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Cultures-Haïti

The Prince Claus Fund Rescues Important Archives in Haiti

Conservation of archives and library collections is important contribution for reconstruction following catastrophic earthquake

Haiti's massive earthquake of 12 January 2010 resulted in a humanitarian disaster that left much of the island in ruins. It severely damaged the country's cultural heritage while important and fragile archives vanished beneath the rubble. The Prince Claus Fund's Cultural Emergency Response Programme assessed the damage immediately after the earthquake. Along with a number of partner organisations, the Prince Claus Fund subsequently launched a joint action to save Haiti's vulnerable archives and important library collections. Thanks to the support of ICCO / Kerk in Actie, the Prince Claus Fund has been able to provide € 242,500 for the restoration of these important documents. In turn, this contribution is creating a solid foundation for Haiti's cultural reconstruction.
The damage to the archives and libraries threatens the preservation of Haitian cultural history while profoundly affecting the country's society as a whole. Numerous Haitians have been desperately searching for official papers such as marriage certificates, permits and other important documents that were temporarily lost in the earthquake. For many victims, the safeguarding of these documents represents the first step in a restoration process in which the recovery of personal identity is playing an important basic role.

In co-operation with both local and international partners such as Blue Shield, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, and the International Council of Archives, the Prince Claus Fund and ICCO / Kerk in Actie have set up an operational centre to co-ordinate the securing of the collections still buried under the rubble. All the archives and library collections found beneath the debris will be treated at this Port-au-Prince-based centre by a team of approximately 300 national and 700 international experts. Working on a voluntary basis, the international experts are helping to train and support the local professionals. Once they have been treated, the documents will be stored in special acclimatised containers where they will be kept safely until they can be transferred to a permanent place.

This project will help to sustain the blueprint of Haiti's cultural identity. Through the archives and historical library collections, Haitians will be able to reconstruct the community that existed before this devastating earthquake. The Prince Claus Fund believes that the preservation of material history will be essential to the Haitian people as they rebuild their country. The project also ensures that library collections and archives can once again be made accessible to the public at large. This provides Haitians with an opportunity to draw on information and knowledge so that they will be able to contribute to the country's sustainable reconstruction. Moreover, the libraries offer essential services such as education and cultural self-determination for people who are currently living in refugee camps.

More informations : [here]

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