Tuesday, February 11, 2014

U.S. libraries should make a major donation of books to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina is a modern effort to recreate the fabled Library of Greco-Roman  Alexandria. In Ptolomaic times it had the largest collection of books in the world. The idea of recreating the library came from the University of Alexandria in 1974, and a competition for the design of the buildings was organized by UNESCO in 1988.

The modern library is trilingual, containing books in Arabic, English and French. In 2010, the library received a generous donation of 500,000 books from the National Library of France, Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF). The gift makes the Bibliotheca Alexandrina the sixth-largest Francophone library in the world.

It would be a wonderful gesture of good will to the people of Egypt for the people of the United States to make a comparable donation of books to the library. It would be especially great to do this now, while the Congress is denying U.S. funding to UNESCO; a donation to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina would show support for UNESCO's mission of building defenses of peace in the minds of men.

While English language books would seem to be the obvious counterpart to the gift from the French, there might well be collections of books in Arabic in this country that would be welcomed.

Gifts of books to the library should be carefully coordinated with the its staff. It is costly for a library to organize, store and catalog new accessions, and any library will want to select its collection. Ideally organizations such as the Library of Congress or university libraries might make contributions. Perhaps some organization such as the American Library Association or the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO might assume leadership in such an effort.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

The Monument Men led to UNESCO's Culture Program

The movie described in the trailer and a book (The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel) describe the efforts made by an American led Allies team to protect art treasures during World War II. The men involve risked their lives (and two died in the effort) to keep world heritage safe during combat. The effort continued to recovering the artistic treasures that had been appropriated by the Axis forces as spoils of war, or that had been confiscated as what they considered "degenerate art".

In a radical departure from the practice of other victors in other wars, the western Allies after World War II chose to return the works of art that they had managed to rescue to their countries of origin.

Of course, after the War the western Allies led in the creation of UNESCO, which had among its early functions helping the museum community in Europe to rebuild and reorganize. UNESCO quickly established international conventions to protect cultural heritage threatened by war, to prevent the international trafficking in stolen cultural heritage, and to protect World Heritage.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Secretary Jewell Announces Nomination of San Antonio Missions as World Heritage Site

The Alamo: Red lines show original size, on photo of current location
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced that the United States is nominating the San Antonio Missions, consisting of most of San Antonio Missions National Historical Park as well as the Alamo, for inclusion on the World Heritage List, which recognizes the most significant cultural and natural sites on the planet.  

“World Heritage Sites represent an incredible opportunity for the United States to tell the world the whole story of America and the remarkable diversity of our people and beauty of our land,” Jewell said. “The San Antonio Missions represents a vital part of our nation’s Latino heritage and the contributions of Latinos to the building of our country.”

Jewell credited former Secretary Ken Salazar, who visited San Antonio Missions in July 2012 to announce the department’s intention to move forward with the nomination, for playing a key role in making it possible.

Read more of the press release.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Meeting of U.S. National Commission for UNESCO

Annual Meeting of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO is scheduled for Monday, December 16.  The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. at the U.S. Department of State, George Marshall Conference Center. The meeting is open to the public.

If you are not a member of the National Commission and plan to attend, you must inform the National Commission staff well in advance:

phone: 202-663-0026
fax: 202-663-0035
email: dcunesco@state.gov

Registration at the State Department will begin at 9:00 a.m.  Because this meeting is being held in the State Department, staff will require your Birthday, Social Security and either Passport Number or Drivers License Number.

You will need to enter through security at the 21st Street entrance of the main State Department building.  (320 21st St NW, Washington, DC)

This should be a productive and interesting meeting and I hope you will be able to attend.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Movement to make Seattle a UNESCO City of Literature

"At a reading to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Elliott Bay Book Company, local author Ryan Boudinot made a proposal "for the benefit of not just Elliott Bay Book Company, but the whole city." His pitch: "Let's seek formal recognition for Seattle as a UNESCO City of Literature." Boudinot explained that, as part of their Creative Cities program, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization launched the City of Literature designation to "recognize cities around the world that honor the literary arts through public and private means."

"A few Cities of Literature that have been named since the project's inception in 2004 include Reykjavik, Dublin, Melbourne, and Iowa City.:" Read more....

And still more here...