Criteria for inclusion in the African Regional Register

The Guiding Principles of the Memory of the World Programme, version 2021, regulates the selection criteria for the registration of a documentary asset in the Memory of the World International Register.

To respect the spirit of the Programme, the criteria indicated below for inclusion in the African Memory of the World Regional Register are inspired by these principles. These are the criteria of authenticity and integrity, the primary criteria of universal interest, and the criteria of comparative universal interest.

The primary criteria of universal interest must necessarily be met, while the so-called comparative criteria reinforce the proposal and provide further confirmation.

1. Authenticity and Integrity Criteria.

The minimum criterion is that the item of documentary heritage is what it appears to be. Authenticity implies that the document is real and genuine and has not been corrupted.

    • Has its identity and provenance been reliably established?

    • Have Copies, replicas, counterfeits, apocryphal or false documents made for the purpose of mystification may be, in good faith, taken for an original?

Integrity means that the document is whole and complete.

    • Is part of the documentary heritage item held elsewhere and not included in the nomination?

    • Are all its parts from the same period or have missing parts been replaced by more recent copies?

    • Is this the original – or, if not, the oldest known reproduction?

    • What percentage of the document has remained in its original state?

2. Primary criteria of Universal interest

An element of documentary heritage is of universal interest if it satisfies at least one of the three criteria described below. Proponents may comment on one or more of them. Not all criteria will necessarily apply to a particular nomination, only those that are relevant will be retained.

2.1 Historical interest

What information does the element of documentary heritage give us about the history of the world? For example, does it concern:

political or economic developments, or social or spiritual movements;

prominent figures in world history;

events with global repercussions;

particular places linked to a time, events or people;

unique phenomena;

outstanding customs or traditions;

changes in relations between countries or communities or within countries or communities;

changes in lifestyles and cultural mores;

a turning point in the course of history or a crucial innovation;

an example of excellence in the arts, literature, science, technology, sport or other aspects of life and culture.

2.2 Interest linked to form or style

An item of documentary heritage may be of interest because of its physical characteristics. Some elements may seem unremarkable from this point of view – such as handwritten text or typed archival documents – but nevertheless have stylistic qualities or a connection with a personality that commands attention. Other forms of documentary heritage may be distinguished by their novelty, high artistic qualities, or other remarkable traits. For example:

the document may be particularly valuable in its category;

it can be of exceptional interest due to its beauty and the finesse of its execution;

it can be distinguished by a new or unusual medium;

it may be representative of a type of document that is now obsolete or outdated.

2.3 Social, collective or spiritual interest

A piece of documentary heritage relating to a particular living community may have proven value. A community may show, for example, a strong attachment to the memory of a beloved (even hated) leader, or to documentary evidence of a particular incident, event, or site of special significance. Or revere a documentary heritage relating to a spiritual leader or a saint. The information must be provided on how this attachment is expressed.

3. Universal interest: comparative criteria

These criteria provide further information on the character of the documentary heritage item itself.

3.1 Uniqueness or rarity

Can we say that a document or set of documents is unique (the only one in its category to have been created) or rare (formerly widespread, but only surviving in a small number of copies)? This attribute needs to be clarified: a collection, manuscript, or other elements can be unique without necessarily being rare. There may be other similar but not identical collections or items.

3.2 Status

The condition of a document is not necessarily an indicator of its value in itself but is a factor in determining whether it should be considered for inscription. A seriously damaged document may be rejected if its content and characteristics have been altered beyond the possibility of restoration. Conversely, a document may be in good condition but kept in poor conditions which may not offer good protection, and therefore may be threatened with disappearance. Depending on the nature of the document or collection, its description on the nomination form should be sufficiently detailed to enable an assessment of the risks and/or conservation needs. It is on this basis that its condition and safety will be monitored in the event of registration.