Libraries Provide a Window to the World: UN World Day for Audiovisual Heritage

The UN World Day for Audiovisual Heritage (27 October) raises awareness of the urgent need to take action towards acknowledging the importance of audiovisual material and preserving it for future generations.

These materials record and transmit stories, sharing the cultures, creativity, and memory of people from the past and today, from all around the world. Ensuring that this material remains accessible, and that people can benefit from it, is one way that libraries contribute to promoting multiculturalism.

As the IFLA/UNESCO Multicultural Library Manifesto sets out, the missions of multicultural library services include safeguarding linguistic and cultural heritage and giving support to expression, creation and dissemination in all relevant languages, and supporting the preservation of oral tradition and intangible cultural heritage [read the full Manifesto here].

These values are central to the theme for this year’s World Day for Audiovisual Heritage celebrations – “a Window to the World”.

The UN values audiovisual heritage as an “affirmation of our collective memory and a valuable source of knowledge”. The contribution of libraries helps people engage with the cultural, social and linguistic diversity of their communities and beyond, to celebrate it, and through this, to promote a culture of peace.

IFLA PAC Centres Preserving Audiovisual Heritage

IFLA’s Preservation and Conservation (PAC) Centre hosted at Qatar National Library has been engaging in a project to safeguard the Arab world’s audiovisual heritage.

Hear from Stéphane Ipert (Director) and Maxim Nasra of the PAC Centre at Qatar National Library for an update on what the library is doing to preserve audiovisual heritage.

Q: What are the challenges associated with preserving audiovisual material?

A: Audiovisual archival documents, given their explicit recognition as an essential component of memory and cultural heritage, pose new problems for archive professionals. This is linked on the one hand to the difficulty of understanding the characteristics of this type of documents, which are new to archivists, and which also poses challenges at the level of methods of processing and preserving them. On the other hand, the weakness and fragility of these documents is a issue for their sustainability.

Unfortunately, audio and video audio recordings are not permanent. Due to their unstable components, internal and external factors can accelerate its deterioration and shorten its life. And reading equipment is rare, especially in the Arab markets. By taking some precautionary measures, we can extend its lifespan and thus preserve its invaluable contents.

 Q: What is the PAC Centre doing for AV Documentary Heritage?

A: Due to the lack of standards and guidelines in the Arabic language, we contacted The International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA) to see if they would be interested to have their preservation standards translated  into Arabic (the run to approximately 600 pages). The Qatar National Library, as an IFLA PAC Regional Center, signed an agreement with the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA) for the translation, production and distribution into Arabic of the following IASA technical publications:

  • IASA-TC 03 The Safeguarding of the Audiovisual Heritage: Ethics, Principles and Preservation Strategy
  • IASA-TC 04 Guidelines on the Production and Preservation of Digital Audio Objects
  • IASA-TC 05 Handling and Storage of Audio and Video Carriers
  • IASA-TC 06 Guidelines for the Preservation of Video Recordings

These standards will be published in mid-2022.

Last year, in collaboration with the Centre for Arab and Mediterranean Music in Tunisia, the British Library, and UCL-Qatar, our PAC Centre produced a glossary (English – Arabic) of key terms used in audiovisual preservation. This glossary is an ongoing project and will be updated regularly.

It was a prerequisite to start a survey of audiovisual collections across the MENA region and especially in Gulf region. The aim is to understand the needs and challenges of institutions in order to build their capacities and strengthen knowledge and information exchange.

This project is ongoing because of the pandemic and limited staff availability. Now the project has resumed and should be finished by the end of 2022. We may work in cooperation with Athar-center in Sharjah (ICCROM -Arabic region) which shows a lot of interest for that topic.

Find the survey here.

The survey is still open, and we encourage institutes to reply to it. From the responses we have received and will get in the coming months, we hope to highlight the needs and  challenges for this type of collection in the region.

We also encourage the digitisation of such collections. This is a necessity because support and reading machines are fragile. Digitisation is a way to avoid the wear and tear of inevitable decades of trying to extend the life of audiovisual libraries.

Qatar National Library also acquired the adapted equipment and has started the digitisation of its collection. We also provide cheap services for other institutions in the region. In 2022 we hope to organise 1 or 2 courses on this topic here in Doha, Qatar.

Find out more about the PAC Centre hosted at Qatar National Library here.

Arabic speakers can access past events on Audiovisual Heritage hosted by Qatar National Library at the following links:

IFLA’s Audiovisual and Multimedia Section

Within IFLA’s professional structures, the Audiovisual and Multimedia Section brings together an international group of professionals who are committed to creating, collecting, describing, preserving, and providing access to audiovisual and multimedia content.

Learn more about the Section and their work here:

The Coordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations (CCAAA), on which IFLA participates, has curated more information and a list of publicly-accessible events.

Find out more on their website:

Take Further Action: the 2015 Recommendation

The World Day for Audiovisual Heritage is also a call for UN Member States to evaluate their performance towards implementing the 2015 Recommendation Concerning the Preservation of, and Access to, Documentary Heritage, Including in Digital Form.

Did you know IFLA provides a checklist that can help you assess the progress being made in your country, and potential gaps to which libraries may be able to contribute?

Mark World Day for Audiovisual Heritage by taking action:

  1. Are you familiar with UNESCO’s 2015 Recommendation? Refer to IFLA’s briefing to learn more about the Recommendation and how libraries can make an impact.
  2. Use IFLA’s 2015 Recommendation Checklist to assess the progress being made in your country to preserve and provide access to documentary heritage
  3. Share what your library is doing to preserve and provide access to audiovisual material on social media using the hashtags: #AudiovisualHeritageDay #AudiovisualHeritage

Get in touch for assistance:



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