Embracing History through International Archives Week

By Horace Okoth

Archives serve as guardians of our cultural heritage, safeguarding historical records, documents, photographs, audiovisual materials, and more. They are repositories of knowledge that provide a window into the past, enabling us to understand and learn from our history.

Archives Week is a unique event that celebrates the invaluable role played by archives in preserving our collective heritage and promoting historical knowledge. It seeks to emphasize the critical role that archives play in preserving these invaluable resources, ensuring they are accessible for research, education, and public enjoyment. June 9 was chosen to commemorate the date the International Council on Archives (ICA) was created under the auspices of UNESCO in 1948. This was decided at the 2007 ICA Annual General Meeting, but it wasn’t until 2019 that the ICA expanded the event to an entire week.

This year marked the fifth International Archives Week (#IAW2023) as well as ICA’s 75th anniversary, which was celebrated from Monday 5 to Friday, 9 June 2023, marking 75 years of ICA’S work in promoting the importance of records and archives. This annual observance, held during the first week of June, brings together archivists, historians, educators, and the public to highlight the importance of archives in our society.
Archives Week has a profound impact on both the preservation of our cultural heritage and public engagement with history. By opening their doors and organizing events, archives encourage public participation and spark curiosity about the past. This engagement fosters a sense of collective identity and strengthens community ties as individuals connect with their local history and heritage.

Additionally, Archives Week plays a crucial role in promoting the profession of archiving by showcasing the significance of archival work, it helps garner support and recognition of the dedication to preserving an institution’s collective memory.

Archives Week encompasses a diverse range of events and activities designed to engage people of all ages and backgrounds. Here are some of the notable activities that often take place during this week-long celebration:

  1. Archive Tours and Open Houses: Many archives open their doors to the public, offering guided tours, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and interactive displays. Visitors have the opportunity to witness firsthand the meticulous preservation methods employed and explore the treasures hidden within archives.
  2. Exhibitions: Archives often curate special exhibitions during this week, showcasing notable artifacts, documents, and photographs. These exhibitions aim to captivate visitors and provide insights into specific historical periods, events, or personalities.
  3. Workshops and Seminars: Archives Week hosts workshops and seminars to educate participants about the various aspects of archival work. These sessions cover topics such as archival preservation techniques, digitization, cataloging, and research methodologies. Experts in the field share their knowledge and experiences, encouraging active participation and fostering a deeper understanding of archives.
  4. Oral History Projects: Some archives collaborate with community organizations and schools to conduct oral history projects during Archives Week. These projects capture personal narratives and memories, preserving the rich tapestry of local history and allowing future generations to connect with the past.
  5. Archival Outreach Programs: Archives often extend their activities beyond their premises by organizing outreach programs in schools, libraries, and community centers. These programs aim to raise awareness about the importance of archives and provide hands-on experiences, such as document-handling workshops or interactive history lessons.
  6. Scavenger Hunt. This particular activity took place at USIU-A and the questions asked were tied to the rich history of this prestigious institution and many students appreciated it because they got to learn of many things they did not know about the institution. Gifts were awarded to the winners of the four-day challenge.

By participating in Archives Week, individuals can connect with the past, broaden their understanding of history, and contribute to the continued preservation and accessibility of our collective memory.

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