Report BARM Society, Meeting march 7 2009, Rajshahi
March 15, 2009, 8:44 am
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A special meeting of the members participating the International Seminar on Archival Development in Bangladesh at Rajshahi was held on 7 March 2009 at the Heritage Archives Bhaban at Kajla with Professor Dr. Sharif uddin Ahmed, President of BARM Society in the chair. Eight members were present: dr. Nurul Hossein Chowdhury, dr Shafi, dr. Mahbubur Rahman, Lutful Haq, Mir Fazle, Florus, Salma Islam, Ali Akbar. Dr Mahbubur Rahman announces that Dr Nurul Hossein and Dr Shafi will be member of the Advisory Council of the Heritage Archives. The meeting discussed on the International Seminar and also planned activities for the next three months.

After discussion the following resolutions were adopted –
1.The day long International Seminar on Archival Developments in Bangladesh held on 6 March 2009 was deemed as a great success.

2. It is of highest importance that we use our present network of people, in earlier stage involved in BARM and invite those for BARM activities and BARM invitations. Florus has a list of persons, in this or that way connected with BARM in the years 1995-2009. The list will be inserted in the members / sympathizers administration of BARM. There are lists of persons of the meetings of 5 august 2008, 4 september 2008, 3 oktober 2008, .. november as well as in january and february. Together with persons, invited / registered as participants in the launching meeting 24 febr. and the Rajshahi Seminar. All these sources for further network building will be given to the secretary general. BARM Society absolutely needs to be based in broadly composed groups of historians, bureaucrats, information managers, information and IT professionals etc. For this reason lecture tours in universities and colleges on BARM, connnected with Information Management, Right To Information Act, Good Governance and professional Historiography should be given. As Florus now in this visit is focussing at. Sectors like Information and librarian Sciences, their organisations like BALID, yet also Bdesh Itihas Samiti though they seem not all the time that much involved and interested in BARM are however important allies and should be convinced to cooperate.
On financing: members contribution, fundraising for projects, training of record keeping staff for a group of record managers / -helpers for BARM Society. Extern financing is possible on the basis of budgets for PRACTICAL activities with clear results to be achieved. In these budgets, mayor part of the costs must be covered by Bangladeshi financing.

3. The meeting resolved that letter of thanks be sent to those dignitaries who participated and those who helped organizing the Seminar and also provided financial assistance.


BARM Society and it’s mission, by Florus Geraedts
March 7, 2009, 7:08 pm
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BARM Society and its mission: How to start solving archival Information Problems in Bangladesh, 6 March 2009-03-05

Ladies and gentlemen, The present Director of the National Archives (in office since april 2007), whom I have the honor to call my friend actually gave me the motto for the BARM work in Bangladesh:
On 24 May 2007 he told me: “I read your documents on Bangladesh Archives and Records Management: it is all very interesting and relevant. But here is my first advise: you should do more in order to prevent a failure”. In Latifur’s typical words: don’t let BARM become part of the World and All Time’s Encyclopedia of Failures.

