Qatar National Library (QNL) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) signed an agreement to implement a joint project to strengthen both their role in preserving the rich cultural heritage present in libraries across the Arab region.
The project, titled ‘Supporting Documentary Heritage Libraries in the Arab Region’, aims to protect the Arab region’s history, identity, and knowledge through the preservation of documentary heritage, which is currently at risk of being lost due to neglect, natural decay, outdated technology, inadequate housing, or deliberate destruction.
Taking place over an 18-month period, the project will ensure that the documentary heritage of all countries in the Arab region is mapped, and that specific areas which require capacity-building and additional support are identified. An important outcome will be the provision of capacity-building training sessions and workshops for documentary heritage preservation practitioners based in countries where there is an ongoing crisis, providing guidance on the preventive conservation of documentary heritage in emergency situations.
The project will also strengthen the existing cooperation between QNL and UNESCO, and build on both organisations’ achievements in preserving and promoting documentary heritage in the Arab region.
Speaking on the agreement, Dr Stuart Hamilton, Deputy Executive Director for International Relations and Communications at QNL, pointed out the importance of archival and library materials to a nation’s legacy. He said that they are proud to be working with UNESCO to support heritage libraries in the Arab region, and to raise awareness of their significance.
Anna Paolini, UNESCO Representative in the Arab States of the Gulf and Yemen, and Director of the UNESCO Doha Office, also emphasised the importance of the joint project.
The Middle East is home to extraordinary cultural heritage. The manuscripts, books, maps, videos and archives of the region are a contribution to the history of humanity, and it is therefore essential to protect and promote them to foster a dialogue between cultures; that is what we hope to achieve through this project.’
She said that with the support of QNL, they aim to gain a good understanding of the challenges and needs of heritage institutions in the region to better assist in conserving and bringing to light the region’s most valuable documents.
The joint project supports QNL’s ongoing role as the regional Preservation and Conservation Centre (PAC) for Arab countries and the Middle East. QNL has also been selected as the regional PAC in 2015 by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions.