What is the "Memory of the World"?

by Lindsay Shapka in ,


Documents at the library in the Strahov Monastery in Prague, Czech Republic 

The Memory of The World sounds like something out of a movie (when I first heard the term, I pictured never-ending rows of mahogany bookshelves stretching for miles under elaborately painted ceilings) but it is actually very real and absolutely fascinating. 

It is a program started and maintained by UNESCO that, according to the website, "is an international initiative launched to safeguard the documentary heritage of humanity against collective amnesia, neglect, the ravages of time and climatic conditions, and willful and deliberate destruction."

Founded in 1992, it was started because scholars and leaders were concerned about important historic documents being lost, falling into disrepair, or not being accessible to the general population. And, countries in the midst of war or social upheaval run the risk of loosing these documents through looting, destruction, and black market trading. 

Now, the Memory of The World is the home to a quickly growing collection of historic documents, photographs, and artifacts from all over the world that are being safely preserved, and transferred onto contemporary technology when possible, so that they can be shared. 

These priceless historic artifacts come from governments, museums, private citizens, and other sources. Some of the documents (showcasing both the best and worst of humankind) that have been gathered include more than one rare codex, a collection of old postcards from French West Africa, Confucian printing woodblocks, The Churchill Papers, and documents from the Nanjing Massacre

There is something very comforting knowing that there is an organization actively working to preserve human history, while still making it accessible to anyone.