During the last 14 years I visited Bangladesh for archival development project BARM and I could see the hope giving efforts of the National Archives to collect and preserve archives, spread knowledge on archives and history by organising exhibitions, inspection visits to record creating Govenment institutions and bringing out a Newsletter on Archives and National Library. However, at the same time a process of decay was going on: during those years since 1995, experienced staff went on retirement and was not replaced on the necessary level of professional knowledge. More aspects show the worse condition of National Archives: A crucial process: digitizing Archives by scanning of the Archives and presenting these on Internet has been stopped almost one year ago. Thus we are in a backlog now and lost a most valuable contact with the SDNB project on makng New Website for National Archives of dr Asad Uzzaman and mr Touhid Uzzaman in BIDS. Accessioning of newly acquired archives still hampers. Inspection of the newly created government records hardly takes place and advising and training of record keepers and officers in charge of records all over Bangladesh are almost non existent.
In the present process of digitizing the Information Management, this National Archives plays no role at all. There is no cooperation with the Information Science and Library Departments of our Universities. All cooperation with education institutes of IT professionals is absent. I found out that any awareness about Archives in IT sector is lacking. National Archives and Archival World even has no CONTACT with the Grameen Initiative of Collecting Historical Documents on 1971 Liberation War and the 500 Grameen Computer Community Learning Centers as I heard on 19 february in Kulna University. There is no cooperation with the Bangladesh Computer Council though National Archives should be involved in digitizing information management. In Malaysia for example their National Archives is serving the nation and the whole society by full swing involvement in creating an electronic Goverment Service to the Citizens. The Motto of Malaysian National Archives is: Sharing Information will enrich each and everyone, Keeping secret and unused of Information, Archives and Records will hamper the spreading and extension of Knowledge. That brings hampering of progress and ongoing lawlessness and poverty in our economy and society. Transparency and accountability are absent everywhere.
But there are signs of hope: In Rajshahi University, Prof Anwar Hossein is, with his staff, doing his utmost to build up transparency and accountability by creating and improving the Examination Controller’s administration. This initiative might invite other Universities, state and NonGovernment, and colleges and highschools to do the same as well: build up of reliable educational archives. The 29 december elections for Parliament happened to be the most free and well prepared elections of 37 years Bangladesh History. This had its roots too in application of Good Information and Records Management. The Implementation of ID card and Voters List, based on Birth Registration and serious data collection in 2007 and 2008 shows GROWING Awareness about how to build up good Archives and Records Management in Government and Society.
The Government of Bangladesh seriously will strive at a better future by announcing the Bangladesh 2021 Vision. The imposing of the Right To Information Act (october 2008) will be a mighty leap forward: it will force Government to become transparent, democratic and effective. This Right To Information Act will make the inhabitants of what was once a Mugul Empire, then British Colonial Raj and then a colony of Jinnah’s Pakistan to real, self conscious CITIZENS of a free and prosperous Bangladesh. Because with this Right to Information Act, Information Management and Digitizing are one and undivisable action. Right To Information for all citizens absolutely needs proper Archives and Records Management in all levels and quarters of Government. For reaching access to the Government Archives and Records, proper Records management is absolutely needed. For this aim the National Archives is the linch pin, a crucial actor. Is the National Archives of Bangladesh ready to play this role? Not at all. The National Archives now is in total agony: a suffocating, if not dying Digitizing Records Project. National Achives with a decreasing staff, without perspective of professional training, without proper Internet connected equipment can NEVER meet the needs of Bangladesh Government, Economy and Society for coping with the challenges of the electronic Information World. It can play no role in scientific development.
BARM Society should help the National Archives and all quarters of the GOB to execute the Archives Ordinance and the Right To Information Act as well. Land administration, Civil Registration, Judiciary, Regional and Local Government Record Keeping should become spearheads of innovative Archives and Records Management. Pilots must be developed ASAP and this will be part of the Roadmap to Bangladesh 2021, a new chapter in Bangladesh History.
BARM Society wants to develop all activities as presented by Lt Colonel Lutful Haq, dr Sharifuddin Ahmed, dr Mahbubur Rahman and others and a complete schedule of tangible steps forward will be published soon. It is my sincere hope and request to you to help us: the right honorable Government Representatives are kindly urged to take steps for strengthening the National Archives and archival care through the whole nation. All the members of the audience are requested to become member of the BARM Society and to develop ideas for archives rescuing and archival information management in all corners of Bangladesh.
Main target now should be the spreading of the feeling of urgency to rescue archives
asking local officials in their offices about their records, how they accession and preserve these archives & records, how old their eldest records are. This is inspection work which the NAB has to do according to their assignment. BARM Society can do this as relevant activity. These visits create scope for proving local officials the relevance of record management, teach them how to manage archives and records. For example: the Urgency Course on record keeping in the National Archives of 18 and 19 March will show the door to solutions of the Bangladshi Archives Problems. The same way, Heritage Archives in Kazla Gate here in Rajshahi will set an example how to solve the archival problems. Local Archives rescuing work in Dinajpur, Narayanganj and the Tea Board Archives will show us the way how all of us can work locally. The way, how ICDDR,B is building their archival collections o research documentary and pictures is absolutely setting standards for all of us.
During each visit we should ask the present officers how they keep their records? Where they preserve their non current records? What problems they are confronted with? Discuss with them, how you, of the BARM Society could help them to find ways of solving the archival problems. Hand out and explain to the officers or maire or Council members the Information Leaflet (with website addresses and mobile numbers) about BARM Society and BARM activities. Furthermore: brochure on NAB (what can NAB mean for your paurashava on helping to preserve your local archives?), National Archives ordinance 1983, Right To Information Ordinance 2008 and brochure on private archives, for example Heritage Archives, Tea Board Archives, ICDDR,B Archives, ZIA Heart Foundation Archives as example.This is extremely important because the local officers are JUST interested in PRACTICAL information on PRACTICAL solutions, not in theories and academic disputes.
Activities started already by Mr Lutful Haq, mrs Salma Islam and mr Ali Akbar for example. Last week I visited local record rooms in Ioari Union Parishad (Bhobanipur Bonpara, Distr. Natore), Birampur and Fulbari Paurashava (distr. Dinajpur).
Every 3 months a meeting of BARM Executive Committee (33 persons appointed in the Launching Meeting 24 february in National Museum, Dhaka) is needed to exchange experiences with our activities and to solve problems. Keep these meetings INFORMAL and PRACTICAL: we do not execute our BARM task by seminars and discussions but first of all by practical work and tangible results. The meetings should first of all focuss on collecting data and reports on archival visits and rescuing activities. These reports and data (in the NAB files: archival inspection reports! See for example the Inspection reports of 1978-1983) must become available by website / blog. Based on the Right To Information Ordinance 2008, the Government of Bangladesh is stimulating us to do so.

