29 March 2011
IFLA and the Prince Claus Fund sign contract to help preserve Haitian cultural heritage
Creating a solid foundation for Haiti's cultural reconstruction
On 17 March 2011 Christa Meindersma, the recently appointed Director of the Prince Claus Fund for Culture & Development and IFLA Secretary General Jennefer Nicholson signed a contract that will enable joint action to save Haiti's still vulnerable archives and important library collections. Thanks to the support of ICCO and Kerk in Actie, the Prince Claus Fund is providing € 242,500 for the restoration of these important documents through the establishment of a treatment centre (Ark) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. This contribution will in turn create a solid foundation for a crucial part of Haiti's overall cultural reconstruction. IFLA will coordinate the disbursement of these funds.
With the signing of this contract and additional important financial support from the City of Geneva, preparations for the treatment centre are now underway.
Last June, the Ministry of Culture of Haiti, the International Committee of the Blue Shield (ICBS), and the Haitian Committee of the Blue Shield signed an agreement calling for the creation of a center devoted to the rescue and treatment of books, documents and archival material, as well as the establishment of an archive to preserve Haitian heritage for future generations.
The centre will be staffed by an all-volunteer team of approximately 300 national and 700 international experts. These experts will in turn help train and support local professionals in a variety of restoration techniques, skills, and best practices. Once they have been treated, the documents will be stored in acclimatized containers where they will be kept safely until they are to be transferred to a permanent place. The trained staff will thus not only be taking part in the safeguarding of Haiti's cultural heritage, but also contributing to the professionalisation of the Haitian Library sector.
Through the re-establishment of archival and historical library collections, Haitians will be able to rebuild the community that existed before this devastating earthquake. The preservation of material history is an essential step in the process of re-establishing a foundation for Haiti's cultural identity. The project also ensures that library collections and archives can be made open to the public again, giving Haitians the opportunity to better draw on important information and knowledge. Having access to this collection will eventually contribute to a sustainable reconstruction of the country.