UNESCO implemented the first phase of the project "Strengthening local capacities for the emergency conservation of historical archives in the areas affected by the 16 April 2016 earthquake in Ecuador"
UNESCO Quito Cluster Office for Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, and the Ecuadorian Ministry of Culture and Heritage, have combined institutional efforts to bring this initiative of technical assistance to the areas affected by the earthquake that hit Ecuador last April, 16th, paying particular attention to the historical documentation as a repository of local memory which is considered to be a sensitive sector.
This technical assistance, financed with resources provided by UNESCO´s Emergency Preparedness and Response Unit, is part of the actions undertaken by the organization in order to reduce risk of disaster within the cultural tangible and intangible heritage, aimed at ensuring their protection and safeguard in case of any threat that compromises the integrity and values of such heritage. Loss or deterioration of this significant heritage impacts negatively on local communities, due to its cultural significance as a source of information relatable to the past and as a symbol of identity, in addition to their socio-economic value.
“Natasha San Martin, UNESCO consultant, develops the technical process of sampling in the Parish Historical Archive of “Nuestra Madre de la Merced”, Portoviejo. The workshops also provide the participants with the ideal experience of integration of both knowledge and hands-on practice”
This initiative, developed in the field, consisted of 10 documentary emergency conservation workshops carried out from August 31st to September 9th, in the province of Manabí, in 10 archives selected in the cantons of Chone, Junín, Sucre, Portoviejo, Manta, and Montecristi, with the main objective of strengthening the technical capabilities of the custodians of historical documentation through an experience of expertise and knowledge transmission as well as in situ practices.
The UNESCO team of consultants, integrated by Natasha San Martin and Jorge Corral, were able to train local staff on general conservation of historical archives measures to take in case of emergency. These training sessions were complemented through workshops on document conservation, given by Daniela Zúñiga and Mabel Ortíz, conservers of the history area of the Central University of Ecuador. As part of this assistance, the UNESCO Office in Quito delivered in each archive selected, a kit with basic materials for the documentary conservation processes; such as Japanese paper, “Melinex” paper, carboxymethyl cellulose, polyvinyl acetate, graphite pencils, repair tapes, filter masks, and others.
“Handing over of conservation Kits to the Parish Historical Archive of “Nuestra Madre de la Merced” personnel, in Portoviejo, Manabi”
Moreover, on 8th and 9th September, the "Resilience, Memory and Heritage" workshop was held in Ciudad Alfaro, Montecristi, with the participation of 120 people from libraries and documentation centers of public and private institutions, as well as local municipalities (GADs). The first day of the workshops was mainly addressed to the people responsible for the administration of cultural heritag
e within local municipalities , focusing on heritage risk management in case of natural disasters, with the support of experts from the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation (AECID), Angel Luis de Sousa and Alfonzo Muñoz. The second day of workshop, was envisioned to strengthen knowledge of the custodians in conservation of the selected archives. During this last day, those responsible for the files, summited the documentation to be restored, to the delegate of the Central University of Ecuador, in the presence of Juan Martín Cueva, Vice Minister of Culture and Heritage.
The documentation selected for restoration was composed by 15 different files, public deeds, and public notarial documents, dating from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which were selected to be restored, and were transferred to the conservation laboratories of the Central University of Ecuador (after the Vice Minister´s intervention). Currently, a team of 15 people, consisting of document conservers, chemistry teachers and students, and university´s arts and restoration students are actively working on the technical processes of such documentary material recovery, including laboratory analysis (type of ink and paper identification, microorganisms and insects identification), documentary unit cleansing, deformations correction and insertion of grafts to strengthen the body of the documents mentioned.
The project will continue next November 2016 with the summit of the restored documentation to local archives, and, an assessment of the progress of the files that received assistance with conservation procedures of its documentary collections will be carried out. The results of these actions will provide inputs for the construction of a methodological guide for the management of historical archives, with emphasis on risk reduction and implementation of post-disaster emergency measures.