Many of us may think of Archival Solidarity as archivists from richer nations volunteering to help archivists and archives in poorer countries. But Archival Solidarity is also about institutions and associations in all parts of the world sharing their skills, knowledge and resources to assist archive institutions in need. We rarely hear of the many varieties of assistance and relationships that occur between archival institutions throughout the world. But there are endless examples.
Assistance can take the form of technical cooperation or the provision of essential supplies. For example the National Archives of Australia has a long history of helping institutions in the Pacific region. The National Archives of France recently helped Cambodia draft their archives and records legislation and it also has various programs of cooperation with the National Archives of Vietnam. The Government of Vietnam through the National Archives of Vietnam has a long history of assisting its impoverished neighbor Cambodia. Vietnamese archivists arrived in war-ravaged Cambodia in 1983 following the ouster of the genocidal Pol Pot regime to provide support to the National Archives of Cambodia. Recently Vietnam has provided further support to Cambodia and to Laos to develop their audiovisual archives.
Malaysia, through the National Archives of Malaysia, has for many years provided an outstanding outreach program. Each year a selection of archivists and librarians from around the world are invited to Malaysia for a three month all-expense-paid course in either book binding and repair, or records and archives management. Similarly the National Archives of Japan invited a trainee from the National Archives of Ghana for six months of professional training in repair techniques under an invitation program of the Japan Foundation.
Universities such as Cornell and Yale conduct projects together with libraries and archives in Southeast Asia to microfilm and digitize collections. For several years Cornell University library hosted a very successful all-expense-paid six-month conservation internship for individuals from developing countries.
Even the various national associations of archivists and their chapters rally to raise funds to support their colleagues. For example the New South Wales chapter of the Australian Society of Archivists has raised funds for archives in Ethiopia, Timor, and Cambodia and the Society of American Archivists has donated professional publications.
In many cases the funding for these projects is initiated in a country through various embassies as part of their overseas bilateral aid programs. It can also be the work of a dedicated individual, (often a volunteer) who assists an institution in need to make the connection to a supporting institution or foundation. What is clear though is that the world of archives possesses a special attribute of coming together to share and help our colleagues in less fortunate situations.
If you have participated in any such projects please share with others interested in international outreach how the project was organized and/or how it went. Please post your comments or questions to the ICA Listserve. Or you can let us know what you would be interested in hearing about. If you are not a member of the ICA Listserve it’s easy and free to join. Instructions for doing so are available in many languages at:
We look forward to hearing from you and we will keep in touch.
Chair, Archival Solidarity Committee
Director of Archives