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Thirty-Five Documentary Properties Added to UNESCO's Memory of the World Register
The Nibelungenlied (the Song of the Nibelungs) is probably the most famous heroic poem in Middle High German. Photo: Uli Deck.
BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS.- Thirty-five items of documentary heritage of exceptional value have been added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register. This brings the total number of inscriptions since 1997 to 193.

The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, announced the inscription of these items on the recommendation of experts during a 3-day meeting of the International Advisory Committee (IAC) of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme which continues to 31 July in Bridgetown, Barbados.

The Director-General also announced the winner of the 2009 UNESCO/Jikji Prize: the National Archives of Malaysia in recognition of its outreach, educational and training programmes in the area of preservation within the Asian region.

The Memory of the World Register features documentary heritage identified by the International Advisory Committee and endorsed by the Director-General of UNESCO as corresponding to the selection criteria for world significance.

New inscriptions on the Memory of the World Register:

Manifesto of the Queensland Labour Party to the people of Queensland (Australia): The manifesto stands as one of the platforms on which the Queensland and Australian labour movement developed and can be described as one of the formative documents of the Australian Labour Party. It voices the party's grievances, with a focus on the ruling class of the time, those that Labour saw as opponents to improved working conditions and increased economic prosperity.

Farquharson’s Journal (Bahamas): A handwritten diary by Charles Farquharson, owner of the cotton growing Prospect Hill Plantation in the eastern part of Watlings Island, now known as San Salvador. This day-to-day record from 1 January, 1831 to 31 December, 1832 provides unique insights into plantation life.

The Baltic Way - Human Chain Linking Three States in their Drive for Freedom (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania): Documents recording the 600 km long human chain formed in the three Baltic States on 23 August 1989 to mark the 50th anniversary of the German-Soviet pact of non-aggression of 1939 and its secret protocol. It was a unique and peaceful demonstration that united the three countries in their drive for freedom.

Federal Archives Fonds (Barbados): The West Indies Federation (1958-1962) was a political federation of ten territories in the Anglophone West Indies that signalled the beginning of a new era of decolonization after World War II. The history of the West Indies is inextricably linked to the histories of other former British colonies. These records are of international significance as they reflect the interconnectivity of these histories and document one of the decisive periods of the 20th century when territories under British colonial rule first flexed their political muscle and sought to become self-governing nation-states.

The Nita Barrow Collection (Barbados): An extensive collection that documents the life and times of the late Dame Ruth Nita Barrow (1916-1995), gender activist, diplomat, healthcare professional and trainer. It contains material pertaining to world events as varied as the Cuban Revolution, the fall of the Berlin Wall and Apartheid in South Africa. In her capacity as president of the World Council of Churches (W.C.C. 1983-91), the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA 1975-83), and the International Council for Adult Education (ICAE 1989-90), Nita Barrow was directly or indirectly connected to all these events.

Archives Insolvente Boedeldskamer Antwerpen (Belgium): The archives of the Chamber of Insolvent Estates in Antwerp contribute to understanding international relations and interactions in the Early Modern Period (1500-1800). It contains information about dozens of prominent Antwerp firms with branches all over Europe and offers a unique view of trade relations with, for instance, China and Brazil. The archives allow for the study of a wide variety of topics including bookkeeping, different kinds of trade and insurance.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum Archives (Cambodia): Photographs and documents from the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the former S-21 prison and interrogation centre where more than 15,000 people are believed to have been held and only a handful survived. The archive contains photographs of over 5,000 of these prisoners, as well as “confessions”, many extracted under torture, and other biographical records of prisoners, prison guards and officials in the security apparatus.

Registry of Slaves of the British Caribbean 1817-1834 (Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Jamaica, St Kitts, Trinidad and Tobago and the United Kingdom): This registry was drawn up to help control the illegal import of slaves to the Caribbean after Great Britain abolished the trade in African slaves in the islands in 1807. Enslaved Africans made up the great majority of transatlantic migrants from the 15th to 19th centuries and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade remains a sensitive subject with many ethical implications.

