Mirror of the world by alendar


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 The National Library and UNESCO's Memory of the World Program

Gwenda Beed Davey gives an
update on a major international
cultural initiative

    n the December 2001 issue of National
    Library News, Penelope Layland wrote
    about the United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultu raI Organisation's
(UNESCO's)Memory of the World Register,
and about the National Library of Australia's
two items placed on it-Captain Cook's
Endeavour journal, and the Mabo Case
manuscripts. Since then, the Library's
PANDORA Australian Web Archive has also
been placed on UNESCO'sAustralian Memory
of the World Register, together with 12
other significant documentary heritage items
or collections-registered in August 2004.
   The National Library has many                and Margy Burn, the current Assistant
connections with UNESCO's Memory of the         Director-General (Australian Collections and
World Program, which was founded in 1992.       Reader Services) is also a member of the
Dr Jan Lyall, Chairperson of the Australian     Australian committee.
Memory of the World Committee, is a                But what exactly is the Memory of the
former Assistant Director-General (Cultural     World Program? UNESCO defines it as
and Educational Services) for the Library,      follows:

                                                   Documentary heritage reflects the diversity
                                                   of peoples, languages and cultures. It is the
                                                   mirror of the world and its memory. But this
                                                   memory is fragile, and every day irreplaceable
                                                   parts disappear for ever. Founded in 1992,
                                                   the UNESCO Memory of the World Program
                                                   is designed to guard against this collective
                                                   amnesia by preserving valuable archive holdings
                                                   and library collections around the world and
                                                   ensuring their wide availability.

                                                Establishment of the Memory of the World
                                                Program has an interesting history. In
                                                1972, UNESCO established an international
                                                treaty, the Convention Concerning the
                                                Protection of the World's Cultural and
                                                Natural Heritage, which it encouraged
                                                countries to sign. The Convention referred
                                                to 'cultural and natural heritage', and its
                                                emphasis was on sites such as Australia's
                                                Great Barrier Reef or the Baroque
                                                cathedrals of Latin America. At much the
                                                 and children's folklore. Most categories
                                                  referred to 'intangibles'.
                                                     One of UNESCO's responses to the
                                                  need for protection for intangible cultural
                                                  heritage involved the establishment of a
                                                 Committee of Government Experts on the
                                                 Safeguarding of Folklore, which met in
                                                  Paris in February 1982, and thereafter for
                                                 a number of years. It eventually obtained
                                                 the agreement of the General Conference
                                                 of UNESCO in October/November 1989 to
                                                 a document which became known as the
                                                  7989 Recommendation on the Safeguarding
                                                 of Traditional Culture and Folklore. The
                                                 chairperson of the UNESCO committee
                                                 which successfully produced the final
                                                 recommendation in 1989 was Dr Keith
                                                 McKenry, National Library Harold White
                                                 Fellow in 2004. McKenry was at the time a
                                                 senior commonwealth public servant in the
                                                 then Department of Arts, Heritage and the
                                                    Much of the delay in drafting the final
same time, the Australian Government             recommendation revolved around matters
appointed a committee of inquiry to              of terminology, and about whether the
review heritage issues in Australia, and         instrument would be legally binding. A
the committee's findings, the Report of          key subject of dissent concerned the issue
 the Inquiry into the National Estate, was       of whether folklore was' knowledge' (and
produced in 1974. The Australian Report          therefore free of payment) or 'property'
included a definition of heritage as 'the        (where access would involve payment).
things you keep', a definition which like        A number of French-speaking countries
the 1972 UNESCO Convention, emphasised           greatly disliked the term 'folklore', which
material culture-namely       buildings, sites   to them seemed pejorative or trivial,
and objects.                                     despite the prestige in which terms such as
    For some time, 'world heritage' meant        folklore and folklife are held in countries
tangible objects. Yet international disquiet     like Finland, Korea and the United States
was growing about the need to also               of America. This regrettable linguistic
protect intang ible cu Itu raI heritage-such     contretemps eventually resulted in
as peoples' beliefs, values and customs.         UNESCO's general substitution of the more
In 1976, its Bicentennial Year, the United       comprehensive term 'intangible cultural
States Congress passed the American              heritage' for folklore or folklife.
Folklife Preservation Act, which aimed              UNESCO'sattention to intangible
to protect and preserve its folk heritage.       cultural heritage took a number of forms
Some of the intangible elements of folklife      subsequent to the 1989 recommendation.
listed in the American Act included custom,      In 1992 UNESCO instituted its Memory
belief, technical skill, language, literature,   of the World Program, which has given
art, architecture, music, play, dance drama,     world significance to items as varied as
ritual and pageantry. Ten years later, the       Barbados's Documentary Heritage of
Australian Government Committee of               Enslaved Peoples of the Caribbean, China's
Inquiry into Folklife in Australia published     Traditional Music Sound Archives, and
its own findings as Folklife in Australia: Our   Egypt's Memory of the Suez Canal. From
Living Heritage (1987). The Committee's          1995 to 1999, UNESCO carried out an
list of major categories included material       evaluation of the implementation of the
culture ('making things'), but also oral         1989 Recommendation on Safeguarding
folklore, music and dance, customs,              Traditional Culture and Folklore. For this
pastimes and beliefs, occupational folklore      purpose, seminars were held in eight
 different regional areas across the world,      Collection, held at Museum Victoria. This
 and the Australian National Commission for     collection is possibly the world's largest
 UNESCO was represented at a meeting in         archive of children's playground games and
 Noumea in February 1999. Subsequently,          rhymes, principally in the form of written
 in June 1999, an international conference      text, with some artefacts and audio and
 was held jointly by UNESCO and the             video recordings. The National Library has
 Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC       substantial numbers of sound recordings
 (USA), which produced an Action Plan for       of children's playground lore-listed in a
  the Safeguarding and Revitalisation of        guide entitled Fish Trout, You're Out, soon
 Intangible Cultural Heritage.                  to be released by the Library online. A major
    In 2001, as noted, two highly significant   entry in this guide is for sound recordings
 examples of Australia's documentary            from the Australian Children's Folklore
 heritage were placed on UNESCO's Memory        Collection, preserved and catalogued by
 of the World Register-Captain Cook's           the National Library.
 Endeavour journal, and the Mabo Papers.           UNESCO's concerns for intangible cultural
 In the same year, UNESCO made its first        heritage have progressed considerably
 Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral       since the 1972 World Heritage Convention,
 and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, which     with its emphasis on material and natural
 now include items as varied as material        heritage. In addition to its 2003 Convention,
 relating to the Royal Ballet of Cambodia,      which laid down international guidelines
 the Wayang Puppet Theatre (Indonesia)          for safeguarding intangible cultural
 and the Woodcrafting Knowledge of              heritage, UNESCO's Memory of the World
the Zafimaniry of Madagascar. In 2003           Program has recognised that documentary
 UNESCO launched the Convention for the         heritage is 'the.mirror of the world and
 Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural        its memory'. Many of Australia's most
 Heritage. Now acknowledged as providing        significant memories, including some held
 major international guidelines on intangible   in the National Library of Australia, are now
 heritage, the 2003 Convention encompasses      reflected in that mirror.
oral traditions, performing arts, social
 practices, knowledge and traditional
craftsma nship.                                 DR GWENDA   BEEDDAVEY   AM was a National
    The August 2004 entries on UNESCO's         Library Harold White Fellow in 1988. She has
Australian Memory of the World Register         written a number of articles previously for
include among others the Cinesound              National Library of Australia News, and is
Movietone Australian Newsreel Collection        an Honorary Research Fellow in the Cultural
 1929-1975, the Displaced Persons Migrant       Heritage Centre for Asia and the Pacific, at
Selection Documents 1947-1953, the              Deakin University at Burwood, Victoria
Ballarat Reform League Charter, the 1906
film The Story of the Kelly Gang, and the
National Library's PANDORA, Australia's
 Web Archive. PANDORA, as the acronym
indicates, aims at Preserving and Accessing
Networked Documentary Resources of
Australia. In international terms, it is a
unique archive of websites and online
publications produced in Australia, collated
with the permission of the owners of the
publications, and made available to users
to search PANDORA by such topics as
Business and Economy, Indigenous Peoples,
and Science and Technology, as well as by
individual titles.
    A further entry in the 2004 UNESCO
Australian Memory of the World Register is
of special interest to the National Library:
namely, the Australian Children's Folklore

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