Added on 6 April 2017

UK organisations involved with the identification, preservation and promotion of documentary heritage should use UNESCO’s 2015 Recommendation on Protecting Documentary Heritage as a valuable advocacy and communications tool, a Policy Brief launched at the British Library this week suggests.

The UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Preservation of, Access to, Documentary Heritage in the Digital Era was agreed at the 38th Session of the UNESCO General Conference in Paris in November 2015. It aims to assist Member States to identify documentary heritage and policy measures to ensure preservation and access to documentary heritage at a national level, and foster collaborative research on guidelines, policies and best practice models at an international level.


Laura Mitchell, Maureen Pennock and Adrian Brown joined representatives of the UK National Commission for UNESCO at a launch for the Policy Brief on UNESCO’s Recommendation on Documentary Heritage hosted by partners, the British Library

The Policy Brief published by the UK National Commission for UNESCO provides a framework for UK stakeholders involved in the identification, preservation and promotion of documentary heritage to take forward this UNESCO Recommendation. The Brief addresses both the technical and strategic issues that arise in the preservation and use of documentary heritage, and provides practical, actionable recommendations.

Introducing the UNESCO Recommendation, Elizabeth Oxborrow-Cowan, Chair of the UK UNESCO Memory of the World Committee, explained how it ‘reflects what national experts agree to be long-standing good practice in the UK, as demonstrated by leading bodies such as the British Library.’

Referring to the work of the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) and its members, she said that ‘the Recommendation reinforces the importance and appropriateness of the work that these organisations undertake.’

Ten years after the DPC's seminal 'Mind the Gap' Report mapped a decade of innovation, Chair of the Coalition Laura Mitchell summarised the digital preservation challenge, saying: ‘It won't do itself; it won't go away; it's not just about technology.’ Ms Mitchell went on to welcome the UK National Commission’s Policy Brief as an ‘external, independent and authoritative mandate in the identification, protection and promotion of our documentary heritage.’


Maureen Pennock outlined the potential impact of the Policy Brief and Recommendation for the British Library and other DPC members.

Fully aligned with the Policy Brief and its recommendations, the DPC is recognised as a ‘notable’ mechanism for awareness raising and capacity building within the digital preservation community. Helping members to deliver resilient long-term access to digital content and services, the DPC’s self-sustaining network of expert bodies enables a range of organisations to derive enduring value from their digital collections through advocacy work, workforce development, capacity-building and partnerships.

The launch of the policy brief followed hard on the heels of a day-long planning session in which the DPC gathered to review and renew its own mandate to act on behalf of its members to ensure their digital memory was accessible tomorrow.  Noting the rapid growth in the coalition in recent years, and the increasing diversity of the community it serves, discussions included expanding the DPC’s remit to include more active involvement in tools development and a more defined place in policy building.  The Launch of the Policy Brief puts the work of the DPC into perspective: and the dynamism of the DPC makes the aspirations of the Policy Brief within reach.

 Photographs (c) Simon O'Connor

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