UNESCO adds 38 items to global register of documentary heritage

19 June 2007 –

The world’s first feature-length film, the family archives of the Swedish industrialist and philanthropist Alfred Nobel and the proceedings of the trials of South African anti-apartheid figures such as Nelson Mandela are among 38 items of documentary heritage that have just been added to a United Nations register to help preserve them for posterity.

The items have been included in the Memory of the World Register set up by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), bringing to 158 the total number of inscriptions on the Register so far.

UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura announced today that he had approved the latest inscriptions, which were recommended by the International Advisory Committee of the Memory of the World Programme during a meeting last week in Pretoria, South Africa.

The Programme, launched in 1992 to preserve and promote documentary heritage of global significance, much of which is endangered, helps networks of experts to exchange information and raise resources for preservation of, and access to, documentary material.

This year’s additions include the relatively new, such as The Story of the Kelly Gang, an Australian film from 1906 that is the world’s first of feature length; the family archives of Mr. Nobel from 1840 to 1900; the personal archives of the Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman; the proceedings of the trials of African National Congress (ANC) leaders, including Mr. Mandela; and the archives of the Red Cross from 1914 to 1923.

They also include the not so modern, such as France’s Bayeux Tapestry, an embroidery depicting life in the 11th century; Hereford Mappa Mundi, the only complete example of a large medieval world map; Korean printing woodblocks of Buddhist texts dating from the 13th century; and 30 manuscripts of the Rigveda, ancient texts from India that are more than 3,000 years old.

This year’s additions come from or relate to the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bolivia, Canada, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Iran, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, the Republic of Korea, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States and Venezuela.

Mr. Matsuura also announced that the UNESCO/Jikji Prize, an award of $30,000, has been given to Austria’s Phonogrammarchiv, in recognition of its contribution to the advancement of audio and video preservation. Established in 1899, the sound archive is the oldest in the world and now houses more than 50,000 recordings.

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