2 minutes to read Posted on Monday March 25, 2013

Updated on Monday July 30, 2018

UNESCO Vancouver Declaration: ‘The Memory of the World in the Digital Age’

Today's blog is from Julia Brungs, Policy and Projects Officer at the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA).

Digitisation and preservation of cultural heritage is a subject which is close to everyone’s heart. It is essential for our everyday work and defines how institutions are run, how material is made accessible, and most importantly how it is preserved. Last year in September, UNESCO hosted the Memory of the World Conference in Vancouver, Canada. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) took part by representing the library sector at this important event.

Ingrid Parent, IFLA President, speaking at the Vancouver conference.

Shortly after the event, UNESCO released the ‘Vancouver Declaration on Digitisation and Preservation’. IFLA, together with International Council on Archives (ICA), played a key role in formulating the goals outlined in the resulting Vancouver Declaration. Some of the most important recommendations to UNESCO, its Member States, professional stewardship associations and the private sector, are:

  • the creation of a cohesive, conceptual and practical digital strategy to address the management and preservation of recorded information in all its forms in the digital environment;
  • the creation of a digital preservation framework and practices for management and preservation;
  • the adaption of an international legal framework of copyright exceptions and limitations to ensure preservation of and access to cultural heritage in digital format;
  • the encouragement of closer collaboration among international professional associations and other international bodies to develop academic curricula for digitisation and digital preservation, and to implement training programmes for management and preservation of digital information;
  • the creation of a multi-stakeholder forum for the discussion of standardisation in digitisation and digital preservation practices, including the establishment of digital format registries;
  • the formulation of strategies for open government and open data that address the need to create and maintain trust and reliance in digital government records;
  • the enhancement of cooperation with the private sector for the development of products that facilitate the long-term retention and preservation of information recorded in a digital format.

Digitisation of World War One memorabilia at a Europeana 1914-1918 Family History Roadshow.

The Declaration furthermore stresses that the current trend of the underestimation of the value of digitised objects has to be stopped in order to preserve our heritage for future generations to come. This will ensure everybody’s right to access to information, as formulated by the Declaration of Human Rights article 19, with regards to our digital heritage.

Europeana addresses the issue of digital preservation in its everyday work as well as through several of its related services and projects such as The European Library and APEX. The outcomes of the Vancouver Declaration and the roadmap following on from it therefore relate directly to Europeana and the Europeana Network. IFLA, ICA, and the Dutch Commission of UNESCO are actively working on implementing the roadmap of the Declaration. If you are a strategic expert in the field and would like to get involved, please contact Julia Brungs.