Visit at National Archives Bangladesh, Monday, Januari 24
January 24, 2011, 11:26 am
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At 09.00 o’clock Md. Elias Miah, senior archivist at National Archives of Bangladesh (NAB), picks me up for a visit to NAB. After a safari through Dhaka, jumping in and out of driving busses, we manage to reach National Archives. NAB is under construction at the moment but archival and administrative work is going on “undisturbed”. We are welcomed by deputy director, mrs. Salma Islam, in her office. After a short introduction she tells me about the three main projects for NAB in 2011: digitation and preservation of records, reconstruction of the NAB-building and training for recordkeepers. The call for training is desperate and sounds through all the conversations I have with archivists I meet. By the way, not only in this sector, they stress, but in the whole country. Actually NAB staff consists of 28 persons from which only three are archivists, all three trained outside the country, in India and Malaysia. Floor Geraedts is right on making education the core business of BARM! After meeting senior archivist Ali Akbar, we move upstairs where they show me the archival repository and the inventory room. There Md. Elias shows the project he’s working on with some assistants: the Chittagong Divisional Commissioner’s Office Records, 1899 – 1960. The actual state of these records are bad (see picture beneath). Working programme for these records consist of: fumigation, sorting, making dustfree, cleaning, arranging (by department, year and month, the Brittish system, principle of provenance), boxing (not acid free!), cataloguing and storing in steel racks. Junior archivist Nurul Islam assist Md. Elias Miah on this project and Nurul is one of the candidates for a training course outside the country, hoping to be able to walk in Miahs footsteps to New Delhi. After dinner at Salma’s office, me eating for the first time with my hands, Ali Akbar brings me back to Ambala Inn. Preparation for the next day starts. Too the further preparation of the kick of of Train the Trainers session, January 31 – February 1 next week. For this I have a meeting with professor Sharif uddin Ahmed at Dhaka University next Wednesday.
Sigfried Janzing

National Archives Building under costruction (1)

National Archives Building under costruction (2)

Construction works from inside the building

Welcom by Deputy Director of NAB, mrs. Salma Islam, senior archivist Md. Elias Miah and senior archivist Ali Akbar

Md. Nurul Islam (Light of Islam), middle, working as junior archivist on the Chittagong Divisional Commissioner's Office Records, 1899 - 1960

Actual state of the Chittagong Divisional Commissioner's Office Records

Senior archivsit, Ali Akbar, showing me a confidential record of the Raja of Chittagong Hill Tracks, Chittagong Divisional Commissioner's Office Records

My first trip to Bangladesh
January 23, 2011, 12:52 pm
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A 14 hours flight with Emirates (Amsterdam – Dubai and Dubai – Dhaka), with a tough and scareful landing in misty Dhaka, brings me to Golden Bengal (Bangladesh) where I’m going to assist my collegae Florus Geraedts and Norwegian collegae Torill Torlen with the introduction of a Train of Trainers Programme for archivists at Dhaka University and coordinate the development of a Dutch – Bengal heritage centre in Rajshahi. Fazel Mir, former assistant director of National Archives, and Samsur Rahman, student on information technology, pick me up at Zia International Airport. Because of an Islamic religious festival millions of people are praying on the streets from the airport to Dhaka centre. For this it’s impossible to drive by car to the city centre, so we take the rickshaw to Dhaka. Besides Fazel Mir and Samsur Rahman, I meet Md. Elias Miah, working at the National Archives of Bangladesh, later that day. And of course: Florus Geraedts who’s waiting for me at the Ambala Inn, the hotel in Dhanmondi, centre Dhaka, which is my base camp for the comming two weeks. At lunch Fazel Mir, Florus, Elias Miah and me talk over the progamme for tomorrow, a visit to the National Archives. Temperature is 20 degrees.
Sigfried Janzing

