On Audiovisual Heritage Day, UNESCO appeals for safeguarding world’s endangered archives

Stacks of film reels in the Department of Public Information (DPI) audiovisual archives at UN Headquarters. UN Photo/Ryan Brown

27 October 2015 – Against the backdrop of a large share of the world’s audiovisual heritage already lost forever, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today warned that only 10 to 15 years are left to transfer remaining audiovisual recordings to digital media before they too vanish.

“In that spirit, for this world day, I am asking all Member States, the producers and consumers of sounds and pictures, and the institutions in charge of safeguarding them to join forces to protect and share our common audiovisual wealth,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, in a message issued for the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage.

Saying films, radio and television programmes and audio and video recordings are “an incomparable source for understanding the 20 an 21st centuries,” Ms. Bokova noted that “its capacity to instantly summon up sounds and pictures, often from well beyond local borders and language barriers, makes this heritage an essential complement to more traditional archives and documents.”

But, she said: “A large share of the world’s audiovisual heritage has already been lost forever through negligence, destruction, bad luck or a lack of appropriate resources, competencies and structures, thereby depleting the memory of humanity.”

“That vulnerability is especially acute in conflict situations,” the top UNESCO official said. “We have 10 to 15 years left to transfer available audiovisual recordings to digital media and prevent their loss.”

UNESCO is participating in this safeguarding effort, she noted.

“We need to join forces to change the situation – for it is of the utmost importance that this recent history be understood and shared not only for issues of identity and affiliation but also for a clearer grasp of relationships and challenges in contemporary societies,” Ms. Bokova added.


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