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Preserving Our Cultural Heritage

The International Conference on Challenges in Preserving and Managing Cultural Heritage Resources, organized by the Rizal Library in cooperation with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and held at the Ateneo de Manila University from 19-20 October 2005, was very enlightening. Below are my notes on some of the more interesting sessions.

Ambeth Ocampo, director of the National Historical Institute and chair of NCCA, spoke about the need to help Filipinos appreciate culture; otherwise, we may not have anything to preserve. No copies of Ocampo's keynote address were given out, but most of what he said appeared in his two most recent columns in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (see "Lack of appreciation for our heritage" and "More Halloween stories on heritage").

Stephen Maxner (Vietnam Archive) shared his experience on the development of the Virtual Vietnam Archive, the technical requirements of their digital library and the importance of taking care of donor relationships. Jose Ignacio (UP Environmental Architecture Lab) showed photos and videos of the stone houses in Batanes, and discussed plans for their restoration.

Teresa Montesa (Asian Development Bank) emphasized the need to identify archival records at the point of creation—and not when these have already deteriorated—while Mages Periasamy (National Library Board, Singapore) pointed out the need to start thinking about preservation at the point of creation. Heather Brown (State Library of South Australia) recommended adoption of the hybrid option—microfilming for posterity and digitizing for accessibility—and referred to the machine that Montesa had described earlier, which microfilms and digitizes at the same time. Brown also spoke about the hands-on preservation classes her library has conducted for children.

Khaw Lake Tee (University of Malaya) distinguished between economic rights (copyright-holder) and moral rights (author)—because authors do not always own the copyrights to their works—and ended up getting asked so many questions that the organizers had to do away with questions for the other speakers. Fe Angela Verzosa (De La Salle University) would have won the Most Entertaining Speaker Award, if one had been given. Verzosa, for instance, referred to documents created with computers as "born digital," and those that need to be converted to digital form as "born again." She also said that Internet users are now looking for full text, rather than catalog or bibliographic information. Amen.

Chuck Sutyla (Lord Cultural Resources Planning and Management) talked about the blurring of boundaries between libraries, museums and archives, and how those in charge should plan for users and not just collections. Yuki Nagano (International Christian University, Japan) showed a video of her library's automated storage system and presented evidence that the system enhanced productivity, expanded storage capacity and will eventually save money for the library.

And then there was the poster presentation by Richard Ragodon on Filipiniana book jackets. I hope this one gets published somewhere.

Overall, the conference was very well organized and the speakers were well-chosen. I just wish that some of the finer details—like reminding participants to put their phones on silent mode or that those who want to ask questions should remember that they are not speakers—were also paid some attention.

Category: The Philippines

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