Samsur Rahman and me at the entrance of Zia Intenational Dhaka

... and with Fazel Mir

Report on A Day Long Seminar on The Present State of Archives & Records Management in Bangladesh and the Future Plan held on 8th December, 2010 in Dhaka, Bangladesh
January 8, 2011, 10:24 pm
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Barrister Shafiq Ahmed, Honorable Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh remarked that the public record management in Bangladesh at the moment is very unsatisfactory. Even important state documents from the public archives are missing. This sad state of affairs is affecting the governance as well as undermining the history and heritage of the country. He also added that it was disturbing to note that Bangladesh has no Archival law, and that no budget is allocated for the management and development of the country’s record rooms, the principal depositories of official records. This is a situation which no modern country or government can tolerate for proper record keeping ensures socio-economic development of a country, provides information necessary for a transparent and accountable government, and preserves sources of history and cultural heritage.

Barrister Shafiq was making these statements as the Chief Guest of a Day Long Seminar held on 8 December 2010, at Dhaka, Capital of Bangladesh organised by the Bangladesh Archives and Records Management Society (BARMS). The Society was founded in 2009 by a group of archivists, historians, academicians, administrators, media personalities and members of civil society to increase awareness in the proper developments of archives and records management in Bangladesh, and help in the general development of National and Municipal archives of the country. The Day Long Seminar on The Present State of Archives and Records Management in Bangladesh and Future Plan was a part of the continued efforts of BARMS. Among other dignitaries present on the occasion were the former Advisor of the Caretaker Government Dr. Akbar Ali Khan, Secretary, the Ministry of Cultural Affairs Mrs. Suraiya Begum and Professor A. A. S. M. Arefin Siddique, Vice Chancellor of the University of Dhaka. The inaugural function of the Seminar was presided over by BARMS President Dr. Sharif uddin Ahmed. Dr. Akbar Ali Khan reiterated that the country’s archives and record rooms must be manned by professional archivists and record managers. Educational and Training programme in this connection for the development of professional archivists should be more extensively undertaken. The Secretary for Cultural Affairs emphasized that the government officials should follow more seriously the official instructions and existing laws for the management of public records. She however observed that in recent time efforts have been made to develop and modernize the National Archives of Bangladesh. She also drew the attention of the audience that more and more public records are being created through electronic medium and soon clear policies should be laid down for proper Electronic Record Keeping.

During the paper reading sessions, experts and academics presented a total number of seven (7) papers on Archives and Records Management in Rajshahi (Professor Dr. Mahbubur Rahman), How to preserve Records in Archives (Mrs. Salma Islam), Right to Information Act and its Relevance to Records Management (Lt.Colonel (Retd) Lutful Huq), Attitude of government officials to Records Management (Mr. Suhel Ahmed Choudhury), Cataloguing and Arrangement of Records (Mr. Elias Mia), Experiences of Records Collection in Bangladesh (Mr. Ali Akbar), Electronic Records Keeping (Mr. Habibullah Karim). The key-note paper entitled The Present State of Archives and Records Management in Bangladesh and the Future Plan was presented by Dr. Sharif uddin Ahmed. The papers generated lot of interests among the participants present, and questions were put to paper presenters by them. Two topics particularly drew the attention of the participants namely the attitude of government officials towards public records keeping and the electronic record keeping. The unanimous opinion was that the government officials should be given more training and made familiar with the record keeping in practical fields. The other area was the electronic record keeping. In Bangladesh now the practice of keeping records electronically is increasing fast but no defined systems or policies have yet been adopted in this regard. This might lead to chaotic situation in future. Hence the government should step in immediately to control the situation.

The electronic and print media were present in big force, and they reported the event in extensive way in newspapers and televisions.

The seminar on the whole was a great success, and will go a long way to increase awareness in record keeping in Bangladesh, and enthuse the government to adopt proper policies and measures in this connection. BARMS will continue to pursue these goals.

Professor Sharif uddin Ahmed
President, BARMS

Law Minister Barrister Shafiq Ahmed

Law Minister, Cultural Secretary, Vice-Chancellor receiving crests from President, BARMS

Participants of the Seminar (1)

Participants of the Seminar (2)

Audience (1)

Audience (2)

Young Participants with President

BARMS President delivering inaugural speech