Archives and Human Rights

Bradley Hall A/B

Monday July 9, 2012

3:30-5:00 PM

Presenters: Sue McKemmish, Luciana Heymann, Nora Mattern

Sue McKemmish

Archives and Indigenous Human Rights in Australia

This presentation provides an overview of the Indigenous human rights agenda and its relevance to Australian archivists – and possible implications for archivists in other countries with Indigenous populations who are signatories to the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It references a position statement on Archives and Indigenous Human Rights in Australia (AIHRA), originally developed by the Trust and Technology Project, a collaborative research partnership involving the Public Record Office of Victoria, Koorie Heritage Trust Inc, Koorie Records Task Force, the Indigenous Issues Special Interest Group of the Australian Society of Archivists, and Monash University. It also references the main themes and issues presented and discussed at a pre-conference workshop at the 2010 Australian Society of Archivists Conference in Melbourne, Archives and Indigenous Human Rights: Towards an understanding of the archival and recordkeeping implications of Australian and international human rights for Indigenous Australians (AIHR Workshop, relevant sections of a guide to implementing the UN Declaration in Australia recently issued by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC 2010), and an Indigenous human rights action agenda for the Australian archival community which addresses a resetting of relationships between archival and Indigenous communities, involving the active participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in archive and recordkeeping systems.

Luciana Heymann

Last year I had the opportunity of presenting a preliminary version of my research project at AERI. In the final Plenary session, Professor Sue McKemmish mentioned some new themes that had been developed in the research sessions in comparison to the precedent meetings, among them was the “right to memory.” My paper could be included in it, since its general subject was the so-called Brazilian “dictatorship archives” (1964-1985), and the recent policies seeking to grant access to those documents and to make visible the victims memories.

In fact, my research aims at placing the debate on access issues regarding the “dictatorship archives” in wider discussions about memory rights. It is important to know that in October 2011, the Brazilian Parliament approved the creation of a Commission of Truth and Reconciliation, stimulating public debate on the military dictatorship, and also on the sources to investigate it.

In 2009, thanks to then Minister and now President of Brazil, Dilma Roussef, herself a former political prisoner in the military regime, a Reference Center on Political Struggles in Brazil (1964-1985) was created, and its name received a significant complement: Revealed Memories. In my research project, the Reference Center serves as a starting point for an investigation on social representations and power dynamics taking archives as subject.

The Center aims not only at making the documents of the dictatorship period that are under the custody of the National Archive of Brazil (the project manager) accessible, but to establish a network of public and private institutions, and people who are willing to share information and archives. To recover individual memories, the Reference Center also intends to produce interviews with former militants, political prisoners and exiled persons, creating an oral history archive. In my investigation, I try to analyze the ways through which the collective memory is constituted, and what is seen as deserving to be part of the collections of archival institutions.

My intention, this year, is to present a continuation of my former research paper, exploring the archives and other sources preserved by the Revealed Memories, emphasizing the Reference Center database design, i.e. the forms of access and the kind of information that is provided to the users. How do institutional environments make up the collections, from the standpoint of their production, availability and visibility?  More than that, what effects the “places of memory” produce in the generation of meanings associated with collections?  These are some questions I hope to start answering with my paper.

Nora Mattern

My paper, “The Role of Photography in the Protection, Identification, and Recovery of Cultural Heritage” is the product of a seminar on photographs as evidence with Dr. Bernadette Callery in the summer of 2011. Accepted for publication in The International Journal of Cultural Property, this paper seeks to contribute to the study surrounding documentation and the illicit trade through an examination of the related uses of photography by the international community. Popular and academic literature, news reports, and online databases reveal three primary and interconnected relationships that exist between photography and the trade of cultural heritage. Photography, it appears, is used for the protection, identification, and recovery of objects of cultural heritage. Countries, and the cultural institutions that reside within them, are encouraged to document their heritage through the creation of photographic records. This, UNESCO argues, is a protective measure that will aid the international community in responding to an act of theft or looting should one occur. If an object enters the illicit market, photographs may be used to identify and locate the stolen or smuggled work. The final step that may be supported by photography is recovery, with photographic evidence validating an ownership claim and leading to the repatriation or replevin of the object.

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