Collected Works of Norman McLaren (Canada): Norman McLaren is among the most influential artists in the history of animation. The archive consists of 82 films and 52 film tests completed between 1933 and 1985, decades during which Norman McLaren engaged in constant groundbreaking research and experimentation.

Original Negative of the Noticiero ICAIC Lationamericano (Cuba): The ICAIC Latin-American Newsreels were produced weekly from 1960 to 1990 and represent a unique historical document depicting the wars for independence in many African colonies as well as other events, which illustrate the world’s growing bipolarization. These newsreels constitute the most comprehensive record of the history of the Cuban Revolution but their international scope endows them with international significance.

The Arnamagnaean Manuscript collection (Denmark, Iceland): The Icelandic scholar and antiquarian Árni Magnússon (Arnas Magnæus, 1663-1730) spent much of his life building up what is generally considered to be the most important collection of early Scandinavian manuscripts anywhere. It numbers close to 3,000 items, the earliest dating from the 12th century and provides invaluable sources on the history and culture of medieval, renaissance and early-modern Scandinavia and much of Europe. The collection features many examples of the uniquely Icelandic narrative genre known as the saga, landmarks of world literature still widely translated and read today.

Book for the Baptism of Slaves (1636 – 1670) (Dominican Republic): The book is a source of precious information on American slavery, particularly in the Dominican Republic and provides information about lesser-known aspects of the colonial slave system, namely the transition from a slave society to a society with slaves; from a slave plantation society to a patriarchal slavery. This later system, linked to the economic crisis that marked the Spanish colony in the 17th century, was accepted because it was not dependent on the world market system, but served to consolidate the social stratification of “Creole society”.

Documentary Heritage on the Resistance and struggle for Human Rights in the Dominican Republic, 1930-1961 (Dominican Republic): From 1930 to 1961, the Dominican Republic endured one of the most oppressive regimes in Latin American history: the Rafael L. Trujillo dictatorship. Thousands of Dominicans and foreigners were imprisoned, tortured or killed. Some were mutilated, others endured permanent physical or mental scars. The inscribed items document these atrocities and contain rich evidence of the Dominican resistance movement and its struggle for democracy, freedom, and respect for human rights.

Radziwills’ Archives and Niasvizh (Nieśwież) Library Collection (Belarus, Finland, Lithuania, Poland, Russian Federation, Ukraine): The collection was assembled from the 15th to the 20th century by members of the Radziwill family, one of the most prominent aristocratic families of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Many members of the family held the highest positions and played an important role in the histories of Prussia, the Russian Empire, and the Polish Republic. The Radzwills’ Archives were in fact the official archives of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and contained state records and treaties alongside private family correspondence.

Library of the Cistercian Abbey of Clairvaux at the time of Pierre de Virey (1472) (France): The Clairvaux manuscripts form one of the largest medieval monastic library collections in western Christendom. The collection was inventoried in 1472 by the Abbot Pierre de Virey. At the time, the library contained 1,790 manuscripts, of which 1,115 have survived. The library is now the foremost medieval collection in France in terms of its size and excellent state of conservation.

Song of the Nibelungs, a heroic poem from mediaeval Europe (Germany): The Nibelungenlied (the Song of the Nibelungs) is probably the most famous heroic poem in Middle High German and can be compared to epics such as Gilgamesh (Babylonia), the Mahabharata (India), or the Heike Monogatari (Japan). It tells the story of dragon-slayer Siegfried from his childhood and marriage to Kriemhild to his murder and the subsequent story of Kriemhild's revenge, culminating in the extinction of the Burgundians or Nibelungs at the court of the Huns.

János Bolyai: Appendix, scientiam spatii absolute veram exhibens. Maros-Vásárhelyini, 1832 (Hungary): For over 2,000 years many of the best mathematicians tried to prove Euclid’s parallel postulate (or axiom). János Bolyai created entirely new settings for the problem by inventing absolute (or neutral) geometry that is independent of parallelism. He is the father of non-Euclidean geometry, clearly and flawlessly presented in his Appendix. This discovery stimulated not only the creation of new space concepts vital for modern physics but the evolution of modern mathematical thinking. This copy of the Appendix once belonged to the author and contains notes, manuscript title pages and figures by him and by his father, Farkas Bolyai.

