Tag Archives: Cultural Heritage

World Digital Preservation Day 2018

On 29 November libraries, archives, information institutions and others with a commitment to preserving cultural heritage celebrate the World Digital Preservation Day. This first took place last year, when the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) launched the initiative with the aim to create wider recognition for the value of digital heritage, and take urgent steps to keep it alive

Last year IFLA used the momentum of the day to call for government action, and to join forces with libraries in addressing the on the challenges in digital preservation and to raise awareness of the issues libraries are facing in preserving digital heritage.

This year we will be celebrating World Digital Preservation Day by celebrating all the great ideas, projects and efforts that libraries have been making to overcome the challenges associated with effective digital preservation.

The challenge of digital preservation

Before starting the celebration, let’s first outline what is meant by digital preservation. Digital preservation is defined as the formal activity of safekeeping digitally stored information. It requires policies, planning, resource allocation and appropriate technologies to ensure access to digital information for as long as necessary.

This is where libraries come in! Libraries have a central role in preserving and promoting cultural heritage, including modern-day history of digital collections and materials.

IFLA supported the disseminating of a PERSIST survey to get a global overview of the existence and implementation of policies and strategies for preserving born-digital materials, and to assess the role that governments assume therein.

The survey results showed that libraries are facing difficulties in digital heritage preservation often due to the lack of knowledge, funds or policies. The report also showed that there is a need to advocate for preservation efforts and increased public awareness, as well as the need for common standards and ways to approach this issue.

Libraries preserving born-digital materials

Libraries all over the world have to deal with fast growing numbers of digital materials that need to be safeguarded. Despite the many challenges libraries are facing, they are committed to preserve and provide access to documents or information that have permanent or continuing value.

To celebrate the World Digital Preservation Day we want to highlight some of the many great initiatives, but without forgetting that comprehensive digital preservation is too big an issue for any individual institution to take on alone.

IFLA has worked on the challenges around digital preservation for years, both through the UNESCO PERSIST project and also within our sections on National Libraries, Preservation and Conversation and our PAC Centres.

In 2016 the first ever Preservation and Conservation (PAC) Centre specialised in digital preservation were created. The PAC Centre is based at the National Library of Poland and supports the needs of libraries concerning digital preservation and digital sustainability. The PAC Centre is currently conducting a series of surveys covering libraries’ needs in the field of digital preservation and conservation to develop a set of recommendations for long-term preservation. An English survey will be available next year, we’ll make sure to keep you posted.

Other PAC Centres have made digital preservation one of their main focus areas for the coming years. The PAC Centre at Biblioteca Nacional Chile are currently developing a special training program on digital preservation. The PAC Centre at the National Library of Korea is also focusing on digital preservation.

Libraries worldwide are working to preserve our digital heritage, but they cannot do it alone. It has to be a shared responsibility!

The UNESCO PERSIST initiative has offered some ideas to what action may be taken, and it is clear that preservation policies must be put in place. IFLA supports the dialogue between libraries and policy makers, only by joining forces can our heritage be preserved.

European Day of Conservation-Restoration

14 October is the European Day of Conservation and Restoration, the culmination of a week of celebrations which aim to bring Europe’s cultural heritage, history and shared values closer to people. It is an opportunity also to raise awareness of the key role of conservation in safeguarding cultural heritage with policy makers and the civil society.

The survival of our heritage can never be taken for granted. Access to information – the core mission of libraries – can only happen with the conservation and treatment of the items in their collections. Libraries therefore have a responsibility to preserve, conserve, and, if possible, restore their local history and cultural heritage materials.

IFLA is committed to support libraries in Europe and around the world in their work on preserving and conserving our shared cultural heritage and the IFLA Strategic Programme on Preservation and Conservation (PAC) has one major goal: to ensure that library and archive materials, published and unpublished, in all formats, will be preserved in accessible form for as long as possible.

The IFLA network of Preservation and Conservation Centres (PAC) are centres of expertise critical to safeguarding cultural heritage globally. In Europe for example, the PAC Centre at the National Library of Poland is working to support the needs of libraries concerning digital preservation and digital sustainability, and assist in the safeguarding of digital cultural heritage.

The National Library of Poland acts as the central library of the state and one of the most important cultural institutions in Poland. Its mission is to protect national heritage preserved in the form of handwritten, printed, electronic, recorded sound and audio visual documents.

Every day, all over the world, all of IFLA’s PAC Centres work to safeguard cultural heritage and bring it closer to people. It should just be on this one day that we celebrate them and their contribution to preserving and conserving our shared history!



World Habitat Day 2018

World Habitat Day

Urbanisation – the growing share of the world’s population living in cities – is a major feature of the world today. From 55% today, over two thirds of all people are expected to live in major built-up areas by 2050.

Yet urbanisation brings its challenges. Congestion, waste management, broken and re-formed social relationships, even loneliness. The United Nations and its members recognised the need to act in 2015 when they created Sustainable Development Goal 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities, as well as when they agreed the whole New Urban Agenda.

The raises the question – how to make cities liveable. And indeed, how to make sure that cities are communities, with – as the word suggests – something in common between their inhabitants? Libraries can help in at least three ways.


Common Spaces

A first key contribution is in the space that libraries offer. As people live more and more of their lives online, there are fewer obvious reasons to come together in a single space. Yet this does not mean it is less necessary.

Indeed, the possibility to do things together – even go online – remains attractive. A police station, hospital or school does not offer this, nor – at least for people on low incomes – do private venues.

Libraries fill an important gap here, offering a neutral, welcoming space to all members of the community. Indeed, SDG 11.7 underlines this point, setting the following target: ‘by 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities’. Similar language appears in Paragraph 13(c) of the Quito Declaration that launched the New Urban Agenda.


Common Opportunities

A second ingredient of a successful community is a feeling that everyone has their place there. Everyone should be able to access to same services, and have, as far as possible, equal chances of fulfilling their ambitions.

Having access to information – as well as the rights and skills to use it – is a key to this, giving the possibility to learn, find work, and develop both personally and professionally. SDG 11.1 underlines that Member States should, ‘by 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services…’. Again, the Quito Declaration makes the same point.

Once again, libraries help. Internet access on its own can be essential in countries that are less well off. But so too is the support – both formal and informal – provided by dedicated library staff, the access to books subject to copyright, and the fact – as highlighted above – that libraries offer a welcoming space.


Common Heritage

The power of a sense of a shared past is also important, especially at times of rapid change. While this may often be overlooked in favour of interventions with more immediate impact – health, policing, renovations, it is a key part of the mix of actions that help build communities.

 Once again, this is an issue recognised by the UN, which, in SDG 11.4, calls on Member States to ‘Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage’. IFLA itself has underlined this point in a statement. Paragraph 125 of the Quito Declaration underlines:  ‘We will support the leveraging of cultural heritage for sustainable urban development and recognize its role in stimulating participation and responsibility’.

This is not just a question of the ancient past. As highlighted in IFLA’s article for World Peace Day, libraries are also helping people to recognise the events of the more recent past – even traumatic ones – and through activities such as community archiving, are helping to bring people together.



It is not by accident that the SDGs talk about cities and communities. People need both in order to benefit from a sense of wellbeing. Where they are properly supported, libraries make this happen.

Culture on the Agenda: Heritage in the Sustainable Development Goals

One of the key reasons why Sustainable Development Goal 11 is so important for libraries is its recognition of the importance of safeguarding cultural heritage.

Its inclusion alongside questions such as mobility, waste and housing may seem strange at first glance. However, it is a recognition that culture is vital to the sustainability and ‘livability’ of the cities, towns and villages where people live.

Given the range of issues covered by this goal, it was perhaps unsurprising that the thematic session on SDG11 at the 2018 High Level Political Forum “Review of SDGs implementation: SDG 11 – Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” was very broad-reaching. Fortunately, Jyoti Hosagrahar, Director of the Division for Creativity at UNESCO, was there to make a strong case for placing culture and heritage at the start of the SDGs.

Jyoti Hosagrahar, Director UNESCO Division of Creativity

Jyoti Hosagrahar, Director UNESCO Division of Creativity

She underlined not only the direct impacts of heritage in terms of identity and wellbeing, but also its impact on other indicators, such as sustainable urban development, education, and diversity.

