Looking ahead to Abu Dhabi, October 2021

As we have previously announced, the four-yearly ICA Congress in Abu Dhabi has been rescheduled from November 2020 to October 2021, as a result of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

Planning is now proceeding for the Congress – the most important event in ICA’s calendar. The proceedings will take place from 19–22 October 2021, with governance meetings (including Section meetings) taking place in the days before the Congress opens.

ICA’s officers have decided that all governance changes previously expected to take place at the 2020 Congress will be deferred to the 2021 Congress – including, for Sections, the assumption of new roles for the Section Chair, Section Secretary and Section Committee.

New Chair and Committee for SLA from 2021
From the 2021 Congress, the new Chair (sometimes called President) of SLA will be Heather Dean, presently our Section Secretary. Heather is Associate Director of Special Collections in the Library of the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. She will assume her new role at the end of the Abu Dhabi Congress, but in the meantime would be delighted to hear from SLA members with their thoughts about the future of the Section. Heather can be contacted though her University of Victoria profile.

The new SLA Committee from 2021 – elected, co-opted and announced at the end of last year – will be as follows:

  • Leonor Calvão Borges
  • Fatoumata Cissé Diara
  • Heather Dean
  • André Derval
  • Sebastian Gurciullo
  • Catherine Hobbs
  • Veno Kauaria
  • Annantonia Martorano
  • David Sutton

Also in Abu Dhabi …
We will hold a Section Meeting for SLA in Abu Dhabi if enough SLA members indicate that they are going to attend in person. In the meantime we will be considering the possibilities for organising a videoconference meeting early in 2021, to look ahead to Abu Dhabi and beyond.

The new Section for Archives and Human Rights (SAHR) will have a number of highlights in Abu Dhabi, including the launch of the new book on Archives and Human Rights, to be published by Routledge; the launch of a new edition of the ICA journal Comma, also devoted to archives and human rights; and a programme session on Safe Havens for Archives at Risk, with speakers Afelonne Doek of Amsterdam, Didier Grange of Geneva, and David Sutton, the outgoing Chair/President of SLA.

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Safe Havens for Archives at Risk: Guiding Principles

The Guiding Principles for Safe Havens for Archives at Risk have been approved by ICA and published on the official ICA website. They were produced by an international group of experts, convened by swisspeace, with input from ourselves, among many others in many countries.

The Guiding Principles can be accessed here.

Earlier posts on this SLA blog give the background to the Safe Havens project, which is a success story of international archival co-operation.

Archival Safe Havens reflect cases of archives in extreme danger which may, as a last resort, be physically moved to a safe location or be digitally copied and the copies transferred to a trusted repository.

More recently published is a Commentary on the Guiding principles, which can be accessed via the website of one of the project partners, UMAM in Beirut, here, or directly by this downloadable pdf link – Commentary Safe Havens pdf file 6a.

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Latest edition of ‘Comma’

Congratulations to the editorial team of Comma, who have produced a really interesting new issue in mid-pandemic.

Entitled Yaoundé Conference 2018/Miscellany, issue number 2019-1 (published 2020) includes papers from a number of sessions at the ICA Annual Conference in Cameroon, together with some general essays.

Colleagues will be interested to read, for example, a fascinating interview of ICA’s long-serving Secretary-General Charles Kecskeméti by Jens Boel and Perrine Canavaggio, as well as (among others) a reflective essay entitled ‘Archives: a multi-faceted nature’ by Joan Boadas i Raset, which includes literary manuscripts among its examples.

And the essay entitled ‘Research on celebrity archives held by provincial archives in China’ includes reference to the papers of Lu Xun in Shanghai (mentioned in a recent post on this blog), as well as giving general observations about the recognition by Chinese archivists of the importance of personal papers.

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COVID-19, UNESCO and documentary heritage

The latest issue (June 2020) of the Newsletter of SCEaR – the Sub-Committee on Education and Research of the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme – includes a number of important reflections on the effect of the current pandemic on our world of documentary heritage, and on the future role of UNESCO in this regard.

You can read the newsletter here: SCEaRNewsletter2020-1June30

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Rescheduling of ICA Abu Dhabi Congress

The ICA four-yearly Congress, to be held in Abu Dhabi, has been rescheduled to October 2021.

The new dates for the Abu Dhabi Congress are 19-22 October 2021, and the venue is as previously announced: at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC). The ICA business meetings will be held on 17th and 18th October.

The Programme Committee has adjusted its timeline accordingly, and notifications regarding the status of proposals for presentations and events at the Congress will be sent by the end of June 2020.

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Postponement of ICA Abu Dhabi Congress

ICA has announced that its four-yearly Congress, scheduled to be held in Abu Dhabi in November 2020, will, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, be postponed to a 2021 date to be announced.

