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Memory of the World

Who decides today what we will remember tomorrow? Since 1992, UNESCO’s ‘Memory of the World’ Programme has been pursuing the issues of the many-faceted documentary heritage. What can old collections tell us about the important cultural turning points of humanity? What historical mirror do they hold before us?

UNESCO’s ‘Memory of the World’ register is a worldwide digital network featuring a selection of exceptional documents: valuable collections of books, manuscripts, musical scores, unique documents, pictures, sound recordings and films.

The register contains 348 documents from around the world, including Solidarność’s ‘21 Demands’, the colonial archives of Benin, Senegal and Tanzania, the Aztec Codices in Mexico, the archive of the Warsaw Ghetto, and – as first testaments to book printing – the Gutenberg Bible from Göttingen and the Korean Jikji (anthology of Zen teachings).

The aim is to ensure the preservation of documentary material of outstanding value in archives, libraries and museums, and to make it accessible using new digital technology.

A UNESCO International Advisory Committee decides on the inclusion of documents on the world register every two years. The German Commission for UNESCO established a nomination committee in 1999. The countries of origin of the documents undertake to take charge of the care, digital presentation and accessibility of the documentary heritage.

"To value the cultural heritage and to care for it as a treasure bequeathed to us by our ancestors that it is our duty to transmit as wholly as possible to our children, is a sign of wisdom."
(Koïchiro Matsuura)

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