Crucially, UNESCO is undertaking work to ensure that there is evidence for this impact. Given both the focus in the SDGs on measurement as a means of ensuring accountability, and the fact that governments themselves need such figures in order to decide how best to spend public money, this work has strong potential. The resulting Culture for Development Indicators therefore represent a rich resource.

At a side-event “Implementing SDG 11.4: Local voices and Global Agendas for Cultural and Natural Heritage” organised by the International Council on Monuments and Sites the same day, speakers had the opportunity to look further at how the heritage sector is making a difference. The impacts of heritage on the environment, on urban planning, on gender, on cohesion and tolerance were clear.

While the focus was, inevitably, on buildings and monuments, the parallels with the work of libraries were clear. In the UN context, there is a shared interest in ensuring that culture is not only part of the SDGs, but also of the measurement framework.

But more broadly, with digital technologies breaking down barriers between different types of heritage work, there is strong potential for collaboration more broadly. Further, welcome, proof of the value of the SDGs as a framework for rethinking how, and with whom, we work!

9 June – International Archives Day

Today archives are being celebrated around the globe. With many libraries hosting archives, and carrying out archival activities, this is an opportunity to recognise the importance of archivists, in whatever type of institution they work.

IFLA therefore congratulates not only all the great national archives, but also all the local and independent community archives run by volunteers. Because the importance of keeping a record of the present for the benefit of the future is not only important at the level of governments or major companies.

At the local level, archives can help build a sense of local identity and pride, of roots with the past. Community archives act as a “place of preservation” and are brought together by people sharing an interest in finding out about their community and how it developed. They can be of significant importance to social historians and others trying to understand the factors that shape people’s lives.

For example, the Canvey Island Archive is run by people from Canvey Island who took it upon themselves to gather memories, for example by copying photographs and other documents that relate to the history of the Island.

In the United States, archivists worked closely with the residents of Ferguson, Missouri, in order to document the stories of the unrest that shook the town and country. This work is already helping in the process of understanding what happened, and supporting the healing process.

Community archives preserve the past and often create awareness, interest and activity in the wider community. What is so unique about the archives is that they allow groups of people who are often unrepresented or overlooked in their society to identify, explore and celebrate their community and their cultural heritage.

That’s definitely worth celebrating!

7th Session of the General Assembly of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

On 4 June 2018, IFLA attended the opening sessions of the General Assembly to the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage at the UNESCO HQ in Paris, France along with decision makers, NGOs and other stakeholders from the cultural heritage field.

When explaining IFLA’s work on cultural heritage issues and libraries, the most common thing that people seem to think of is ancient manuscripts and old books. Manuscripts and books are easy to relate to, and most people understand the need to preserve them in order to preserve our history.

It is harder though when explaining the need for safeguarding and preservation of intangible cultural heritage, because what is it really, why protect living heritage and what can libraries do?

Before going to Paris, it felt necessary to do some homework, to get to grips with intangible cultural heritage and the role of libraries, to be able to answer those questions, as well as convince others.

What exactly is Intangible Cultural Heritage?

Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) can be defined as the practices, expressions, knowledge and skills that communities or groups recognizes as part of their cultural heritage. This could be knowledge about the environment, a dance, music or even cooking.

As the name suggests, it can’t be touched, so it’s not books, records, sculptures or paintings. But this doesn’t make it any less important to people in their daily lives. Unlike more ‘formal’ culture, it is not necessarily so easy to collect and preserve for the future. Too often, it is not even regarded as culture, meaning that it risks being neglected.

In 2003 UNESCO therefore adopted a new international convention: the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. The aim of this Convention is to secure a sustainable future for practices, traditions, skills and rituals passed down over generations. The Convention has been recognised around the world and 177 countries have ratified it in just 15 years!

Why protect living heritage?

UNESCO has noted that ICH is extremely vulnerable, and there are unfortunately many examples of intangible cultural heritage at risk, or even already lost. ICH has been threatened by globalisation, commercialisation and individualisation, and UNESCO as well as many NGOs and other organisations are eager to ensure that ICH and cultural diversity are safeguarded around the globe.

