understood across languages and cultures. It generated many stimulating debates in ICA, before it obtained unanimous approval at the AGM in Oslo in September 2010.

Since then the international archival community has worked tirelessly to have the Declaration adopted by UNESCO. Today’s decision is the culmination of intense efforts led by Papa Momar Diop, the Ambassador of Senegal at UNESCO and the former National Archivist of Senegal. He has been ably supported by Jens Boel, Head Archivist at UNESCO, and activists in the ICA network throughout the world.

The challenge now is to use the Declaration to maximum effect, so that archives emerge from the ghetto, in which they are still all too often confined, and take their rightful place as a major player at heart of public administration and the centre of social memory.

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Guantánamo Public Memory Project Update

As of September 1, Elizabeth Silkes (Executive Director of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience) and Elazar Barkan (Director of the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University) have announced that their respective organizations, will lead the Guantánamo Public Memory Project.  The Coalition first launched the Guantánamo Public Memory Project in 2009.  They knew that building a public memory of this site’s complex history would require a multi-dimensional approach with the collaboration and involvement of many different stakeholders including scholars and practitioners.

Since the project’s inception, the Coalition has:

  • mapped over 1,000 resources on the history of Guantánamo – from books to video footage to art to oral histories – and the archives, organizations and individuals around the world who own them
  • researched and identified 90 individual stories of diverse Guantánamo experiences and developed a sample of multi-media portraits showcasing some of these stories
  • working with Picture Projects and Tronvig Group, developed an initial web prototype for the project
  • created a blueprint for the project available as a publication

Last April, the Coalition and ISHR brought together over 100 historians, artists, archivists, activists, and others to discuss and debate the next phase of building a public memory around the US naval station at Guantánamo Bay.  In this convening it was decided that the Guantánamo Public Memory Project will be housed at ISHR and led by a committee of partners including the International Coalition, coordinated by the International Coalition’s Founding Director Liz Sevcenko.  This new structure will leverage the resources of Columbia University and ISHR’s new Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability to continue to move the project forward. In the coming year, project aims include the development of the following:

  • Guantánamo Public Memory Project beta web platform, shaped by the feedback many of you have provided on the web prototype, featuring a digital history exhibit; oral histories of refugees, detainees, military personnel, and others with diverse experiences of the base; forums for the latest news on Guantánamo, the latest work of partner organizations, and how people can participate
  • an extensive on-line research resource, integrating documentary, bibliographic, image, video, oral history, and other collections of partner organizations around the world
  • a National Exhibit and Dialogue connecting 8 universities across the country; students collaborate to produce an exhibit on Guantánamo’s history to open at New York University in December 2012 and travel to participating university galleries across the country, accompanied by public dialogues in each community
  • multi-media curricula for high school through university

Silkes and Barkan invite those whom have been integral throughout the development of this project to continue to share their time, resources and knowledge, and stay involved by emailing Liz Sevcenko and the project team at guantanamo@columbia.edu.

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Strategising Online Activism Toolkit

The Association for Progressive Communication Women’s Networking Support Programme (APC-WNSP) and Violence is Not Our Culture(VNC) have collaborated to design a toolkit to develop certain skills in online activism.   Strategising Online Activism: A Toolkit was inspired by the workshops held in Asia and Africa for the partners and members of the Violence is not our Culture (VNC) campaign.

While this toolkit has been designed primarily for the local partners and activists of the VNC campaign, this can be a resource, too, for human rights activists who are keen to develop their online activism and want to know where and how to to start.  Through this toolkit we hope that campaigners will acquire the following skills:

– An understanding of why and how information and communication technologies (ICTs) can be appropriated by women’s rights and human rights groups in their advocacy skills through their use of online tools, including networking and mobile tools for advocacy and campaigning

– The ability to develop an advocacy / communication strategy

– Knowing what social neworking is and the various spaces and tools they could use in their online activism

– An understanding of online privacy and security issues relevant to building their online activism…

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Museum of Ideas: Commitment and Conflict

Just released, here is an excellent compendium of insights from experts working in memory institutions around the world regarding their current practices relating to larger societal issues.

Traditionally museums have been established on the basis of collections. However, some of today’s most challenging and dynamic museums are those founded on the basis of ideas. Their themes may span human rights, social inclusion, peace, war, health, gender, climate change, etc. Their size, budget, scope and ambitions may differ, but they are all driven and committed in a way which tends to set them apart.  Museums of Ideas: Commitment and Conflict provides a unique insight into the operation of these committed, pioneering institutions, highlighting what can be learned from their experiences – and applied to benefit the broader museum community and its users.

In some 35 chapters and 450 pages, this major new books provides an extraordinary overview of the thinking behind the programmes of some of today’s most exciting and challenging museums including the following:

* Canadian Museum of Human Rights
* Happy Museum Project, UK
* Jihad Museum, Afghanistan
* Kyoto Museum for World Peace, Japan
* Levine Museum of the New South, USA
* Liberation War Museum, Bangladesh
* Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb
* Museum of Defecation, Delhi
* Museum of Free Derry, UK
* Museum of Historical Memory, Ukraine
* Museum of Sexology, Oslo
* Museum of the English Language
* National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, USA
* President Lincoln’s Cottage, Wqshington DC, USA
* Victims Museum, Afghanistan

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Right to Know, Right to Live: Building a Campaign for the Right to Information and Accountability

As promised earlier this week, here is another publication suggested to AW by New Tactics in Human Rights that we are featuring-Right to Know, Right to Live: Building a campaign for the right to information and accountability.

This notebook shares how Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) has been deeply involved in a collective process which has shaped and influenced the Campaign for the Right to Information in India. MKSS makes the case that without access to information and transparency there can be no genuine participation of all members of society, particularly the poor, in democracy. The right to know and actual transparency of information provides the ability to demand and access rights…

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Making Sense of the Information Wilderness: Library and Information Services for the Improvement of Human Rights Work

This week I am featuring a few publication resources brought to the attention of AW by the organization New Tactics in Human Rights.  Below is some information on the first of these publications-Making Sense of Information Wilderness: Library & Information Services for the Improvement of Human Rights Work.

Sometimes institutional strengthening tactics applied inside an organization improve the way human rights practitioners do their work and what they can do. Organizations that use their resources effectively, can more effectively advance human rights work.  In this notebook, the experience of the Human Rights Centre at the University of Sarajevo is presented.  They built a strong information system and central role for an information specialist or librarian.  The utilization of this information system and information specialist’s skills allowed other staff to better, and more productively, focus on their core programmatic missions.  Although the Human Rights Centre is now a fairly large and relatively well-funded organization, the tactic explained in this notebook presents ideas in a way that nearly any group doing human rights work could apply this organizational strengthening tactic.

The notebook is currently available in English, Turkish, and Bangla…

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