UN Audiovisual Department Celebrates its Legacy and History

27 October is World Day for Audiovisual Heritage.  In case you missed it. How could you? The World Day for Audiovisual Heritage is when we celebrate our shared history through images, sounds, and the footage that holds our memories. 

The UN’s very own audiovisual department is one of the most treasured divisions at the UN for us journalists, editors, radio, TV, online, and podcast producers who cherish understanding how the organisation came to be, hearing the many voices that throughout history shaped it, and seeing where it is headed. 

From the rushes of daily press conferences to the images of the organization’s founding, the UN AV Library holds over 6.330 hours of historical content in 35, 16, and 8mm film, 49.400 hours of video, 800.000 photographs, 18.000 of audio recordings and more, stored in its off-site archives. 

You want to know what former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said at a Security Council meeting? When High Commissioner Mary Robinson, presented her Human Rights reports at the UN Headquarters or in Geneva? It is all there. The archives also contain footage, audio, and images of UN agencies’ field staff in action, conferences, world summits, the General Assembly proceedings, zillions of meetings of its many subsidiary bodies, and multilateral organizations in the UN System. The archival treasure requires funding and supporting. We should not let this common heritage go to dust. 

Check UNESCO’s website for more. 

“The World Day for Audiovisual Heritage (WDAH) provides an occasion to raise general awareness of the need to take urgent measures and to acknowledge the importance of audiovisual documents. It serves as an opportunity for Member States to evaluate their performance with respect to implementing the 2015 Recommendation Concerning the Preservation of, and Access to, Documentary Heritage, Including in Digital Form, and it promotes the free flow of ideas by word and image as a representation of our shared heritage and memory. In so doing, the Day highlights the role of heritage in building the defenses of peace in people’s minds. Through initiatives such as the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, the Memory of the World Programme, and UNESCO Archives project “Digitizing our shared UNESCO history“, the work of preservation professionals is encouraged, in order to manage the range of technical, political, social, financial and other factors that threaten the safeguarding of our audiovisual heritage.”

Source: UNESCO website

2020 Theme: Your Window to the World


Audiovisual materials as documentary heritage objects provide a Window to the World as we observe events we cannot attend, we hear voices from the past who can no longer speak, and we craft stories that inform and entertain. Audiovisual content plays an increasingly vital role in our lives as we seek to understand the world and engage with our fellow beings.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the urgent need for universal access to documentary heritage as a knowledge resource, particularly as memory institutions seek to reopen their doors to the public. Alongside this is the near lack of enabling policies for preserving and giving access to documentary heritage items. This is further exacerbated by the dwindling of funds available to archives, libraries and museums, increasing the risk of permanent loss of heritage. Against this background, UNESCO is organizing an online policy dialogue among memory institutions and other stakeholders aimed at identifying policy gaps in the digital preservation of documentary heritage at risk.