Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Editorial: A Suggestion for the Memory of the World Register

"Memory of the World" is UNESCO's program aiming at preservation and dissemination of valuable archive holdings and library collections worldwide. It maintains a register that lists documentary heritage which has been recommended by the International Advisory Committee, and endorsed by the Director-General of UNESCO, as corresponding to the selection criteria regarding world significance and outstanding universal value.

Currently, three entries are included in the register from the United States:
There are of course many archives and library collections in the United States. It is not clear to me by what process these three were chosen by our government as the most significant among them of the most outstanding universal value.

The United States (sometimes in cooperation with other nations) has currently suggested two archives for consideration for addition to the register:
Both of these appear strong candidates amply fulfilling the criteria for inclusion.

I have previously suggested that the U.S. Government recommend the archives of Eleanor Roosevelt's Papers at George Washington University for inclusion in the register. The papers are especially important because of Mrs. Roosevelt's critically important involvement in the creation of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They are especially relevant to UNESCO because of her support for that organization and the ideas that it represents.

This posting is to suggest that the U.S. Government recommend that the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress for inclusion in the Memory of the World Registry. Each year, the Library of Congress receives recommendations from the public as to which 25 movies ought to be included in the registry, which, with the 2010 crop, will include 550 films. This year those 25 films were selected from over 2,000 nominations. Films must be more than a decade old to be considered, and the current registry includes films a century or more old. The criteria for inclusion in the Library of Congress Registry are comparable to those of the UNESCO registry, the selection procedure is comparably strong, and the Library of Congress can be depended upon to preserve the films in the archive as well as any institution in the world. The U.S. film industry is globally important both because of its pioneering of the medium, and because of the huge impact American films have had globally over the past century.

Alternatively, the recommendation might be expanded to include the film archives of the Library of Congress Motion Picture Conservation Center, which currently holds and conserves more than 100 million feet of nitrate film donated by the major producers of the U.S. film industry and dating from the 1890s through 1950. These films were collected by the MPCC in collaboration with the American Film Institute, which maintains the Louis B. Mayer Library which has an important archive of books, scripts, research and other film materials, and which might be included in a recommendation to UNESCO providing an exceptional archive of films and film related materials.

John Daly
The opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Americans for UNESCO or any other organization.
The Library of Congress

No comments: