UNESCO helps preserve 29 more collections of world’s cultural heritage

21 June 2005

A three millennium-old Phoenician inscription from Lebanon, a 6th century Albanian codex, medieval manuscripts on medicine and pharmacy from Azerbaijan, and Austrian Gothic architectural drawings are among 29 documentary collections in 24 countries newly earmarked for United Nations help in preservation.

The collections have been inscribed on the Memory of the World Register of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), bringing to 120 the total number of inscriptions on the Register to date. The additions include for the first time collections from Albania, Azerbaijan, Colombia, Cuba, Italy, Lebanon, Namibia, Portugal, Sweden, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura approved the inscriptions, which were recommended by the 14-member International Advisory Committee of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme at a meeting in Lijiang, China, last week.

The Programme, set up in 1992 to preserve and promote documentary heritage, much of which is endangered, helps networks of experts to exchange information and raise resources for preservation of and access to documentary material.

Some of the collections are almost as old as recorded history itself, like the newly added sarcophagus of King Ahiram of Byblos from the 13th century B.C. in Lebanon, whose Phoenician inscription is the earliest known example of alphabetical as opposed to hieroglyphic or cuneiform writing; 11,000 palm-leaf and paper manuscripts in Sanskrit from Pondicherry, India, dating from as early as the 6th century A.D; and a Serbian Gospel from 1180 A.D.

Others are as modern as the newly inscribed Astrid Lindgren Archives in Sweden containing nearly all the original manuscripts of the author (1907-2002), one of the most influential writers of literature for children and young adults in the 20th century such as the Pippi Longstocking series; the Battle of the Somme film of 1916 in the United Kingdom, the first feature-length documentary to record war in action; and a collection of Jewish musical folklore (1912-1947) in Ukraine, consisting of 1,017 wax cylinders and transcriptions.