05.11.2013 - UNESCO Office in Santiago

Interview with Patricia Huenuqueo: recognition and appreciation of documentary heritage in Chile

Paricia Huenuqueo, presidenta del Comité Nacional de Memoria del Mundo de Chile

Patricia Huenuqueo is the president of the Chilean National Memory of the World Committee, which by the end of October 2013 managed to have the “Documentary Fund of Law 4 of December 1866 from the Indigenous Files Commission” recognised in the Regional Memory of the World Register (MOWLAC-UNESCO). This documentary fund is conserved in Chile within the General Archive of Indigenous Matters and belongs to the National Corporation of Indigenous Development of Chile (CONADI).

Huenuqueo has a History degree from the Universidad de Chile, with a specialization in Archiving and a special interest in the study of public policies regarding archives and their effects on social life.

From 2003 to 2007, she coordinated the Management Plan for the Human Rights Archives incorporated within the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. Other documents of Chilean origin also are part of this global level list, such as the Jesuits of America Document Fund or the Lira Popular Chilena, added to the registry on the first semester of 2013. 

Additionally, Patricia Huenuqueo has taught Archiving courses at the Universidad de Chile and Universidad Alberto Hurtado and has presented at international seminars. She also participates in the NGO Archivists without Borders and works in the National Archive of Chile.

What does it mean for MOW Chile that a new documentary fund has been approved for incorporation into the Regional Memory of the World Register?

It is great news and fills us with pride, and it allows us to continue promoting the Memory of the World Programme. Each new item incorporated into the register is a sign that Chile is able to share with the region and the world its documentary richness and the historical processes that these reflect. At the same time, it is a commitment to our documentary heritage and an opportunity to generate conversations in the community about how incorporation into the register is a strategy that complements the heritage preservation work we do.

In particular, the fact that the Documentary Fund of Law 4 of December 1866 from the Indigenous Files Commission has been considered relevant to the region and approved for incorporation into the Regional Memory of the World Register is also a big opportunity for the recognition and appreciation of our indigenous communities. Since these archives relate the annexation process of the Mapuche community to the Chilean State over a period of nearly fifty years (1884-1939), we believe that its incorporation into the regional register is an opportunity to reread the history that we know and renew our understanding of the present.

We also hope that this addition will raise awareness beyond specific academic groups and on the general public; as Ray Edmonson says (see UNESCO Santiago interview), it will allow for a greater visibility of what has been for the most part unknown, but is no less true.

Finally, I think that the fact that there are institutions such as National Corporation of Indigenous Development (CONADI) that are willing to apply to the register, even when this implies research to determine the value of documentary heritage of regional interest and the commitment to facilitate its access, also shows the programme’s capacity to show that the best type of preservation is <a name="_GoBack"></a>one which includes the possibility of the collective appreciation and appropriation of this heritage, generating new ways to express its forms and content and to rediscover its meaning.

What characteristics do these applications have?

Although both applications are autonomous and separate, they share the fact that they highlight the existence of Mapuche archives that can contribute to our understanding of the indigenous communities of Latin America.

On the one hand, there is the documentary fund of the Indigenous Files Commission that is conserved in the General Archive of Indigenous Matters of CONADI, documents which describe the annexation of the Mapuche community to the Chilean State, a process which began in 1884 with the application of a law that established the population’s settlement in territory defines by the Merced Title, which must also be listed in an indigenous property registry.

On the other hand, there is the personal archive of the Mapuche artist, Santos Chávez Carinao, conserved by the Foundation of the same name which collects different documentation regarding the personal and professional life of an artists who is considered to be one of the most distinguished engraver from 20th century Chile, and whose work, inspired in his indigenous roots, has been exhibited in some of the most important museums around the world.

We also hope the incorporation of these archives in the Memory of the World Register help generate popularity for people and events whose recognition has up until now been limited to specific academic groups.

How do events such as the First Workshop on the Preservation of Documentary Heritage to be held Concepción (Bío-Bío region, Chile) offer the opportunity for more Chilean organisations to apply to the MOWLAC?

First because it is an event that brings together people who are interested in and dedicated to the preservation of documentary heritage and is therefore a good place to talk about the programme and promote the adhesion of those institutions that would like to renovate in the protection of their documentary heritage.

Likewise, the workshop is aimed at providing key notions for the proper identification and diagnostic of documentary heritage, as well as the technical training for the preparation of applications, all of which are fundamental in order to follow the methodology of the Memory of the World programme.

Lira Popular Chilena was incorporated into the register in 2013. What challenges remain following this incorporation?

Lira Popular was incorporated into the International Memory of the World Register in 2013, in addition to the Jesuits of America and Human Rights Archives which were incorporated in 2003.

Since the application of Lira was done by the National Library in conjunction with the Universidad de Chile, I think right now the big challenge is to define a common project that allows them to extend the work to raise awareness and garner recognition for these archives. I know they are working on this, but I do not think they have defined any concrete objectives or dates.

In terms of the Committee’s challenges, I think that what we have learned during the past few years will allow us to see that we need many more training and awareness-raising actions in order to better protect our documentary heritage, so we hope to continue sharing new applications, workshops, meetings and, of course, these types of conversations.

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