Posts Tagged archives
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.
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.
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.
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…
Kate Doyle of the National Security Archive and contributor to the blog, Unredacted, has shared some disturbing news with AW that is sure to upset many archivists and disrupt Guatemalan civil society. The Secretary of Peace, Antonio Arenales Forno stated that by June 29 the government would, “cancel [labor] contracts for which I see no justification and end the functions of an office that I find makes no sense.”
Doyle has worked with files of the Guatemalan National Police Archives in a recent trial against officers who perpetrated violence and government repression against activists during the 36-year internal conflict that ended in 1996. The Peace Archives comprise of documentation that provided material for this trial, inter alia. Specifically, the archives house government files from the civil war. The archives were just conceived in 2008, preceding an access to information law passed the same year. The FOI law was intended to create openness and government transparency. This recent announcement to dismantle the archives is a step back for human rights defenders engaged in truth and reconciliation, open memory, and right-to-know initiatives.
However, in Doyle’s article for Unredacted, the Secretary of Peace defends his decision, admitting that “he was unsure what the government would do with the institution’s extensive digital archives, suggesting they may be transferred to the General Archives of Central America” among other government institutions. The Secretary told the press that the redistribution of the files is part of the broad restructuring of the government.
In cases of transitional governments, the issue of the trustworthiness of stewards or custodians of material documenting human rights violations is crucial from the perspective of the archival community. Trudy Huskamp Peterson, Chair of the ICA Human Rights Working Group, stresses that if the incumbent government archives cannot be trusted, then an intermediary repository, managed by trusted groups or individuals should be created. Currently, the Secretary has not announced any concrete plan toward housing the files to be redistributed making it difficult to assess the impact of the restructuring. Peterson goes further to state:
But if these are government records, they should eventually go back into government hands. Part of the restructuring of a government to prevent the recurrence of conflict and to protect human rights has to be the revitalization and modernization of the governmental archives system. Each country has to have the capacity to manage its court records and military records, records of diplomacy and records of land title. As part of rebuilding government structures after a period of civic trauma, we have to find ways to persuade governments and donors that rebuilding archives is also crucial.*
Other professionals argue that while trust is a strong factor in determining the custody of records documenting wide-scale abuse, the argument should go further to state that is it the trust of survivors and victim’s families that is paramount. By all accounts, the commonly suggested alternative to government custody are grassroots organizations and other NGOs represented by survivors or those directly affected by the crimes.
Join WITNESS and the New Tactics community for an online dialogue on Archiving Human Rights for Advocacy, Justice and Memory from May 16 to 22, 2012. Archiving and preservation have long taken a backseat to more urgent aspects of human rights documentation and advocacy, but that is beginning to change. Human rights archives are increasingly playing a pivotal role in advocacy, restorative justice, historical memory, and struggles against impunity. At the same time, however, archivists and activists alike are grappling with the mounting challenges posed by the proliferation of digital documentation. How can we ensure that the critical documentation created today will be preserved and accessible in the future?
In this dialogue, we will explore the tactics and methods used by archivists to preserve human rights information. Are you new to this topic? This is an opportunity for you to learn about the role of archiving in human rights work and how to develop your own archiving strategy. Are you knowledgeable on this topic? This is an opportunity for you to share your experiences with peers, learn about new tactics, and meet others working in this field.
Join us on May 16 to meet others interested in this topic, learn new ideas, and share
How can you participate?
This online dialogue is open to anyone interested in sharing their experiences and ideas
on this topic!
A project is underway to preserve African-American history in the state of Virginia. The Desegregation of Virginia Education (DOVE) project, spearheaded by Old Dominion University archivist, Sonia Yaco, is enlisting help from the public in collecting historical material such as oral histories and photographs. An article from a local paper in Richmond, Virginia, claims that civil rights history in the state has largely been neglected in schools across the state…