International prize helps preserve Australia's history

Media release: Thursday, 1 November 2012

A prestigious UNESCO award, with a prize of US$30,000 donated by the City of Cheongju in the Republic of Korea, is enabling the National Archives of Australia to share its expertise with the next generation of archival conservators.

The UNESCO/Jikji Memory of the World Prize, in recognition of the National Archives of Australia's achievements in archival preservation, is helping fund a six-months internship for conservation student Carolyn Milne, who begins work today (1 November) in the National Archives' conservation laboratory. Additionally, the National Archives is matching the funds to enhance the preservation and management of archival resources in the region.

The 2011 award acknowledged the National Archives as 'a world leader in many areas, notably that of digital preservation'. It also recognised the National Archives' research into preserving documents written in iron gall ink, which can present significant preservation challenges.

'This result of the ongoing cultural collaboration between Australia and the Republic of Korea aligns well with the Government's Australia in the Asian Century White Paper,' said Director-General David Fricker. 'The prize was a great compliment to the National Archives and to the work of our conservators who ensure that the most at-risk items in our collection are preserved for the future. We thought it appropriate for the prize funds to be put towards the development of the next generation of conservators who will continue to share their research and findings with archival institutions around the world.

'The modern era continues to present conservators with new challenges, with many recent materials used for the creation of significant archival records, now revealing their impermanent properties. In this regard there is still much work to be done, and research findings to be shared. This internship is an important contribution to helping sustain the profession and ensure that the expertise developed by our current conservators is carried forward.'

The UNESCO/Jikji Memory of the World Prize is named in honour of the Jikji, a Korean Buddhist text printed in 1377 – the oldest surviving book in the world made with moveable metal type.

The Memory of the World Program is UNESCO's primary project to encourage preservation of humanity's documentary heritage. The National Archives of Australia's collection holds several items listed on the Memory of the World register, including records of displaced persons from Europe who sought refuge in Australia after World War II, Australia's landmark constitutional documents, records of the High Court of Australia and the Griffin design drawings for our federal capital.

Contact information

  • Shaun Rohrlach (Director, Communications and Programs)
    t (02) 6212 3990 m 0434 664 621 e
  • Elizabeth Masters (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3957 m 0427 853 664 e
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