U.S. and Canadian archivists have launched a project to help Israel and the Palestinians preserve their archives.
Allen Weinstein, the archivist of the United States, and his Canadian counterpart, Ian Wilson, met with officials of the Israel State Archives and the Palestine National Archives earlier this year.
"The purpose of these meetings was to discuss projects that would assist in the digitization of paper records of both Israel and Palestine that would ultimately document the joint heritage of people in the region," according to a statement. "They are also working with both institutions to develop archival training programs for their staff, and have received enthusiastic support from" U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "and the State Department for these projects."
The announcement coincides with Israel's own plans to build a state archives museum in Jerusalem. The project is years away from fruition, but it, along with the U.S.-Canadian project, may help ensure that Israel's history will be preserved for and available to future generations.
Currently, Israel's State Archives are housed in a rented warehouse in Jerusalem. The collection includes 400 million pages packed away in cardboard boxes stacked 10-feet high on metal shelves that stretch 42 kilometers, according to The Jerusalem Post. The collection includes top-secret documents, including daily operational records of Israel's security agencies, which are locked down under armed guard in a room-sized safe.
The State Archives contain the most detailed records anywhere of Israel's dramatic history, from the original Declaration of Independence to the records of the welfare services, from the minutes of momentous cabinet discussions to Aliya records and state investigative committee reports.
Currently, according to The Post, Israel is the only country in the West-and one of the few in the world - without a national museum that shows its history to the public. Even developing nations such as Malaysia, Tunisia, and Rwanda have such institutions.
The government recently established a task force to plan a state archives museum. Ovad Yehezkel, cabinet secretary and chair of the task force, said he envisions a museum complex located on the hill dividing the Knesset from the Israel Museum that would house the National Library and State Archives, and perhaps the Academy of the Hebrew Language and the Jewish Agency's Central Zionist Archives.
"In 60 years, we haven't learned to sanctify the national and Jewish story of this land," Yehezkel told The Post. "Our national tradition is locked away in boxes - audio, video, papers that tell the story of our nation's birth are being lost, damaged."
The Post reported that an anonymous donor has committed $50 million to the project already.
Source: Information Management Journal