Preservation of documentary heritage

© Heidelberg University
The digitisation lab of the Heidelberg University Library

Documentary heritage reflects the diversity of languages, peoples and cultures. It is the mirror of the world and its memory. But this memory is fragile. Every day, irreplaceable parts of this memory disappear for ever.

The first and most urgent need is to ensure the preservation, by the most appropriate means, of documentary heritage that has world significance.

It is also important to make this heritage accessible to as many people as possible, using the most appropriate technology, both inside and outside the countries in which it is located. Therefore UNESCO takes actions aimed at safeguarding documentary and audiovisual heritage.

The preservation of the world's legacy of knowledge is a prerequisite for universal access and will greatly impact the extent to which Knowledge Societies development.

Access to and dissemination of information relies on the stability of documents and the retrievability of their content.

Paradoxically, technical developments often result in greater instability and shorter lifespans of documents.

For example, the clay tablets of Mesopotamia can last further millennia, but audiovisual documents will only survive for decades. And the life of digital objects, on average, will not exceed ten years.

In addition, natural disasters and wars frequently destroy entire archival and library collections.

Memory of the World Programme

The vision of the Memory of the World Programme is that the world's documentary heritage belongs to all, should be fully preserved and protected for all and, with due recognition of cultural mores and practicalities, should be permanently accessible to all without hindrance. >> More information

Digital heritage

© League of Nations Archives, UNOG Library
Specialized equipment for digitization

Digital heritage is made up of computer-based materials of enduring value that should be kept for future generations. Digital heritage emanates from different communities, industries, sectors and regions. Not all digital materials are of enduring value, but those that are require active preservation approaches if continuity of digital heritage is to be maintained. >> More information

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