8 May 2017: Keeping history alive for posterity – The International Symposium Preservation and Access: Southeast Asia’s Documentary Heritage In The Digital Age, organised by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia in conjunction with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was recently took place at the Malaysia Tourism Centre (MaTiC).
The symposium was supported by the Malaysian government via the Malaysia Fund-In-Trust (MFIT) under the Malaysia-UNESCO Cooperation Programme.
This inaugural event was an outcome of the 38th Session of the UNESCO General Conference in Paris in 2015, where 195 countries unanimously voted in favour of the introduction of a new UNESCO Recommendation on documentary heritage, including in digital form. This was found necessary to guard against the risk of losing important material due to improper or insufficient preservation efforts.
A performance featuring Malaysian culture marks the opening of the symposium
YBhg Datuk Rashidi Hasbullah, Deputy Secretary General (Culture) at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia delivering his opening speech
Left to right: Frank La Rue, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information UNESCO; YBhg Datuk Rashidi Hasbullah, Deputy Secretary General (Culture) at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia; H. E Vongthep Arthakaivalvatee, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community and Professor Shahbaz Khan, Director and Representative, UNESCO Office Jakarta
The UNESCO Recommendation addressed both the technical and strategic issues that arise in the preservation and use of documentary heritage, providing practical, actionable recommendations that can be used by governments, memory institutes (archives, libraries, and museums), the private sector and individuals. As it is a relatively recent initiative, it has yet to be applied in the region.
“The symposium is a platform on which experts, policy makers and representatives of Memory Institutions to share their experience and ideas, as well as identify the challenges and opportunities to create documentary heritage that can be used by the public,” says YBhg Datuk Rashidi Hasbullah, Deputy Secretary General (Culture) at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia.
Several dignitaries made their way to the event to lend their knowledge, including Frank La Rue, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information UNESCO, Professor Shahbaz Khan, Director and Representative, UNESCO Office Jakarta, and H.E. Vongthep Arthakaivalvatee, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.
Over the course of the symposium, they, along with other international experts, held discussions and work out solutions for the best methods of conserving the region’s documentary heritage. “It is said that heritage is like the shadow of someone walking against the sun,” shares Frank La Rue during his opening speech. “Although it is behind us, it is always with us, and no matter where we go, it follows us.”
Memory of the World exhibition displayed UNESCO-certified heritage of Malaysia. These included the correspondence of the late Sultan of Kedah, Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah (1882-1943), Hikayat Hang Tuah, the Malay Annals and the Terengganu Inscription Stone.
Azemi Abdul Aziz, Chairperson of the Southeast Asia Regional Branch of the International Council on Archives (SARBICA) has a chat with Frank La Rue about one of the displays at the exhibition
A section of the Memory of the World exhibition, which takes place until 12 May
The Malay Annals, which is among the heritage pieces on display in the exhibition
Batu Bersurat Terengganu, which translates to Terengganu Inscription Stone, is a valuable national heirloom that is thought to date back to 1303 CE