World Day for Audio Visual Heritage
World Day for Audio Visual Heritage (WDAH) is observed on 27th October to raise awareness of the need to preserve audiovisual assets in our collections for current and future generations.
It is a key initiative for both UNESCO and the Coordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations (CCAAA) to honor audiovisual preservation professionals and institutions that safeguard our heritage for future generations.
For several reasons, audio-visual information is especially vulnerable to loss: much of it is rare or unique, irreplaceable if lost; it is kept on a dizzying array of media types, many of which have become obsolete; many of these media types are extremely fragile and are prone to degradation over time, and to even know what is on a given recording may require that it be played — an act that could easily spell the end of that particular recording’s life.
The theme for 2021 World Day for Audiovisual Heritage is “Your Window to the World”. These audiovisual assets are windows to the world where we can see and hear voices of the past. Audiovisual content plays an increasingly important role in our lives as we try to understand the world and engage with our fellow beings.
History of World Day for Audio Visual Heritage
As long ago as 27th October 1980 the 21st Annual Conference of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) adopted the “Recommendation for the safeguarding and preservation of moving images”, which was the first international recognition of the cultural and historical importance of film and television recordings. Decisive steps were called for to ensure their preservation.
Audiovisual documents, such as film, radio, and television programs, are our common heritage and contain the primary records of the history of the 20th and 21st centuries. Sound recordings and moving images contain primary records of the 20th and 21st centuries, helping to maintain the cultural identity of people, but the film was often discarded or destroyed under the impression that it was no longer of any use or interest, while expensive early videotape was often simply reused, with the original programs wiped and lost forever.
Sadly a significant amount of the 20th century’s audiovisual heritage has gone for good and much more is slipping beyond recovery due to neglect, natural decay, or technological obsolescence. This was all seen as a serious problem that needed to be addressed.
Years passed, but nothing much was done on a global scale until 2005, when a proposal by the Czech Republic at UNESCO’s General Conference led to the approval of a proclamation to make 27th October the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage. The first World Day for Audio Visual Heritage took place in 2006.
“Transcending language and cultural boundaries, appealing immediately to the eye and the ear, to the literate and illiterate, audiovisual documents have transformed society by becoming a permanent complement to the traditional written record. However, they are extremely vulnerable and it is estimated that we have no more than 10 to 15 years to transfer audiovisual records to digital to prevent their loss. Much of the world’s audiovisual heritage has already been irrevocably lost through neglect, destruction, decay, and the lack of resources, skills, and structures, thus impoverishing the memory of mankind. Much more will be lost if stronger and concerted international action is not taken.”
According to the UNESCO Official Proclamation of 27 October as World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, the main objectives of the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage were identified as:
(a) raising public awareness of the need for preservation;
(b) providing opportunities to celebrate specific local, national, or international aspects of the heritage;
(c) highlighting the accessibility of archives;
(d) attracting media attention to heritage issues;
(e) raising the cultural status of the audiovisual heritage;
(f) highlighting audiovisual heritage in danger, especially in developing countries.
What you can do
UNESCO encourages everyone, everywhere to join in celebrating 27th October by showcasing their precious collections as part of a global endeavor to promote the value of their audiovisual heritage. There are many events held across various countries to celebrate the richness of audiovisual documentation and in working towards its preservation.
You can do your part for World Day for Audiovisual Heritage. Locate your audiovisual items that might have been forgotten and make a start by caring for your collections. Here are some links to guides to preserving your collection, to ensure that your heritage materials are accessible in the future.
Happy World Day of Audiovisual Heritage!
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