Missions of Cultural Documentation and Archives in Global Information Exchange

The Finnish Universities' Partnership for International Development (UniPID) organizes in cooperation with EADI (European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes), an international symposium on partnership in research for development, in Helsinki, Finland, on the 19th of April 2007. This an abstract for a paper presented at the symposium.

Action research brought up the need to communicate research findings in the community where the knowledge was generated. The participatory research approach further emphasized the need to share even the raw material of research: By emphasizing the importance of the research subject as an agent in the information generating process, the researcher would also have to acknowledge joint authorship and ownership of the material.

Such assumptions can be rewarding in terms of producing better documentation methods and material suited for archiving and dissemination. A smoother feedback cycle can also be achieved, where the informants can give their contribution in refining the results through evaluation and interpretation of recordings and documents.

Finland has a number of valuable collections of cultural material from developing countries. Some of them are well documented, and they would deserve to be easily accessible in a dedicated archive. As existing archives have chosen to give priority to national content, it unfortunately seems to be difficult to find a working solution. This situation appears to be similar in other European countries.

The presentation draws on experience gained by the author during three projects in East Africa: a) The Jipemoyo Project of the Finnish Academy and the Ministry of National Culture and Youth, Tanzania; b) Jipemoyo's offshoot, the cultural exchange project Nipe Nikupe / Vuoroin vieraissa; and c) Mediafrica — a development project focusing on the role of modern media in Nordic / SADCC cultural exchange.

Special emphasis is given to methods of exchanging research material. During the era of the global information society, global data sharing is possible. Researchers can take advantage of the situation by offering their research material on-line. EU policies stress that the digitization of cultural material should be a national task. This leaves European researchers and their colleagues in the developing countries in a dead-locked situation which calls for partnership and joint action to provide a solution.

— Philip Donner