In between these meetings of the Executive Commitee, the Steering Committee should meet more frequently to put information about our visits, courses, rescuing of archives etc. on Blog or website. And to take care of our list of members and sympathizers and well wishers, in Bangladesh. And our international allies, like ICA, SWARBICA and keep the This is extremely important in order to keep all of us well informed and MOTIVATED to CONTINUE our BARM work.

We will have to visit as much as local record rooms as possible, short training program on archives & record keeping for DC’s, Paurashava maires, UP chairmen, magistrates in judiciary organisation. This way they will get acquainted with National Archives and BARM Society and National Archives and BARM Society will get a much better picture of Archives Information Problems and solutions in Bangladesh. By our work (BARM Society and National Archives) the ministers and secretaries of Culture, Home affairs and Information will become much more informed and aware of the REAL problems and solutions. In this way, these political authorities can contribute and facilitate to the Road map and the BangladeshVision 2021.

The work of NAB and BARM Society will be most challenging and satisfactory if we are ready to do it and to continue despite many disappointments and frustrations. But if we are able to persist and work with devotion, we can succeed. BARM can help to create a more honest, prosperous and civilized Bangladesh by stimulating Information Management for Good Governance and Professional Historiography.

Experiences of mr. Lutful Haq in local archives in Bangladesh, speech for seminar
March 4, 2009, 8:17 pm
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This text is explaining the basic problems of records keeping and how to start the improvement process in an excellent way.

Difficulties in Record Keeping:
Experience in Dinajpur Municipality

Muhammad Lutful Haq


Dear President, Chief guest, Special guest and the respected audience, present here – Assalamualaikum

At the very outset I must admit that I am not an archivist, rather I am a beneficiary of archives. For last few years I am doing research on past events and most of the information for my research, I gathered from documents kept in different archives and record rooms. Thus I understood the importance of archives and record rooms. Till that period the importance of archives and record rooms was for my personal reasons or benefits. At this stage I came across with Prof Sharif uddin Ahmed, the than Director of National Archives of Bangladesh (NAB) and now President of Bangladesh Archives and Record Management (BARM) Society and was educated by him about the role and importance of Archives. Later, my knowledge was enriched by Dr. Mahbubur Rahman of Heritage Archives: Rajshahi, and Mr. Florus Geraedts, an internationally reputed archivist and a key actor of BARM Society. This is how I became a volunteer in archive movement and standing in front of you to narrate an archive related experience.

In May’08, I read a book on Dinajpur Municipality written by Mr. Mehrab Uddin. I find lot of information regarding Dinajpur town and municipality work in that book. I got interested to know farther and met the Mayor of Municipality and asked him to allow me to see the old records. I was introduced with Mr. Baccu; keeper of old records, and sent to Record Room. Record Room was approximately 12feet by 10feet and packed with files, documents, stationeries, old and unserviceable office equipments and small hardware items. I find very small space for me and Mr. Baccu to sit or work; whole space was occupied with the items of different categories mentioned earlier. I was confused whether it was a Record Room or a go-down for junk stores. I withdrew myself from the so called Record Room and left Municipality without advancing farther.

In August’08, Mr. Florus came to Dinajpur and accompanied me to Dinajpur Municipality. He visited many sections and offices of Municipality including the Record Room I described earlier. He with his keen observation and vast experience found out lot of valuable and historical documents. Florus along with me and Baccu tried to salvage some of the valuable documents separating and putting those into few boxes. As the time was short and we couldn’t spare more than two hours there, Florus requested me to continue the work in later days.