The full message follows:

Dear all,

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is with great regret that we have decided to postpone the ICA Abu Dhabi Congress

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus the teams at National Archives of the UAE and the ICA Executive have been closely monitoring the development of the pandemic, and the significant disruption it has brought to the operations of our member institutions and wider restrictions on international travel. Most distressing is the scale of human suffering that has befallen so many, and to all those affected we extend our sympathies and hopes for a full recovery.

While this situation continues to develop it is clear that it will not be possible to bring our professional community together for the ICA Congress in November this year. We will still have the Congress in Abu Dhabi, however to ensure the safety of all and to enable full participation of delegates from all parts of the world, the Congress is being re-scheduled to 2021.

While we regret that this course of action has become necessary, we resolve to use the extra time to invest even more effort, creativity and resources into enhancing the event and making sure it will be both productive and enjoyable.

In the coming weeks we will be announcing the new dates for Congress Abu Dhabi, so please stay in touch through the website, newsletter and social media channels.

With sincere good wishes for you, your colleagues and your families.

David Fricker
ICA President

HE Abdulla Alraisi, Ph.D.
Director General, National Archives of the United Arab Emirates
Congress Host



Chers tous,

En raison de la pandémie COVID-19, c’est avec grand regret que nous avons décidé de reporter le Congrès ICA Abu Dhabi 2020.

Depuis l’apparition du coronavirus, les équipes des Archives nationales des EAU et de l’exécutif de l’ICA ont suivi de près l’évolution de la pandémie et les perturbations importantes qu’elle a entraînées pour les activités de nos institutions membres, ainsi que les restrictions plus larges imposées aux voyages internationaux. Le plus affligeant est l’ampleur de la souffrance humaine qui a frappé tant de personnes, et à tous ceux qui ont été touchés, nous adressons nos toutes nos marques de sympathie et tous nos vœux de complet rétablissement.

Alors que cette situation continue à se développer, il est clair qu’il ne sera pas possible de réunir notre communauté professionnelle pour le Congrès de l’ICA en novembre de cette année. Le Congrès se tiendra toujours à Abu Dhabi, mais pour assurer la sécurité de tous et permettre la pleine participation des délégués du monde entier, il sera reporté à 2021.

Bien que nous regrettions que cette mesure soit devenue nécessaire, nous sommes résolus à utiliser le temps supplémentaire ainsi dégagé pour investir encore plus d’efforts, de créativité et de ressources en vue d’améliorer l’événement et faire en sorte qu’il soit aussi productif qu’inoubliable.

Dans les semaines à venir, nous annoncerons les nouvelles dates du Congrès Abu Dhabi, aussi nous vous invitons à rester en contact avec nous par le biais du site Internet, de la newsletter et des réseaux sociaux.

Avec nos sincères vœux pour vous, vos collègues et vos familles

David Fricker
Président de l’ICA

S.E. Abdulla Alraisi, Ph.D.
Directeur général des Archives nationales des Émirats arabes unis
Hôte du congrès



Queridos todos,

A causa de la pandemia COVID-19, nos permitimos informales que con gran pesar hemos decidido posponer el Congreso ICA Abu Dabi 2020.

Desde el brote del coronavirus, el equipo de los Archivos Nacionales de los Emiratos Árabes Unidos y los oficiales elegidos del ICA han estado vigilando de cerca el desarrollo de la pandemia, y el significativo impacto que ha tenido en las operaciones de nuestros miembros institucionales y la imposición de extensas restricciones a los viajes internacionales. Lo más angustioso es la escala de sufrimiento humano que ha afligido a tantos. A aquellos afectados, les extendemos nuestra solidaridad y esperanza por una recuperación en su totalidad.

Mientras esta situación continúa desarrollándose, es evidente que no será posible reunir a nuestra comunidad profesional en noviembre de este año. Tendremos nuestro Congreso en Abu Dabi, sin embargo, para garantizar la seguridad de todos y permitir la plena participación de los delegados de todas partes del mundo, este evento será reprogramando para el año 2021.

Si bien lamentamos que este curso de acción haya sido necesario, hemos resuelto utilizar este tiempo adicional para invertir aún más esfuerzo, creatividad y recursos en mejorar el evento y asegurarnos de que sea productivo y agradable para todos ustedes.

En las próximas semanas anunciaremos las nuevas fechas del Congreso ICA Abu Dabi, por lo que los invitamos a mantenerse en contacto con nosotros a través de nuestra página web, el boletín informativo y los canales de redes sociales.

Nuestros más sinceros deseos para ustedes, sus colegas y sus familias.

David Fricker
Presidente ICA

S. E. Abdulla Alraisi, Ph.D.
Director General, Archivos Nacionales de los Emiratos Árabes Unidos
Anfitrión del Congreso


ICA Secretariat

ICA International Council on Archives
60, rue des Francs Bourgeois
75003 PARIS


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Literary Archives in China

In the present difficult and challenging times, this is a “solidarity post”, with best wishes to all our friends and archival colleagues in China.

