CNDRA Celebrates 76th Int’l Archives Day By: Julius Konton

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 The Center for National Documents and Records Agency on Monday June 10, 2024 joined the global village in observance of the 76th edition of International Archives Day which was originally observed on June 9, 2024. The ceremony held under the theme;  “ARCHIVES & EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES,” according to  Keynote Speaker, Ebenezer A. Borbor, marked another historic day for Liberia’s Records Agency.  Speaking on the National Theme: “RESTORING ARCHIVES VIA TECHNOLOGIES,” Mr. Borbor historicized that the CNDRA/National Archives was established in 1977 with the primary goal of preserving national documents and records, the Center for National Documents and Records Agency/National Archives since then  has been actively involved in the preservation of records through manual recording of important historical information about our country, including details about Liberia’s participation in international events.  He told the gathering that the CNDRA/National Archives runs and operates the National Public Library Service, which was detached from the Ministry of Education, and is responsible to provide Library service throughout the 15-Political Subdivisions of  Liberia; the Marriage Registry which was detached from the Ministry of Justice; the Tubman Center for African Culture (TCAC) in Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County; which during its pre-war status served as one of Liberia’s renounced Research Centers, where scholars came from the world over for research purpose; the Tubman Library Museum (TLM) in Harper, Maryland County, also contributed to providing valuable historical information for research purpose as well. According to him , The TCAC and TLM are currently in a state of disrepair as such  require significant attention from the government and its foreign allies in order to be returned to their pre-war state. Ebenezer noted  that a wide range of legal instruments or papers are also being preserved by the CNDRA/National Archives and functions as  one of the government’s revenue-producing entities. Providing more details of the National Archives, he stated that Prior to her creation, the CNDRA/National Archives and other international archival organizations worked with the manual recording of important information to preserve paper records and documents until the development of the Document Management Systems (DMS) in 1999. He acknowledge the  fact that technologies have impacted the world over traditional archival tasks have been impacted by the advancement of technology.  “Collection production, assessment, arrangement and description, preservation, and research services have all changed as a result of the digital age and  Global archival institutions are therefore far ahead of other organizations in using digital technology in archives,” he noted. The practice of keeping digital data organized and preserved for future access and retrieval is known as digital archiving. In short, it is an electronic record and information archive that replaces the paper archive through methodical storage, the Keynote Speaker of the 76th International Archives Day said.

 Digital archiving, he stressed is now required because of the internet’s dominance over paper records and the growth of technology as such,  it is imperative that the CNDRA/National Archives be restored through technological means.  Speaking further , Mr. Borbor indicated  that Digital archiving technology is the most preferred infrastructure for preserving historical documents and artifacts that serve as evidence of the past, and it improves timely accessibility and retrieval of records while preventing the loss of important records. CNDRA/National Archives through technology cannot be overstated in this digital age, he reechoed. Currently, he stated that the CNDRA/National Archives overall lack the required digital infrastructure needed to upgrade to global standards and best practice, Therefore, replacing manual preservation of paper records with a digital archiving solution would ensure meeting the challenges of long-term digital preservation-boosting accessibility and ensuring information security.  He told the gathering that it has become compelling that the CNDRA/National Archives transition to becoming part of this dynamic realm of digital preservation; putting it on par with Global Archival Institutions. The overall challenges he intimated  can be accomplished when the CNDRA/National Archives receives sufficient budgetary support from the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and the National Legislature something he said will allow the Archives to acquire contemporary equipment and construct the necessary digital infrastructure, improving record accessibility and retrieval and preventing the loss of important data. Moreover, he wants the Government of Liberia to focus its attention on the CNDRA/National Archives to understanding and accepting the importance and vital role played in preserving the Nation’s heritage and historical artifacts, and her contributions to the Good Governance, Transparency, and Accountability Sector of Government, and assist Government makes informed decision, and acknowledging the fact that the  CNDRA/National Archives is the “National Mirror” that when looked into, enables one to know about the Nation’s Historical Past, Present and moving into the future. Furthermore, he said , It informs one to knowing where he or she came from, where he or she is currently, and where he or she is headed.  The Archives are adapting to digitization and emerging technologies like AI, machine learning, and block chain to promote democracy, protect citizens’ rights, and enhance quality of life by harnessing data and preserving cultural heritage, he noted.  President Boakai, National leaders and the general citizenry he emphasized are all somehow linked to the CNDRA/National Archives because the archives preserve information about their own and their children’s inheritance as  such, the loss of valuable information about their respective inheritance and their children’s inheritance would be very detrimental to them and the nation especially owing to either their alleged  refusal or unwillingness to pay much more attention to the CNDRA/National Archives by not sanctioning the CNDRA’s budget proposal that would enable it to build the required digital infrastructures to guide against the loss of valuable information about the land, including theirs. At the same time,  he stressed that the National Archives is the custodian of valuable historical artifacts and documents, to name a few, Liberia Declaration of Independence;

The Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, 1847; The Commonwealth Flag, known as the “First Flag,” Treaties from Queen Victoria The Official Seal of King George of Great Britain (1910–1936); Treaty of Amity, Commence, and Navigation between Italy and Liberia, signed on October 23, 1863, which led to the commencement of ships flaying Liberia’s flag; The Constitution for the Government of the African Colony in Liberia, laws to govern the colony; One of Liberia’s greatest warriors, Madam Sua Koko, who fought for this nation, for which a district is named in her honor, is known as Sua Koko in Bong County and the First Black African to have graduated from Harvard University, USA, in 1927, who hails from Grand Kru County, known as Plenyeno Gbe Wolo, and many more as such it is incumbent upon all of the major actors, he said  in the state to have a rethink of their minds about the persistency of awarding low or inadequate budgetary support or allotments to the CNDRA/National Archives.  Making reference to financial support, he said  Currently, the CNDRA/National Archives budget is US$778.000.00, which shows a lack of interest in putting it at global archival levels and helping her fully decentralize its programs across the country relative to service delivery.  According to him, the budgetary allotment cannot address even a technical component of the CNDRA. US$30,000.00 of CNDRA’s budget was allotted for goods and services. Presenting the decimal mathematical case in terms of support ,  he said when divided by 12-months, this amount  is US$2,500.00. ” This amount cannot handle goods and services for CNDRA’s Central Office, not to mention offices in the 14- counties; it cannot help in any way in providing the requisite and/or minimum working tools to enhance work operations”, he added. ” It would be most preferred that CNDRA/National Archives be given a budgetary allotment of 2- million United States dollars annually, which is a minimum compared to the budgets of archival institutions across the region and the world over”, he said. He informed the gathering that a recent assessment of the Northwestern and Southeastern Counties of Liberia done by CNDRA’s Director General D. Nelson Bearngar, shows that the National Archives is heavily challenged relative to its activities within the 14 counties across the country.  It is established, he added  that the respective service centers cannot house the entire operational components of the CNDRA, and there are needs for the CNDRA to fully decentralize its activities and programs across the country and to have facilities of her own to provide full services to all.  However, work conditions at CNDRA’s Service Center offices need serious attention for improvement”, he noted. In an effort to improve work conditions there, Director General Bearngar and his team have developed a proposal pending submission to the Ministry of Internal Affairs for onward submission to the government’s decentralization partners. Despite  important role played by the CNDRA/National Archives, employees of the CNDRA, he disclosed make salaries as low as US$80.00, something he pointed out is unpleasant, demotivating, and inconceivable.  He therefore used the occasion to call on the National Legislature, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, and the Civil Service Agency to consider revisiting the salary structure of employees of the National Archives and putting it on par with other Commissions of Government that make no contribution to the National Treasury of Liberia yet have salaries of at least US$300.00.  He regret and stressed that It is unthinkable that institutions of government generating revenues and contributing to the nation’s Treasury would struggle for budgetary support and improvement of employees’ benefits. He maintained that restoring the CNDRA/National Archives via technology is a must, and the government must consider the provision of required funding to the CNDRA to fully build infrastructure that would promote digital archiving in its entire scope of operations and provide training opportunities for employees in building their capacities.

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