UN Spotlights Value and Vulnerability of World’s Audio Visual Heritage


The United Nations today underscored the importance of preserving the world’s
audiovisual heritage, stressing the vulnerability of sound and film or video
recordings to destruction and the need to pay greater attention to ensuring that
they are properly saved for future generations.

Marking the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, whose theme this year is
‘Audiovisual Heritage: See, Hear, and Learn,’ the UN Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization (UNESCO) noted that countless documentary treasures have
been lost since the invention of image and sound technologies.

Through the loss, the world lost some of its means of sharing experiences,
creativity and knowledge.

“Audiovisual records offer unique means of learning, sharing and becoming
informed through sound and image,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova in
her message to mark the Day.

“They are, in form and content, living testimonies to the history of technology,
performance and culture. By presenting images and sounds from foreign cultures,
historic moments shaping our collective memory, they contribute to cementing the
foundations of intercultural dialogue and enriching humanity’s awareness,” she

Archives around the world marked the Day with activities highlighting the
fragility and vulnerability of audiovisual heritage, while celebrating the work
of the heritage institutions that have helped to protect it.

In Nepal, the UNESCO office in the country held a round-table discussion on
safeguarding Nepal’s audiovisual memory and a concert of traditional Nepali
music in the capital, Kathmandu.

In the Namibian settlement of Tsumkwe, a selection of the John Marshall Ju/’hoan
Bushman Film and Video Collection 1950-2000, which has been inscribed on
UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, was screened, as were sound and film
archival material from the National Archives of Namibia.

At UNESCO headquarters in Paris, a public screening of short films selected from
the agency’s audiovisual archives was held, with all the selected films
featuring women characters.

Ms. Bokova stressed that the protection of the world’s heritage records is a
cultural and educational imperative and that must never be taken for granted.

“To protect the audiovisual heritage, appropriate safeguard measures should be
instituted and training and support for archive professionals, libraries and
specialized institutions provided,” she added.

The UN’s own audiovisual archive in New York will be open on the Day. It holds
80,000 hours of audio recording on 70,000 tapes and discs and 37,700 hours of
film and video on 25,000 reels of film and 32,000 video tapes.

The archives also contain 800,000 photos – 300,000 of which are outtakes that
have not been digitized. Over 9,000 hours of audio and video and thousands of
new photos are added every year.

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