The text of Dr Wim van Drimmelen's explanatory letter on the draft UNESCO
resolution, followed by the draft resolution, is included below:
To the members of CDNL

July 5 2001

Dear colleague,

The CDNL committee on digital preservation is proud to present to you the
text of the draft UNESCO resolution that will be proposed at the UNESCO
General Conference in October 2001.

The text calls attention to the fact that many of the world's cultural,
educational and scientific resources are increasingly produced, distributed
and accessed only in digital form and that digital information is highly
susceptible to technical obsolescence. It urges the member states of UNESCO
to take appropriate action for ensuring preservation of the world's growing
digital heritage.

The resolution will be put forward to the General Conference by at least one
member state - we are talking to the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and
Science to take the appropriate steps. In order for this resolution to be
adopted by the General Conference there should be enough support from the
other member states as well.

I therefore urge you to seek the support of your government and to publicise
the resolution as a CDNL initiative, before the Conference takes place.
Please contact the representatives of your country to UNESCO and your
national UNESCO committee and circulate the text of the resolution widely.

It is hoped that, if adopted by UNESCO, this resolution will help us and
other memory organisations get support and financial commitment at the
national level to tackle the challenge of digital preservation.

You will find information about the UNESCO General Conferences at:

This announcement has also been circulated via the CDNL discussion list:

Yours sincerely,

Dr Wim van Drimmelen
Chairman CDNL committee
on digital preservation




Proposed by the Conference of Directors of National Libraries (CDNL)

The Hague, June 2001



Preservation of digital heritage


The General Conference

Recalling that the preservation of and access to the cultural heritage is one of UNESCO’s major concerns,

Considering that, with respect to the preservation of the cultural heritage, UNESCO has initiated several international conventions and recommendations, including the Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, and has moreover established the ‘Memory of the World’ programme specifically aimed at preservation and access of documentary heritage,

Considering that many of the world’s cultural, educational and scientific resources are increasingly produced, distributed and accessed only in digital form[1],

Considering that government and public administration depend more and more on continued access to digital records and documents not available in any other form,

Considering that digital information is highly susceptible to both technical obsolescence –of hardware, software and data formats- and physical decay,

Considering that as the digital information economy rushes to adopt newer formats, older information formats become obsolete at an alarmingly fast rate,

Considering that maintaining on-going access to digital information resources is complex and costly, requiring long-term commitment,

Considering that libraries and archives have traditionally been responsible for safeguarding the intellectual and cultural heritage and the administrative record of nations and are committed to long-term access,

 Noting with interest the attention given to this matter in many of the activities proposed under the Organization’s programme for 2002-2003 (draft 35C/5)

Considering that the Conference of Directors of National Libraries (CDNL) at the Annual Meeting of August 2000 established a Committee on Digital Preservation to effectively raise awareness -within the library community as well as outside it- of the urgent need to safeguard the digital heritage, and to develop an international research agenda for digital longevity,

Considering that the International Council on Archives at the XIVth International Congress (Seville, Spain, September 2000) has emphasized the need to ensure continuing access to the content and functionality of authentic electronic records, and has called upon National Archivists to provide leadership to ensure the preservation and accessibility of records to secure the rights of citizens

Wishing, nevertheless, that the matter be accorded high priority and presented in a coherent fashion,

1.Urges the Member States of UNESCO, governmental and non-governmental organizations and international, national and private institutions:

a)      to assume responsibility of ensuring the identification, preservation and transmission to future generations of the digital heritage produced on their territory and belonging primarily to the Member State;

b)      to assure that preservation of their digital heritage be given high priority at the national policy level;

c)      to ensure the infrastructure and procedures are in place to preserve our digital heritage and to support national memory organizations, such as national libraries and national archives, in their efforts to do so;

d)      to  adapt regulations for national deposit and archival legislation to ensure that preservation of digital heritage can be carried out effectively;

e)      to promote the use of open standards, adherence to standards in the creation of materials, and the development of standard solutions in conjunction with the IT industry,

2. Invites the Director General

a)      to increase in UNESCO’s programmes recognition and awareness of the digital dimension of the cultural heritage;

b)      to extend UNESCO's programmes with an action line specifically aimed at safeguarding the digital heritage, covering such actions as:

i)                    raising awareness among governments, information producers, the IT-industry, preservation specialists and the general public of the need to safeguard the digital heritage, which includes materials of critical administrative, economic, social, cultural and artistic value;

ii)                   developing strategies for pro-active approaches to prevent obsolescence of the digital heritage, on the basis of generally accepted principles governing cultural heritage preservation;

iii)                 promoting the exchange of information between Member States of good practices and preservation methods, and facilitating the training of specialists in digital preservation;

iv)                 promoting the participation of libraries, archives, museums and other institutions concerned with the heritage in this endeavour;

c)      to take steps to make sure that digital repositories are set up for publications, archives and documents of UNESCO and other United Nations Agencies.

[1]  Materials created in digital form are also called ‘born-digital materials’ and include for instance all types of websites and databases, electronic records, e-journals, digital photographs and audiovisual materials and digital text archives.