What can libraries do?

Generally, initiatives for safeguarding ICH include identification and documentation. Indeed, this may often be the first step in the process – the development of records, or an inventory. This is a natural strength of libraries.

So one of the best ways of understanding the role of libraries is by showcasing some of the great examples of collections from around the world. Libraries can make people and their heritage visible and help them pass it on to future generations.

Like the National Library of Sri Lanka whose ICH collection includes Sinhalese folklore, tales, legends, customs and ceremonies and other parts of the culture that can be recorded, but not touched.

Or the National Library of Australia which has pledged to enrich the cultural life of Australia by collecting, preserving and protecting records of the oral history with interviews, records of music and environmental sounds.

Or CERDOTOLA in Cameroun which has programmes focusing on preserving African languages, arts and food.

The list is long, these libraries are just a few of many who contributes to the safeguarding and preservation of ICH. All are also members of IFLA’s network of Preservation and Conservation Centres.

Governments should be supporting libraries in this work!

The Convention itself requires Member States to establish documentation institutions for ICH and facilitating access to them (Article 13). This is an important point for the library community, which can draw on government commitments in advocacy work.

In the General Assembly, several Member States highlighted the importance of capacity building and getting experts and NGOs involved. The Secretariat of the Convention in turn stated that good safeguarding practices needs to be highlighted, and a working group under the Secretariat is creating a survey to be send to thousands of organisations to help them understand how intangible cultural heritage can best be safeguarded and preserved.

We’ll be keeping an eye out for this survey, as it is clear that libraries can take an active role in this, contributing to safeguarding and preserving the world’s intangible cultural heritage and fostering cultural and creative diversity and social cohesion.



5 ways to celebrate the World Day for Cultural Diversity

21 May is the World Day for Cultural Diversity established by the UN in 2002. The day promotes cultural diversity and dialogues among nations, people and cultures.

In 2015 IFLA, in partnership with UNESCO, published The Multicultural Library – a gateway to a cultural diverse society in dialogue. Libraries serve diverse interests and communities, they function as learning, cultural, and information centres, addressing cultural and linguistic diversity serving all members of the community.

This day is an opportunity to learn and understand the value of cultural diversity. Here’s five things you can do to embrace cultural diversity

1.Visit a library exhibition dedicated to other cultures

Libraries around the world support cultural diversity and have large collections and even exhibitions on a variety of cultures and cultural heritage. For example at the National Library of South Africa the exhibition ”Treasure House of Knowledge” show cases 300 of the institutes national treasures including a 10th century illuminated gospel book, Solomon T Plaatje’s translation of Julius Caesar into Tswana and letters from Olive Schreiner to Mahatma Gandhi during a time of turbulence in South Africa.

2. Talk to someone from another religion or culture to share views on life

They say don’t judge a book by it’s cover! The Human Library is a place where real people are on loan to readers. There are Human Library events in libraries all over the world, where you can meet books such as the Refugee, the Muslim and the Convert. The Human Library supports dialogue between people, and let you learn more about other religions and cultures.

3. Read a book from another country than your own

There a plenty of languages that have nothing translated into other languages, and in countries such as the UK only 4.5 % of poetry, fiction and drama works are translations. In 2015 a movement started, having one goal: to read one book from every country in the world. The aim was to learn about different countries, cultures and people. Watch the TED talk how it all started and find the list of books from all over the world.

4. Learn about the diversity of cultures in your own country

In many countries libraries provides a historical glimpse of the country and its indigenous people. At the Native Hawaiian Library they offer services such as story telling, oral history and book launches. You can browse through Hawaiian language newspapers published between 1834 and 1948 and learn about history and language.

You can of course also ask your local librarian help you seek out the most important texts from thinkers of other cultures such as Socrates, Aristotle and Rumi.

5. Explore music from a different culture

Your local library will have a wide range of music pieces that you can borrow. Try to pick up something that you wouldn’t usually listen to, or browse through the online collection of Europeana where you can explore music recordings and other music items from across Europe.