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Stakeholders enhance knowledge on identifying, preserving documentary heritage | 06 September 2019

Stakeholders enhance knowledge on identifying, preserving documentary heritage

The delegates in a souvenir photo

A group of local archivists, librarians and documentalists from ministries, agencies, entities and other professionals working in conservation and heritage, are taking part in a three-day training on how to better preserve Seychelles’ documentary heritage.

The capacity building training is an initiative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) since 1982. A first of its kind for Seychelles, the Unesco training for managers of memory institutions of documentary heritage is being organised in collaboration with the Seychelles National Commission for Unesco from the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development (MEHRD). It aims to empower delegates with tools to identify, preserve and access documents so as to better document the collective memory of Seychelles’ heritage to put them on a national register for present and future generations.

The workshop being held at the Ministry of Education hall, Mont Fleuri, started on Wednesday and it was the principal secretary for early childhood, primary and secondary education Dr Odile De Comarmond who launched the training which is being led by John Okande, ‘Memory of the World’ expert from the Unesco regional office based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Addressing the delegates, representatives of the department of culture, members of the Seychelles National Commission for Unesco, and the Seychelles National Memory of the World committee, Dr De Comarmond said Seychelles, with the support of Unesco, has organised numerous national workshops in different fields over the past years including several this year alone.

“On behalf of the Seychelles National Commission for Unesco, I take this opportunity to express our appreciation for the excellent working relationship we have with the Unesco,” Dr De Comarmond said.

She further noted that the working session this week came about through the encouragement of the Unesco regional office which highlighted the assistance Seychelles would benefit from if a national committee for the ‘Memory of the World’ is established here.

According to Unesco, there is growing awareness of the parlous state of preservation of and access to documentary heritage in various parts of the world. War and social upheavals, as well as severe lack of resources, have worsened problems which have existed for centuries. Significant collections worldwide have suffered a variety of fates. Looting and dispersal, illegal trading, destruction, inadequate housing and funding have all played a part. Much has vanished forever and much more is endangered. Happily, missing documentary heritage is sometimes rediscovered.

According to a representative of the Seychelles National Commission for Unesco, Vicky Gendron, the ‘National Memory of the World’ committee was set up during the second quarter of this year with the aim of establishing and maintaining a Seychelles ‘Memory of the World’ register. Managers of the memory institutions as well as individuals will be encouraged to submit nominations of their documentary heritage for inclusion on the national register.

Ms Gendron said through a meeting with Mr Okande prior to the workshop, some initiatives that were discussed include conducting a needs assessment on existing documentary heritage in Seychelles, developing guidelines for the preservation and allowing access to documentary heritage and capacity building workshops of different groups of people to educate them further about the importance of preserving and allowing access to documentary heritage. She noted that the programme will also be held on Praslin and La Digue in the future.

Mr Okande said national heritage memory register creates international recognition for the host country as the heritage documents are items of value to nations as they inform us on how we plan and grow as a country for the future and also on how we relate to one other.

He said that he was happy to note that Seychelles is the third country from the 13 regional member states after Uganda in 2018 and Kenya in 2016 to embark on the Unesco initiative.

Mr Okande added that Unesco’s whole aim is how it can best encourage member countries to take care of their national cultural heritage and to come up with measures to properly preserve it for future generations.

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