The Csoma Archive of the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Science, (Hungary): Hungarian scholar Alexander Csoma de Kőrös (c. 1784-1842) was the first European to interpret the cultural heritage of the Tibetan people. He compiled the first Tibetan-English Dictionary of scientific value together with a Grammar of the Tibetan Language (1834). He became the founder of Tibetan studies in the West.

Administrative Documents of Astan-e Quds Razavi in the Safavid Era (Iran): This 69,000-page collection of the Astan Quds Razavi charity organizations dates from 1589 to 1735 and covers a vast geographical area that includes Iran, especially Khorasan province, and Afghanistan. It contains information on administrative, social, economic, agricultural, religious and other issues that provide the reader with an image of the city of Mashhad and life in the Safavid era.

Donguibogam: Principles and Practice of Eastern Medicine (Republic of Korea): An encyclopaedia of medical knowledge and treatment techniques compiled in Korea in 1613 and edited by Heo Jun with the collective support of medical experts and literati according to royal instruction. The work informed the evolution of medicine in East Asia and beyond. As a health care system, it developed the principles of preventive medicine and public health care by the State, which were virtually unprecedented ideas up to the 19th century.

Royal Archives (1824-1897) (Madagascar): The collection comprises the royal archives, old journals, registers of Sakaizambohitra (village heads), and registry office documents. Representing a key element in the foundation of the country’s identity, they contain written documents that come from the recovery in 1895, at the end of the reign of Ranavalona III, of the archives of high-ranking figures in the Kingdom of Madagascar.

Batu Bersurat, Terengganu (Inscribed Stone of Terengganu) (Malaysia): The Batu Bersurat, Terengganu - or Inscribed Stone of Terengganu - constitutes the earliest evidence of Jawi writing (writing based on Arabic alphabets) in the Malaya Muslim world of Southeast Asia. The Stone is a testimony to the spread of Islam offering insight into the life of the people of the era as well as depicting the growth of Islamic culture under a set of religious laws.

Collection of the Center of Documentation and Investigation of the Ashkenazi Community in Mexico (16th to 20th Century) (Mexico): The collection consists of 16,000 volumes, mostly in Yiddish and Hebrew, but also in Polish, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Russian and other languages relating to Ashkenazi culture. It preserves and disseminates a European Jewish culture that almost disappeared during the Nazi era. It also safeguards the memory of the community of Jews who arrived to Mexico from Central and Eastern Europe.

Diaries of Anne Frank (Netherlands): The diary of Anne Frank tells of daily life during World War II in the Netherlands through the eyes of an adolescent girl and shows the impact of Nazi occupation. It describes her life during the two years she, her family and four other people, all Jews, lived in hiding from Nazi persecution, before they were betrayed and deported. Her diary is one of the top 10 most read books worldwide.

Catecismo Corticu, First Catechism Written in Papiamentu Language (Netherland Antilles): Papiamentu, an Afro-Portuguese-based Creole, is widely spoken by almost a quarter million people in the Dutch Caribbean islands today, across social class, race and ethnicity. The translations of the Roman Catholic catechism into Papiamentu in 1826 and 1837 had great impact on the history of the ABC-islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao). It is the oldest surviving document where Papiamentu appears in a full book-form printed publication and marks a turning point in the evolution of Papiamentu from a popular spoken tongue to the official language of the people of the ABC.

Archives of Terror (Paraguay): The Archives of Terror are official documents of police repression during the 35 years of Alfredo Stroessner's dictatorship. They also contain supporting evidence of Operation Condor activities, part of a campaign of political repressions involving assassinations and intelligence operations launched in 1975 by the right-wing dictators of the Southern Cone of South America.

Archives of the Literary Institute in Paris (1946-2000) (Poland): The Archives of the Polish Literary Institute are the complete documentation of the Paris-based Institute's activities in the years 1946-2000. The unique collection depicts the work of an unparalleled emigration institution and its magazine Kultura. Thanks to the intellectual and political vision implemented for decades by its founders and leaders, the Institute played a vital role in the peaceful victory over communist dictatorship in Eastern Europe and the division of the world into two hostile political blocs.

