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International Council on Archives Conference Report
Yaounde, Cameroon
November 26-28, 2018

I attended the International Council on Archives (ICA) 2018 Conference at the Palais des Congrès in Yaounde, Cameroon, from November 26-28, 2018. Approximately 300 attendees from archival institutions around the world converged on the capital for this annual event. This was the first time that the ICA Conference was held in Africa. ICA President, David Fricker, believed that holding the event in Cameroon demonstrated ICA's commitment to providing colleagues from African nations every opportunity to develop the archives and records management profession across Africa. He added that the conference was the premier event on the professional calendar to strengthen networks and gather the ‘professional intelligence' that enables each of us in the field to stay at the very forefront of developments from around the globe. Fricker said, "The conference will be a forum to share technical knowledge, but will also serve to promote the importance of archives and records management across the region as an essential requirement for good governance and effective public administration."

The Palais des Congrès
The Palais des Congrès

The first day of the conference was dominated by the Opening Ceremony. This included opening remarks, cultural performances by Cameroonian dancers and performers, and a keynote address by Jean-Louis Roy who is the Chief Executive Officer at the Bibliotheque et Archives Nationales du Quebec. The theme of the conference was "Archives : Governance, Memory and Heritage," and played a key note in the Prime Minister of Cameroon, Philemon Yang, opening speech. He believed that the theme's importance is self-evident for Africa, and internally falls in line with the initiatives and public policies that the Government of Cameroon deploys so as to put in place an efficient national archives management system.

In the evening the ICA General Assembly was then held in the main auditorium. The Assembly heard reports from the President and the Vice-Presidents Program and Finance, approved the organization's accounts and endorsed the results for the election of officers from September 2018. Mr David Fricker and Mr Zuber were re-elected and Mr Charbonneau elected for a 4 years mandate. The General Assembly also nominated Mr Gérard Ermisse, Mr Carol Couture and Mr Jonathan Rhys-Lewis as Fellows of ICA, to acknowledge and celebrate these three great professionals. The attendees also learned that the 2019 annual conference will be held in Adelaide, Australia.

As for me, the conference got very busy on the second day. In the morning I helped Jonathan Rhys-Lewis facilitate his workshop on Archival Buildings. Jonathan was slated to do the workshop alone because other members of the expert group on Archival Buildings could not attend the conference. The workshop focused on three collection issues with particular reference to the challenges experienced by African colleagues. The three presentations covered sustainability and renewability, a review of "green" solutions - their applicability for archives and how they might work in Africa, and archival packaging and its role in supporting preservation. Later in the day the workshop group visited the National Archives of Cameroon. I, unfortunately, could not make this trip because I had to get ready for my afternoon in the conference center.

Yaounde, Cameroon
Yaounde, Cameroon

Later in the day I helped run a workshop with my colleague from the Expert Group Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management. The workshop was called The Basics of Emergency Management and Disaster Preparedness Workshop. This interactive workshop examined the four basic stages of disaster preparedness: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. It helped participants to consider all situations and levels of the disaster's impact, particularly those that cause damage to records, collections, and disrupt the flow of business and services. The workshop was also intended to inspire participants to be more proactive before, during and after a disaster occurs at their organization. At the end of the workshop, I brought to the participant's attention the launching of the PARBICA's new Disaster Management's Guidelines. The five guidelines will guide record keeping professionals through the steps in effective disaster preparedness, response and recovery, and will show you how to identify vital records and assess significant records.

Finally, on the last day of the conference I presented my paper titled Combating Climate Change the Traditional Way: Pacific Island Archives and the Fight to Protect Their Cultural Heritage. The paper showed how Pacific Islanders are utilizing their traditional ways to combat the threats caused by climate change. Inspired by this proactive stance and the use of traditional skills, those responsible for safekeeping cultural heritage can also learn to be more resilient. These techniques being executed by record keepers of the Pacific Islands region will then hopefully set an example and encourage worldwide cultural heritage organizations whose collection are threatened by climate change.

Overall, the conference was a success. For 70 years the ICA has advocated for the effective management of archives and the physical protection of written heritage, to produce reputable standards and best archival practices, and to encourage dialogue, exchange, and transmission of this knowledge and expertise across international borders. This aim is the reason why ICA brings together various professionals in the records safekeeping profession each year. New relationships with colleagues from around the world were formed, and old ones were renewed. The colorful, exotic African backdrop proved to show that this will be one of ICA's most remembered conference.