After the departure of Florus I talked to Mayor and convinced him about the importance of record keeping. He agreed to help me in every way. Baccu also showed some interest to restore the old records.

At this stage I should give some basic and essential facts regarding Dinajpur Municipality. Dinajpur Municipality is one of the oldest Municipalities in Bangladesh. It was established in 1869. Municipality has one old building with approximately 2500 sq feet space and another two storied building with approximately 5150 sq feet space. All its offices, stores, public activities are conducted within these 7650 sq feet. Municipality has total 94 regular staffs but no one as record keeper. Municipality has no computer for record room or administrative offices though it has 12 computers in other sections, mostly in billing and engineering department. Municipality doesn’t have any separate room for old records. Most of the old records were destroyed due to space constrain and ignorance. Few of these records were destroyed during the War of Liberation also.

In between September and November’08, for number of times I visited Dinajpur Municipality and tried to rescue files and documents from different parts of the Record Room and organized them in a safer place. It was not a very easy task. As I told you earlier, that the so called Record Room is used for many other purposes including stationary store, thus remains busy for issue of stationary whole day. Baccu is the lone man working in the Record Room as temporary record keeper though his actual appointment is store man etc. At the same time, he is a very important person in Dinajpur Municipality and involved with different functioning of office and extra office activities, for these reasons some times I find this office closed. However, by the end of November’08 I could separate 12 boxes of files and documents and put them separately on one of the racks of that room. Still there are few hundred files to be organized.

The most valuable files and documents we could recover are:
1. Proceedings of Executive Committee meetings from 1907-1937.
2. Record of death caused due to atrocities in 1971.
3. Documents related to primary schools run by Municipality.
4. Records of different Municipality elections.
5. Land and tax dispute correspondence.
6. Personal documents of staffs.

I had the following limitations during my work at Municipality and didn’t produce the desired result:
1. I couldn’t spare much time for the said job as I was not a resident of Dinajpur, I had no helping hand or extra manpower.
2. There were no places to gather, clean, sort out and put the documents in boxes in a professional way.
3. Documentation and list of the recovered items couldn’t be made due to the lack of secretarial service.

I identified the following problems for good record keeping there, which I understand is typical in all Municipalities of Bangladesh:
1. Lack of awareness about the importance of old records at all level.
2. No separate space for old records.
3. No permanent, designated or regular staff posted as record keeper. Record Room is maintained by irregular and ad hoc staffs.
4. Lack of knowledge in record keeping.
5. No budget for good keeping of old record or record room.
6. Concerned persons are not aware of the Archive Ordnance (1983).
7. No knowledge about the existence of NAB.

Basing on my experience, I like to make the following suggestions for good record keeping at different municipalities:
1. Municipality must have a place for their old records.
2. Municipality should have a regular and designated staff as record keeper.
3. NAB should write letters periodically reminding the municipality authorities through LGRD Ministry to deposit their records as per Archive Ordinance 1983.
4. NAB should visit Municipalities at a regular interval to asses the record keeping situation, I understand that it is very difficult but not impossible and after a certain period visit may not be required. As a test basis NAB may select only the Municipalities of 19th and early 20th century (until 1920).
5. BARM Society should send leaflets and brochures to municipalities to increase awareness about the good record keeping.
6. BARM Society should send letters mentioning the importance of good record keeping to Municipalities and offer them technical advices to organize their record room.
7. Municipality should display some of their old records and heritage items at a public place in their office and can also participate in the Book Fair at their city; this may encourage municipality to keep their old records in good condition and people may also be aware of the importance of archives.
8. Municipality should be encouraged through BARM Society to write their history, while doing so they may look for their old documents and restore those from being destruction.

The work I did in Dinajpur Municipality is not a very significant or prominent one, neither had it cost me much but I gathered a lot of first hand and practical experience of working in a record room. I think that the picture I painted will be similar in any other record room of government or semi government and corporation office in Bangladesh. The best experience I gathered during my work is that people concerned are interested to preserve their history and heritage but they don’t have any guidance and training to do so. I believe that with little financial help and technical support, Municipalities can certainly preserve their records. NAB from the government side and BARM Society, Heritage Archives, Rajshahi, Bangladesh Itihas Samiti and the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh etc from non-government side can play a major role to assist the Municipalities in record keeping.

Thank you very much for your patient hearing.