UNESCO launched the Memory of the World programme in 1992. This programme aims to recognise significant documentary heritage in a similar fashion to the way UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention and World Heritage List recognises significant natural and cultural sites.
Its vision is that the world’s documentary heritage belongs to all, should be fully preserved and protected for all and, with due recognition of cultural mores and practicalities, should be permanently accessible to all without hindrance.
The International Memory of the World Register, administered by UNESCO, seeks to identify items of documentary heritage which have worldwide significance. It aims to bring the value and significance of documentary heritage to wider public notice, along with the work performed by libraries, archives and museums in preserving this valuable heritage. Three New Zealand items are inscribed on the international register – the Treaty of Waitangi, the Women’s Suffrage Petition and the Sir Edmund Hillary Archive.
The specific objectives of the Memory of the World Programme are to:
- facilitate preservation by the most appropriate techniques of the world’s documentary heritage
- assist universal access to documentary heritage
- increase awareness worldwide of the existence and significance of documentary heritage.
New Zealand programme
The New Zealand Memory of the World Programme was established by the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO in 2010. It is one of over 60 Memory of the World programmes worldwide.
The New Zealand programme aims to:
- develop the New Zealand Memory of the World Register
- propose nominations to the Memory of the World International Register
- participate in selected heritage activities and be an advocate for the documentary heritage sector.
The New Zealand Memory of the World Programme operates within the regional framework of MOWCAP, the Memory of the World Committee for Asia/Pacific.
Items inscribed on the New Zealand register include:
- PATU! (a documentary about the 1981 Springbok Tour to New Zealand)
- Pickerill Papers on plastic surgery
- New Zealand Oral History collection 1946-48
- He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni (Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand).