Documentary Heritage

Headquarters of the National and University Library and the Town Hall of Sarajevo after restoration. Source: Carlos Javier Ordoño Rodríguez

Commemorative plaque of the destruction of the National and University Library of Sarajevo in 1992 during the Balcan War. Source: Carlos Javier Ordoño Rodríguez

Documentary heritage consists of those testimonies (documents), tangible and intangible, with which each community, culture, country or the whole of humanity perpetuate their memory and knowledge from generation to generation. This kind of heritage has been traditionally linked to archives, museums and libraries, and, consequently, it is still associated with, for example, dockets or old books; but new information and communication technologies (ICT) have revolutionized its identification, protection, transmission and reproduction to include digital archives (although programs like UNESCO Memory of the World Register prioritise tangible documents). Its keywords are: document, meaning and open access.
This heritage has come to encompass the concept of historical memory. This confluence, however, also carries significant disagreements, since cultures forge their memories in the mirrors of their own historical perception (from local to global; consider, for example, the way documentary heritage in Jerusalem can be valued in multiple ways). Hence another weakness of this heritage, not only subjected to the loss of its supporting matter, but also to the appropriation and manipulation of its meaning. This can happen with any heritage asset, but it is more common and sectarian within documentary heritage.

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Author: Víctor Fernández Salinas

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