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27th October 2012: World Day for Audiovisual Heritage

Posted by ElJay Arem (IMC OnAir) on October 22, 2012

World Day for Audiovisual Heritage

© Max Stahl / CAMSTL (Centro Audiovisual Max Stahl Timor Leste) Demonstrators run from bullets

© Max Stahl / CAMSTL (Centro Audiovisual Max Stahl Timor Leste) Demonstrators run from bullets

Audiovisual documents, such as films, radio and television programmes, audio and video recordings, contain the primary records of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Transcending language and cultural boundaries, appealing immediately to the eye and the ear, to the literate and illiterate, audiovisual documents have transformed society by becoming a permanent complement to the traditional written record.

However, they are extremely vulnerable and it is estimated that we have no more than 10 to 15 years to transfer audiovisual records to digital to prevent their loss. Much of the world’s audiovisual heritage has already been irrevocably lost through neglect, destruction, decay and the lack of resources, skills, and structures, thus impoverishing the memory of mankind. Much more will be lost if stronger and concerted international action is not taken.

It was in this context, that the General Conference in 2005 approved the commemoration of a World Day for Audiovisual Heritage as a mechanism to raise general awareness of the need for urgent measures to be taken and to acknowledge the importance of audiovisual documents as an integral part of national identity.

Programme Specialist
Communication and Information Sector (CI)
Mail: j.springer(at)
Tel: 33-1 45 68 44 97
Fax: 33-1 45 68 55 83

(Source: 10/2012 – Unesco)

Highlights of UN Audiovisual Archives

27 October 2011

What do the movies Transformers 3, Independence Day, Lord of War and King Kong have in common? They all used archival material obtained from the United Nations in their production. Many more movie did the same.

And what about Khrushchev banging his fist during the debate on the Congo crisis; Yasser Arafat’s famed “rifle and olive branch” speech; Castro, Deng Xiaoping, Mandela, Kings and Queens and occasionally the Pope? These historic footage is all kept at the United Nations audiovisual archives.

And what’s more? Film footage going back to the League of Nations – the Commission of Enquiry into Events in Manchuria on the eve of the WWII, for example; Security Council meetings dealing with all major issues related to international peace and security since 1945; UN Radio dramas featuring Laurence Olivier, Audrey Hepburn, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby; interviews with cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and footballer Pelé; concerts by world renowned orchestras in the General Assembly Hall…

The audiovisual archives held by the UN Department of Public Information ( ) are a unique collection that tells the stories not only of international diplomacy that shaped our history but also of the people and the times they lived in. The collection comprises 37,500 hours of film and video, 800,000 photographs, and about 55,000.00 hours of audio recordings.

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