Sir William Arthur Lewis Papers (St. Lucia): A collection that documents Sir William Arthur Lewis's career as a scholar and as an economic advisor to numerous international commissions and several African, Asian and Caribbean governments. These papers include biographical data, professional correspondence, country files, minutes of meetings, reports, etc. as well as lecture notes and articles pertaining to Sir Arthur’s activities as professor and Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies. The collection also encompasses audio-visual materials including lecture series and the 1979 Nobel Laureate ceremony, when he received the Nobel Prize for Economics.

Santa Fe Capitulations (Spain): The Santa Fe Capitulations is a document of the Royal Chancery of the King of Aragon containing the Capitulations Christopher Columbus signed with the monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile in Santa Fe de la Vega on 17 April 1492, a few months after the capture of Granada. The Capitulations lay down the conditions under which Columbus was to set off on his first voyage, which led to the Europeans’ discovery of America in the same year. The document can be regarded as the first written record of the history of America.

Archival Documents of King Chulalongkorn's Transformation of Siam (1868-1910) (Thailand): Present-day Thailand owes much to the policies and reforms carried out by King Chulalongkorn the Great of Siam (1868-1910). The documents record social policies such as the emancipation of slaves by peaceful and legal means, the abolition of gambling, the establishment of a public school system and the reform of the Buddhist Sangha, as well as the promotion of agricultural production, the market economy, and financial and fiscal institutions. These measures contributed to Siam’s ability, exceptional during the age of Western colonialism, to retain its independence.

Magna Carta, issued in 1215 (United Kingdom): Often described as the foundation of English liberty, law and democracy, the Magna Carta’s influence endures worldwide. The critical importance of the charter lies in the fact that it imposed, for the first time, detailed written constraints on royal authority regarding taxation, feudal rights and justice. It also asserted the power of customary practice to limit unjust and arbitrary behaviour by the king and has become a symbol for freedom and democracy throughout the world.

John Marshall Ju/'hoan Bushman Film and Video Collection, 1950-2000 (USA): The collection, held at the Smithsonian Institution's Human Studies Film Archives, is one of the seminal visual anthropology projects of the 20th century providing a unique example of sustained audiovisual documentation of one cultural group, the Ju/'hoansi, of the Kalahari Desert in northeastern Namibia, over half a century. It is an unparalleled historical record not only of an indigenous people’s traditional way of life and ties to the land but of the transformation of their life in the rapidly changing political and economic landscape that developed in concert with the struggle for Namibian independence.

Woodblocks of Nguyen Dynasty (Vietnam): The 34,555 plates of wood-blocks of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945) helped to record official literature and history as well as classic and historical books. Their value is at once documentary and artistic. Their technique furthermore represents a landmark in the development of wood-block carving and printing in Vietnam. Their importance and high value led feudal dynasties and state authorities to pay considerable attention to preserving these records through the ages.

League of Nations Archives 1919-1946 (United Nations Office at Geneva, UNOG): The League of Nations was conceived in 1919 in the aftermath of World War I. Its archives bear testimony to the will to create the world’s first intergovernmental organization for peace and cooperation, which led to a fundamental change towards an “institutionalization” of international relations. These unique archives attest to the efforts of diplomats, officials and the first international civil servants to promote cooperation between nations and guarantee peace and security.

UNRWA Photo and Film Archives of Palestinian Refugees (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, UNRWA): Since the inception of the agency 60 years ago, UNRWA’s Public Information Office has produced photographs and films covering all the stages of the history of the Palestinian refugees, from the establishment of functional camps in the 1950s, the second flight during the 1967 war, the civil war in Lebanon, the turbulent periods in the second half of the 80s to the consecutive unrest starting in the year of 2000. UNRWA has produced and collected a comprehensive record of still photographs and films, covering most aspects of the lives and history of the Palestine refugees.

UNESCO | Anne Frank | Koïchiro Matsuura | Mexico | Nazi | Jewish |


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July 31, 2009

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