The 2023 Dalhousie-Horrocks National Leadership Lecture. Photo of Rita Tjien Fooh

Awareness is growing among archival institutions from the global south that the constructions of their history and identity have been based on the sources and narratives compiled by former colonial powers. The dominant storyline and perspectives in the archival sources were determined by the entity who held the power at that time. Access to these archival sources that are held in repositories in Europe, the United States, Canada and other countries is necessary for researchers and institutions to decolonize the archives.

At the same time, local acquisitions and recordings of oral history are important methods for institutions to control their own narratives and move beyond sources of the colonial archives. This presentation will elaborate on the archival collaboration between the National Archives Suriname and the Netherlands, with a focus on the repatriation of colonial archives between 2010 and 2017 and the various projects both institutions have undertaken since then.

Lastly, in the age of repatriation of paper archives and digital collaboration, the global south is becoming increasingly dependent on hosting in the global north where different regulations apply. How will this increasing sphere of influence of the global north affect the future of digital heritage?

Featuring Rita Tjien Fooh, Director of the National Archives Suriname

Rita Tjien Fooh took office as Suriname’s national archivist in 2010 and was involved in a seven-year project for the repatriation of the colonial archives from the Netherlands to Suriname. This project is considered one of the largest successful repatriation projects on an international level.

From 2015- 2017, Tjien Fooh was the president of the UNESCO Memory of the World Program for the Latin American and Caribbean Region. In January 2018 she was appointed as a member of the program’s International Advisory Committee (IAC) by the Secretary General of UNESCO.

Tjien Fooh is presently a part-time lecturer in the History Department of the Anton de Kom University of Suriname and is actively involved in projects related to the preservation and safeguarding of the Caribbean cultural heritage.

Topic: Perspectives from the global south (Suriname) on archival repatriation: challenges and opportunities

Respondent (providing a brief interactive response to the lecture): Ir. Arjan Agema from the National Archives of the Netherlands

Endorsed by: Association of Canadian Archivists, International Council on Archives (Expert Group on Shared Archival Heritage), Library & Archives Canada, Nova Scotia Archives.

Organized by: The School of Information Management

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