The International Archives Day on June 9th has been an opportunity to tell the world why archives are important and to share what archivists do for and with their communities. At the core of this advocacy work has been the interest of changing the public image of the archives as they have been often confused with libraries, and they continue to be perceived as documents for internal use only, which are difficult to access and are of interest only to historians ( 1).
However, based on what we have experienced and witnessed in different places of the world during the pandemic, that public image of archives has been transformed as these institutions have played an essential role on multiple scales. Archives have been accessible in these times by opening collections, catalogs and pedagogical materials on digital formats and adapting their public services to respond to their audience’s needs. Archivists and record managers have been also vital keeping businesses and government moving (even though a lot of them have to work from home), and providing accurate information and data to decision-makers.
With this in mind, our advocacy work requires now more than ever showing how these multilayered tasks supported and offered by the archival and record management sector on different regional levels respond to a transversal and interconnected mission: strengthening and sustaining communities.
The recognition of this shared mission can have an impact on how the archival and records management communities would envision their contribution to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals ( SDGs), international framework that is currently informing the Cultural Heritage sector for finding innovative strategies for collaborating and establishing partnerships with local governments.
Indeed, as our colleagues in IFLA have identified, the opportunities that the SDGs offered on the work of libraries and archives could be summarized in three main reasons: the SDGs is a shared agreement that allow us to have a common language to engage with different government agencies; archives could contact other parts of the governments through the processes which Member States are supposed to implement the SDGs; and based on the framework provided by the SDGs, archives could better advocate and impact on public policies which will affect the investment in archival organizations.
Although these opportunities present the benefits of attaching the SDGs as a platform for advocacy work of archives, it would be important to take a step back and think about some aspects of our current role for building sustainable communities:
- What are the right questions, the right actions, the right partnerships that the archival and records management sector should ask, think and identify to find their space on the table for discussing about SDGs and archives?
- How the archives and records management institutions on a common context will collaborate among them to identify how the sector will contribute in the achievement of the SDGs?
- How the archival and records management organizations are communicating to their government leaders how the sector serves as cost-effective partners for advancing their development priorities?
Maria Paula Garcia Mosquera, ICA Programme Officer