China is a country rich in literary archives, in a variety of locations. For non-Chinese researchers and interested literary archivists, one of the best ways to gain insights and access to these collections is to proceed author by author.

Lu Xun
An excellent example is the author Lu Xun (real name: Zhou Shuren, 1881-1936). Essayist, polemicist, poet and author of stories such as Diary of a madman and True story of Ah Q, Lu Xun lived at different times in his life in both Beijing and Shanghai. It is appropriate therefore that his personal effects, including literary manuscripts and correspondence, are divided between two principal institutions (two fascinating visits).

Beijing Lu Xun Museum is a writer’s house museum in Fucheng Gate Avenue, founded in 1956. In addition to books, manuscripts and personal papers, it holds an extensive collection of artworks and photographs.

Shanghai Lu Xun Memorial Museum (also known as Former Residence of Lu Xun) is situated an easy walk from centre of Shanghai into the more peaceful suburbs, near the park also named after Lu Xun. The house is preserved very much as it was at the time of the writer’s death, and includes displays (as well as archival stores) of his literary manuscripts.

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ICA supports Blue Shield statement on cultural sites in Iran

ICA supports the Blue Shield International statement on potential specific targeting of cultural sites in Iran

Blue Shield International notes with grave concern the recent statements by the President of the United States of America that he is seriously contemplating targeting cultural sites in Iran if Iran reacts to the killing of General Qasem Soleimani.

The intentional targeting of cultural and religious sites (that are not legitimate military objectives and have no imperative military necessity), is prohibited specifically, under any circumstances, in international humanitarian law, most notably in the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its Second, 1999, Protocol. The USA ratified this Convention in 2009. Cultural property protection is also an integral part of the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions (arts 53 and 85(4)(d)); the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (arts 8(2)(b)(ix) and 8(2)(e)(iv)); and United Nations Security Council Resolution 2347. The protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict is regarded as Customary International Law.

The current situation is additionally problematic and unfortunate as the USA was the first country to enshrine the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict in the 1863 Lieber Code2 during the American Civil War. More recently, individuals were found guilty and imprisoned for deliberate crimes against cultural property under the remit of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia; and, in 2016, Mr Al Mahdi, a member of the extremist group Ansar Dine, was sentenced to nine years imprisonment and given a €2.7 million fine by the International Criminal Court under the Rome Statute, for the destruction of nine mausolea and a mosque in Timbuktu, Mali.

It would be a major undermining of international humanitarian law, and a significant set-back for the international community, if the USA, especially given its historic leadership, had to be added to those responsible for the deliberate, calculated, illegal destruction of cultural heritage.

We ask the President to remove any cultural sites from his target list so as to avoid the USA committing war crimes and to stop threatening cultural sites in Iran in any way. For further information please contact:

Professor Peter G Stone, Vice President, Blue Shield International
8 January 2020

Supported by the International Council on Archives. See:

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T. S. Eliot letters opened after 60-year closure

Princeton University has announced that the letters from the Anglo-American poet T. S. Eliot to his friend and “muse” Emily Hale have finally been opened for research, as from 2 January 2020. This follows one of the longest and most famous closures to the public of a literary archive. Emily Hale gave the letters to Princeton, over 60 years ago, on condition that they should be closed to the public for 50 years after her death or Eliot’s, whichever was the later. Eliot died in 1965 and Hale in 1969.

The letters are now fully open for study. “Researchers can access the collection on a first-come, first-served basis in Firestone Library’s Special Collections, located on C floor.”

Read the full story on the Princeton University website, here.

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SLA Committee / Bureau / Comité Directeur, 2020-2024: decision / décision

Dear SLA Colleagues,

I am pleased to announce, after the closure of nominations, that the following Committee has been elected for the period 2020-2024:

Leonor Calvão Borges
Fatoumata Cissé Diara
Heather Dean
André Derval
Sebastian Gurciullo
Veno Kauaria
Annantonia Martorano
David Sutton

As the SLA constitution allows for a maximum steering committee membership of eleven, we have three vacancies at the moment, which we can fill at any time during the next four years.

Best wishes to all SLA members,

David Sutton

Dr David Sutton
Director of Research Projects
University of Reading Library
(Outgoing President, SLA)
Cher collègue, chère collègue,

J’ai le plaisir de confirmer, suite à la fermeture des nominations, que le Comité Directeur suivant a été élu avec un mandat de quatre ans – de 2020 jusqu’à 2024:

Leonor Calvão Borges
Fatoumata Cissé Diara
Heather Dean
André Derval
Sebastian Gurciullo
Veno Kauaria
Annantonia Martorano
David Sutton

La constitution de la SLA prévoie un maximum d’onze membres du Comité directeur; il y a donc trois postes vacants à présent.


David Sutton

Dr David Sutton
Director of Research Projects
University of Reading Library
(Président sortant, SLA)

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