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The most significant evidence of the intellectual and cultural endeavours of mankind is contained in documents. They take many forms, from papyri through parchment and paper to the modern electronic documents. As with many other man­made artefacts, however, documents are vulnerable and fragile. There is a significant danger that a substantial number, part of the collective memory of mankind, will be lost. Only a dramatic increase of effort will ensure the survival of the documents kept in the repositories worldwide. Preservation of the documents is not an aim in itself. It is, however, a pre­requisite for access to information, which is itself a fundamental democratic right. The Memory of the World­Programme is, therefore,working to promote the preservation of, and the access to, the documentary heritage of mankind.

The first topic examined by the Sub­Committee of Technology was how to facilitate access to documents. The Sub-Committee made several recommendations - especially for the consideration of the use of digital techniques. These recommendations are currently under review and will be re­issued shortly together with recommendations on the harmonization of access to electronic documents within the Memory of the World Programme.

With this guide, the Sub­Committee on Technology is addressing the other important element of the Memory of the World Programme; namely preservation. The guide gives an overview of the recommendations and measures related to the issue of safeguarding the documentary heritage. It is not attempting to deal in depth with all aspects of preservation, but to provide a guide or pointer to standards, recommended practices and reference literature related to the basic topic of preservation of documents. The guide covers the various information and data carriers in terms of their physical nature - occasionally bridging the boundaries of different traditional groupings of documents. An additional chapter deals with the strategic aspects of capturing and safeguarding electronic documents and publications ­ although their physical preservation problems are dealt with in the chapters for magnetic and optical media.

In order to keep pace with the technological development, especially in the field of audiovisual and electronic documents, this guide will be periodically updated.

The Sub­Committee on Technology welcomes any comments and suggestions.

Dietrich Schüller


Sub­Committee on Technology


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