文化遺産国際協力コンソーシアム Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage JCIC-Heritage logo JCIC-Heritage

Project for Preservation of Written Cultural Heritage in Afghanistan

Project for Preservation of Written Cultural Heritage in Afghanistan

Tokyo University of Foreign Studies

Afghanistan

Written Cultural Heritage in Afghanistan

2004-2009 Project Planning Surveys,Human Resource Development,Conservation and Restoration,Fundamental Research
01/03/2009
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BACKGROUND

A New Beginning for the Newborn Nation-State of Afghanistan

The 1973 coup d’etat by Daoud Khan brought an end to the Durrani Empire, which had long continued to rule Afghanistan since 1747. To the people of Afghanistan, however, this was the beginning of a modern history characterized by hardships, political turmoil, and repetitive internal conflict for close to 30 years. Yet, during the subsequent rule of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), a movement that took root during Daoud’s reign, to promote the national culture of Afghanistan by collecting and exhibiting the cultural properties of the Afghan people, gained momentum. On the waves of this momentum, the National Archives of Afghanistan was established in 1979, as a domestic institution responsible for collecting and preserving written materials on the history of the people of Afghanistan.

Much-needed Support

The National Archives was founded on the large collection of written materials acquired from the former royal family, former Ministry of Justice, and former national assemblies, and thereafter continued collecting more written materials, albeit on a smaller scale. Most of the collected materials, however, with the exclusion of a small handful of exceptions, had not even been sorted, but simply left in a state of abandon, due in part to the lack of funds and capable human resources to sort and preserve the materials, and also in part to the inadequate working environment resulting from the unstable security situation in Afghanistan.
Moreover, the storage environment was not only poor, but also aggravated the disintegration of the printed materials, so that it was glaringly clear that the entire collection of written materials stored in the archives was in perilous condition.

The National Archives of Afghanistan

Materials at risk

ACTIVITIES

Background to Development of the Project

Before any action could be taken for preserving the collection of written materials in danger of extensive damage, the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture, the governing body of the National Archives, recognized that the materials must be prioritized, and that to prioritize them, the content of the archives must be properly assessed. Based on this awareness, it requested cooperation from the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (summer 2003). The university, in response, established the “Project for Preservation of Written Cultural Heritage in Afghanistan” within the university (December 2003), and in May 2004, the Ministry of Information and Culture and Tokyo University of Foreign Studies exchanged an agreement and a Memorandum of Understanding on the project.

Fundamental Principle of the Project

The project term was set at six years. The first two years were to be spent on a general survey of the content of the archives and on classifying the written materials on a test basis. The next two years were to be spent officially classifying all written materials in the archives, and the last two years, preserving the materials (making reproductions of selected materials) and wrapping up the project. Initially, the Japanese side planned to have researchers from Japan perform these tasks with the cooperation of local workers (National Archives personnel), but due to the poor security situation, the Japanese members were unable to make trips to Afghanistan freely. Consequently, it was decided that the local personnel of the National Archives would perform the tasks, with the Japanese side providing guidance. In order to realize this plan, five members from the National Archives were invited to receive training in Japan on two separate occasions, under the auspices of Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs. The training sessions proved to be extremely meaningful, as well as helped cultivate awareness among the members, of the significance of preserving written cultural heritage. This framework of cooperation corresponded to the principle of “non-exploitative acquisition of materials based on local cooperation,” originally upheld by the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, and provided a precious experience to the university side.

Project members at work

Training program at the National Archives of Japan

RESULTS

Expected Results

There is still a year left until the originally scheduled completion date of the project (with plans for its extension unless circumstances dictate otherwise), but the following tasks have been completed as of the present.

(1)The unclassified collection of written materials has been sorted into large categories through a general survey.
(2)Newspaper materials stored in the archives have been sorted and catalogued. For the record, there were 333 newspaper materials in storage in terms of their storage number, and 101 in terms of the number of items.
(3)Governmental decrees and documents (farmaan) stored in the archives have been sorted and catalogued. Through this process, 1,841 farmaan documents were discovered stored in the archives.
(4)The majority, or about 1,300 farmaan documents in storage, were those written during the reign of Amir Abdul Rahmaan (1880-1901). They have been converted to digital data, and are planned to be published in some form in the future.

The undertaking of this project to preserve the written materials stored in the National Archives of Afghanistan was a completely new challenge, never before attempted. In this respect, it not only has groundbreaking significance, but is also the focus of great expectations that it will provide a wealth of precious information that may open new horizons in the study of Afghanistan’s history (and particularly modern history) and regional studies of Afghanistan, which have long lacked sufficient resources.

First newspaper published in Afghanistan (stored in the National Archives of Afghanistan)

Decree considered the oldest document stored in the National Archives of Afghanistan

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