“[In August of 1992] 1.5 million books in the Bosnia National and University Library in Sarajevo were destroyed. With this, a chapter of the history of humanity vanished. Too much of our heritage is lost like this in the heat of conflicts… Too much lies hidden and inaccessible in libraries, museums, and archives. This documentary heritage carries the memory of human experience. It is a vehicle for identity and a wellspring of knowledge and wisdom.” Introduction from The Memory of the World.
In 1992, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) developed the Memory of the World Program to safeguard the world’s most important documents that form the historical record of human experience. Documents are selected for their world significance, authenticity, rarity, beauty, craftsmanship, and emotional power. In each odd-numbered year, participating countries nominate documents for inclusion in the list. To date, the Memory of the World Register includes more than 245 documentary items including clay tablets, manuscripts, recordings, photographs, films, and web pages.
In 2012, UNESCO published the book, The Memory of the World: The Treasures that Record Our History From 1700 BC to the Present Day, highlighting some of the documents that have been included in the Register. Some of the more well-known documents include the Gutenberg Bible, the Magna Carta, The Book of Kells, Bayeux Tapestry, De Revolutionibus Libri Sex, Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9, D minor, op. 125, The Wizard of Oz, and the Diaries of Anne Frank.
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For further reading: The Memory of the World: The Treasures that Record Our History From 1700 BC to the Present Day, Forward by Irina Bokova, Harper Collins (2012)