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First Minister of Wales celebrates the award of UNESCO Memory of the World status to outstanding historical collections


Tonight at the Senedd in Cardiff, the First Minister will host the UK Memory of the World awards which recognise documentary heritage collections of ‘Outstanding significance to the UK’.  This is the first time the prestigious MoW awards have been held in Wales.

UNESCO established the Memory of the World (MoW) Programme in 1992. The programme vision is that the world's documentary heritage belongs to all, should be fully preserved and protected for all and permanently accessible to all without hindrance.  The UK Register recognises documentary heritage deemed by a panel of experts to be of outstanding significance to the UK.  

Seven new inscriptions will join the 50 already listed on the UK register (one of several country-level programmes from around the world). Tonight’s reception will also celebrate two UK inscriptions to the International Register, which identifies world-class documentary heritage.

The UK’s rich documentary heritage is filled with stories about people, places and events - they are the documented memory of humankind.  Much of it is publicly available in archives, libraries and museums.

Included in the awards for 2016 is a wide variety of remarkable historical documents from across the UK.  They date from the ninth to the nineteenth century.  Their content ranges from the medieval archives of Canterbury Cathedral to the laboratory notebooks of the scientist Michael Faraday, from the Exeter Book of poetry in Old English to the correspondence of the socialist pioneer Robert Owen.  

From Wales, the UK Register recognises the Survey of the Manors of Crickhowell and Tretower, created by Robert Johnson in 1587 and now in the care of the National Library of Wales.  Unlike most other estate surveys of this period, which were primarily textual descriptions, this survey also produced a set of maps. The creation of maps as an integral part of an estate survey did not become common practice for another two centuries, and as such this survey is ground-breaking in its approach. View the full Survey of the Manors of Crickhowell and Tretower.

Pedr ap Llwyd, Director of Collections and Public Programmes at the National Library, commented: “The National Library of Wales is the nation’s pre-eminent library and archive. It is at once a massive information resource and treasure house on all subjects, freely available to everyone, and a living store of the recorded cultures of Wales.  We are very proud of the fact that the Survey – which forms a part of the national collection - has been added to the UK Register. The quality, quantity and accuracy of the maps is outstanding. Forty-six beautifully drawn, coloured, full- or half-page maps showing lands in Crickhowell and Tretower manors and borough with much of its surrounding landscape. This Survey is a national treasure”.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “Wales’ rich archives record our history and literary culture, helping more people than ever before to learn about our national heritage. Our archives also offer a unique record as evidence for our future generations – providing our children and our children’s children with a colourful, insightful and authoritative picture of our past cultures and traditions, and of our development as a nation.

“Adding Robert Johnson’s Survey of the Manors to the UK Register is the rightful recognition it deserves. I congratulate the National Library and thank UNESCO for their continued role in highlighting the importance of our documentary heritage.”

The awards will also celebrate two UK collections that have been added to the International Register, the papers of Winston Churchill and the diary of Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig 1914-1919.
Elizabeth Oxborrow-Cowan, Chair of the Memory of the World UK Committee said: ‘These remarkable documents showcase the incredibly rich documentary heritage of the UK, much of which is freely available to the public through archives, museums and libraries. I encourage people to discover this inheritance for themselves.”

The UK National Commission for UNESCO is the central hub for UNESCO-related matters in the UK. Karen Merkel, the UKNC’s Non-Executive Director for Communications and Information said: “We would like to thank the members of the UK Memory of the World Committee, chaired by Elizabeth Oxborrow-Cowan, for their careful assessment of the new collections to be inscribed onto the UK’s Memory of the World Register. Their expertise guides applicants through the rigorous application process and ensures that collections of truly global significance and national impact join the prestigious community on the UK Memory of the World Register”.

Wales is home to a wealth of world class environments that have been formally recognised by UNESCO, in addition to its Memory of the World Collections.
These include:

  • three World Heritage Sites (Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal in Trevor, Wrexham , Blaenavon Industrial Landscape in Torfaen and the Castles and Town Walls of Edward I in Gwynedd in Gwynedd, Conwy, and Isle of Anglesey),
  • one Biosphere Reserve (Biosffer Dyfi Biosphere)
  • two Global Geoparks (Fforest Fawr Geopark in the Brecon Beacons and the Geo Mon Geopark in Amlwch, Anglesey).
  • four other Memory of the World inscriptions (Hepworth Cinema Interviews, National Screen & Sound Archive of Wales, Aberystwyth, Neath Abbey Ironworks, West Glamorgan Archive Service, Swansea, Peniarth Manuscript Collection, National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, The Life Story of David Lloyd George National Library of Wales, Screen & Sound Archive, Aberystwyth)

The UKNC explores the value that UNESCO accreditation brings to Wales and the UK as a whole in its new report on the Wider Value of UNESCO to the UK.