Tag Archives: Cultural Heritage

5 May 2018 – African World Heritage Day

The African World Heritage Day is an opportunity to celebrate, in Africa and around the world, the cultural heritage, but it is also an opportunity to raise awareness about the urgent need to protect and safeguard endangered African heritage.

Despite the richness of Africa’s heritage, Africa remains underrepresented on the World Heritage List, yet accounts for 42 % of all listings on the List of World Heritage in Danger. More encouragingly, it represents a large part of the listings on the Memory of the World Register, which focuses more strongly on documentary heritage.

The Manuscripts of Mali

Over the last years the ancient city of Timbuktu has been frequent media attention for crimes not only against people, but also against Mali’s cultural heritage. During the occupation of northern Mali, extremists destroyed cultural heritage sites and set ablaze the Library of Timbuktu, burning around 4500 manuscripts and with it an important piece of Mali’s history. Already during the Jidhadist occupation, thousands of manuscripts had been transported in secret to Bamako, in the now famous rescue operation organised by the Timbuktu librarian Abdel Kader Haidara. Some librarians chose not to take part in the rescue mission, but instead chose to hide their precious manuscripts in secret desert hiding spaces around Timbuktu.

UNESCO formed a working group in response to Mali’s emergency situation, with IFLA represented by former President Ellen Tise. The group formulated an action plan to rebuild Timbuktu’s cultural heritage, with IFLA focussing on guarantee the safekeeping of written cultural heritage, as well as the restoration and adequate training for the cultural custodians in Mali. Today The British Library, through the Endangered Archives Programme, and in partnership with the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library in Minnesota, USA, are undertaking the digitisation of the libraries in Timbuktu.

PAC Centres

The IFLA Strategic Programme on Preservation and Conservation (PAC) was officially created during the IFLA annual conference in Nairobi in 1984 . The PAC Programme has one major goal: to ensure that library and archive materials, published and unpublished, in all formats, will be preserved in accessible form for as long as possible.

There are two PAC Centres in Africa: the South Africa PAC Centre located at the National Library of South Africa, and the Cameroon PAC Centre located at CERDOTOLA (the International Centre for research and documentation on African traditions and languages). The two PAC centres have a wide range of expertise concerning preservation and conservation as well as safeguarding cultural heritage. The centres host events, trainings and workshops and support librarians and others on preservation of documentary cultural heritage.

Cultural heritage both tangible and intangible, natural and cultural, and consisting of both movable and immovable assets inherited from the past, is of extremely high value for the present and the future of communities. Access, preservation, and education around cultural heritage are essential for the evolution of peoples and their cultures. The preservation and restoration of cultural heritage has always been a priority for IFLA, as a key element of the contribution of libraries to humanity.


Libraries encourage people to explore the cultural heritage of Europe!

Europe has a rich and diverse cultural heritage. Throughout 2018 this will be promoted through the celebration of the European Year of Cultural Heritage (links to news story).

The European Commission, the initiator of the event, has asked member states, communities and civil society to join it in building a shared understanding of our cultural environment, online and off.

For anyone working in the library sector, this is ear candy. For years, libraries have been actively engaged in preserving and safeguarding cultural heritage in all formats, including digital works. This heritage is of extremely high importance for the present and the future, and of high priority for IFLA.



IFLA’s 16 PAC (Preservation and Conservation) centres are located all over the globe, from Australia to Poland, through Kazakhstan and Cameroon and to Chile. Each centre is connected to a local library, and covers a wide range of expertise on the preservation of cultural heritage.

The role and purpose of libraries as it relates to cultural heritage is fundamental for our society and our communities. But though libraries do extensive work in preserving cultural heritage, both in its physical and digital form, we cannot do it all alone! In previous blogpost, we focused on actions that may be needed for finding solutions for preserving digital heritage; often the need for government involvement has been one of the biggest issues. The library is of the main players in preserving cultural heritage, but a more broader team is required if libraries are to fulfil their duty to their stakeholders today and tomorrow.

IFLA encourages you to send in your stories of celebration to: cultural.heritage@ifla.org . These will be shared at the IFLA’s online platform, to raise awareness to the work of libraries on cultural heritage.


You can read more about the launch of The European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 and sign op for the newsletter for activities and initiatives planed all around Europe here: https://ec.europa.eu/culture/european-year-cultural-heritage-2018_en

Libraries are facing big challenges in digital preservation: We cannot do it alone

This year the first ever International Digital Preservation Day – 30 November 2017, will be celebrated around the world; a celebration of collections preserved, access maintained, and understanding fostered by preserving digital materials.

Digital Preservation Coalition has organised this initiative, aiming both to celebrate existing progress, and to highlight how much there is still to do. IFLA wants to use International Digital Preservation Day to raise awareness of the challenges libraries face in preserving digital heritage, and in ensuring that it remains accessible in the future. This includes issues such as policies, storage, and what Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the Internet, refers to as bit-rot – the masses of digital content that become unreadable as technology evolves.

Archives, libraries and other information institutions are well aware of these problems, but they cannot alone find all the solutions. A recent survey conducted under the UNESCO PERSIST initiative offered some ideas on what other action may be needed.

A global overview of digital preservation

Between September and December 2016, The Policy Working Group of the PERSIST project sent out invitations to respond to a survey on national/federal policies and strategies on preservation of digital heritage. IFLA supported this in disseminating the call. 48 respondents from 33 different countries answered, the majority being library or archive staff.

The purpose of the survey was 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 have now been aggregated in a final report, and show some of the difficulties in digital heritage preservation – both legal and practical – that libraries are facing, as well as some very interesting cases.

A call for government action
77 % of the respondents reported that in their country there is no written, cross-cutting national or federal strategy. Though there are most often guidelines for archives and records preservation, and that some digital heritage is being preserved within the framework of traditional heritage policy, most strategies are typically organisational rather than national (although this includes institutions with an official national function). This makes it hard for the institutions to approach digital preservation, as the issue is not formalised in many preservation policies.

It proved to be difficult to reach policy makers or staff of governmental organisations in order to obtain their responses to the survey on policies and strategies on digital heritage preservation. A majority of respondents indeed wished that the government would play an active role in this field. 39 % indicated that their governments do not event promote the importance of having strategies for digital heritage preservation at a national level.

Digital preservation is too big of an issue for an individual institution to take upon itself. The Working Group of PERSIST concluded that the four main problems were:

• Lack of leadership
• Lack of knowledge
• Lack of funds
• Lack of consensus between domains/institutions

The report shows the need to advocate for preservation efforts and increased public awareness, as well as the need for common standards and ways to approach this issue.

The world seems to be losing its ability to record and preserve modern-day history. Libraries are simply asking for regulations that could fix this. Enhancing the sustainability of preservation of digital heritage is a shared responsibility of public and private parties. IFLA supports the dialogue among these parties in order to enhance the preservation of digital heritage.

For more, read the full report here: https://unescopersist.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/reportsurveypersistpoliciesstrategies-1-5.pdf.