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Wednesday 09 June ,2021

The National Archives Reviews its History, Strategies and Aspirations of the Nation’s Memory

In its virtual forum organized in celebration of the International Archives Day,

The National Archives Reviews its History, Strategies and Aspirations of the Nation’s Memory

In celebration of the International Archives Day, the National Archives has organized a virtual forum entitled “The Strategic Role of the UAE National Archives in Preserving the Nation’s Memory”. At the beginning of his speech, H.E. Dr. Abdulla Al Raisi, NA Director General, congratulated the UAE’s wise leadership on this occasion.

He assured the importance of the NA role in preserving the UAE documentary assets and of the support it receives from the wise leadership, which enables the NA to excel, overcome all challenges facing the archival work development and cope with the latest technical advancements and the developed international practices.

On the occasion of the International Archives Day, His Excellency congratulated all NA’s employees and thanked them for their efforts to preserve the Nation’s Memory for the next generation as their efforts have made the NA a pioneering institution in the field of archiving and documentation.

At the forum that was attended by a large number of archives managers of official institutions in the UAE, he focused on the fact that the NA copes with artificial intelligence technologies, which will have great impact on archiving and documentation and will save a lot of time and efforts to index, preserve, archive and made the tremendous number of documents accessible. He noted that the NA is in the process to cooperate with ten countries to activate this advanced technology.

His Excellency said that the NA has its own contributions and projects in Arab and foreign countries such as Jeddah Municipality archives organization project in Saudi Arabia. It also helped the Kingdom of Bahrain in establishing its national archives. Moreover, the NA has restored Napoleon Library in Elba, Italy, and contributed to the establishment of Uzbekistan Archives. It also provides advice to Kazakhstan Archives and has some activities in Lebanon, Egypt and others.

Dr. Abdulla highlighted the importance of the resolution transfering the functions of the National Library from the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development to the National Archives since the library serves as an intellectual archive for archiving and safeguarding the intellectual production in the UAE from damage and loss as well as making it available to the public and generations to come.

His Excellency illustrated the significance of the Arabian Gulf Digital Archives (AGDA), which was founded by the National Archives in collaboration with the UK National Archives. The website presents to its visitors more than 500,000 historical document pertaining to the UAE and the Gulf region. He confirmed that another half a million documents, from the UK National Archives and other archives that had historical relationships with the UAE, will be added to the website in the follwing stage.  

Furthermore, he emphasized the significance of personal archives and prompted the UAE families to keep their historical document and records and provide the NA with copies of them because such documents are part of the UAE history.

Dr. Abdulla called students for continuing their higher education in the master’s degree program in Archives and Records Management, which will be launched by the NA in cooperation with the Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi. In this context, His Excellency thanked the university for its constructive cooperation in developing the national cadre in archives and records management as a professional certificate in Archives and Records Management has been launched and followed by a bachelor’s degree in Archives and Records Management. Preparations are now in hand to launch the specialized Master’s degree in Archives and Records Management.

In addition, he appreciated the competent nationals who expressed their pride and interest in their nation’s history as the youths proceeded to continue their academic study in archives specializations at the Higher Colleges of Technology and Sorbonne University. They proved their professionalism at the Center for Preservation and Restoration (CPR) of the NA.

The NA Director General has reviewed the main stages the NA passed through since its establishment as the Documents and Research Bureau under directives by the Founding Father Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan in 1968. After that, it went through stages of development, and it became the Center for Documentation and Studies and then the Centre for Documentation and Research (CDR). Later, it became the National Centre for Documentation and Research (NCDR). In this stage, Federal Law No. (7) for 2008 was issued and accordingly the archives of more than 300 government entities were organized. Since then, started the real awareness about the importance of archives in preserving the Nation’s Memory. He expressed his warmest thanks to media, which has supported the NA in spreading community awareness about the importance of documents and archives, resulting in a real boom in this field.

Moreover, he discussed the distinctive experience the NA had in establishing the Center for Preservation and Restoration under the directives of H.H. Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The centre was established after a visit made to the government entities archives, which were overwhelmed with documents that are at risk of damage and require conservation using scientific and professional methods and restoration to prolong the documents life. The Center for Preservation and Restoration was provided with leading experts, and national employees were provided with relevant qualification. This gave the centre a great start in the Archival Materials Restoration Laboratory, Digitization Laboratory “scanning” and the archival materials preservation storage facilities, which made the centre capable of keeping thousands of kilometers of historical documents.

Mr. Hamad Abdulla Al Mutairi, Director of Archives Department, talked about the international archives and the challenges they face. He also explained the NA’s role in supporting archives organization in the UAE, starting with archives status evaluation, provision of technical consultancies, preparation of specialized human resources, organization of disposal processes and transfer of historical archives. Then, he demonstrated the archival process workflow at the NA and concluded by illustrating the NA future aspirations.

In addition, Al Mutairi explained the main threats to documents on paper and electronically, focusing on the risk of the increasing cyper attacks, which were more than 300 thousand attacks. Such attacks cause considerable damage to electronic archives worldwide, considering expectations of a dramatic increase in electronic archives numbers. Finally, he highlighted the importance of keeping paper archives, in their traditional form, in appropriate environments along with the digital archives.

Prof. Silvia Serrano, Vice Chancellor of Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, spoked of preparing and qualifying specialized national cadre in the field of archiving and documentation through a collaboration between Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi with the NA. She started her speech by talking about the importance of archiving and she considered it as the key to nations development. She, then, highlighted the close cooperation between Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi and the NA, which has resulted in offering three academic programs: bachelor’s degree in Records Management and Archival Science, professional certificate in Archives and Records Management and master’s degree in Records Management and Archival Studies.

In her speech, Prof. Silvia revealed the membership of Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi of InterPARES, a program for developing the necessary knowledge of keeping the records that have been digitally initiated and preserved in the long term, and its membership of the International Council on Archives (ICA).

She stressed the importance of launching the new master’s degree program in Records Management and Archival Studies, which meets labour market needs and contributes to the sustainable knowledge-based economy from a practical perspective. Artificial Intelligence is also a core concept of this program.

Her Excellency has confirmed that all these accomplishments are the fruits of the collaboration between the Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi and the NA of the UAE. She felt optimistic that this collaboration will lead to further achievements in the future.