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First phase of archive digitization launched

From left, Archivist (Ag), Nadia Gamel-Carter, Minister of Culture Youth and Sport, Dr Frank Anthony, Director, MCH programme National Archives of the Netherlands Roelf Hol and UNESCO Secretary General, Inge Nathoo at the launch of the first phase of the National Archives Digitisation project

The Ministry of Culture Youth and Sport in collaboration with the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO) today launched the first phase of the National Archives of Guyana’s digitisation project.

This venture which is funded by the Guyana Government and the Guyana National Commission for UNESCO, seeks to increase access to rare resources and enhance capabilities for searching and browsing historical collections.

The first phase involved purchasing of microfilm equipment from ICAM, who provided installation and training. The second phase catered for the digitisation of fragile documents, and the third, database of information. The final phase will see the public accessing digitised information.

The microfilm/digitisation equipment will be used by the preservation department for the creation of the digitization programme

During remarks at the ceremony, Minister of Culture Youth and Sport, Dr. Frank Anthony said that the project aims to modernise the archives and allow persons to have access to pertinent historical information, thus, assisting historians and researchers to identify with Guyana’s history.

Minister Anthony said that prior to the new location; the Ministry had some challenges in terms of archiving the country’s history. “It’s a very interesting thing how we’ve treated our records; they were mistreated and a lot of our records that we would have had over the years would have been destroyed,” Minister Anthony explained.

However, he said that though much more work needs to be done, the Ministry has been working over the years to improve the remaining records.

Minister Anthony also acknowledged the partnership with UNESCO, the Netherlands and other organisations, which have been assisting the archives through capacity training and workshops, and assistance in obtaining some of the records.

The project was conceptualised in four phases, and these require a tremendous amount of work, and, once completed will allow persons to access any information digitally.

“Eventually we want to make that service online,” he said. Very little emphasis has also been placed on audio and video archives and Minister Anthony said that the Ministry will be looking at having that available soon.

Archivist (Ag), Nadia Gamel-Carter added that the digitisation is a means of creating resources that can be repurposed for unforeseen uses in the future.  She emphasised that digital information is intellectually challenging and resource-intensive and its successful implementation requires the cooperation of all stakeholders. Gamel-Carter said that the economic value of digital information is important to national development, as the disappearance of national heritage will stimulate economic and cultural impoverishment and hamper the creation of new knowledge.

UNESCO Secretary General, Inge Nathoo said that the project will target awareness-raising and advocacy investments, as well as capacity building through the development of educational programmes for the enhancement of interdisciplinary research, digitisation and sustainable preservation practices.

As a result, Nathoo urged the archivists to continue the work they are doing in terms of maintaining the country’s historical records.