Open Call First Aid to Documentary Heritage under Threat

Ateliê Memória Arte Brazil 2018 2

The Prince Claus Fund, through its Cultural Emergency Response (CER) programme, and the Whiting Foundation announce a fourth cycle of the Open Call for First Aid to Documentary Heritage under Threat. We invite proposals for projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean to safeguard documentary heritage. 

What’s at stake

“Documentary heritage” includes objects designed to carry information in writing, such as books, archives, manuscripts, tablets, carvings, or inscriptions. These written records are sometimes the local stakeholder’s only surviving tangible connection to their past. Whether etched onto tombstones, drawn onto cave walls, or painted onto parchment these documentary records hold a wealth of information that once lost would be irretrievable. Owing to the effects of time they are incredibly fragile, susceptible to fire, insects, and the effects of our acute climate crisis. They are also sometimes singled out for deliberate destruction by those afraid of their potential to resist narratives that seek to exclude and marginalise. In the face of an interruption – whether natural or man-made, local actors need support to make sure their critical heritage is not lost forever. 

What we are doing

Through the three previous rounds of this call, the Prince Claus Fund and Whiting Foundation supported stewards across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean to prevent and minimize a loss of documentary heritage by funding 37 projects. They responded to different kinds of threats, urgently safeguarding a wide variety of collections and inscriptions. 

In Tanzania, we supported the stabilisation, treatment, and subsequent protective storage of the Maalim Idris Library’s collection. The collection, an amalgamation of books and documents collected from historical libraries, were at risk due to heavy rains in the region. In Yemen, the National Library’s collection of approximately 30.000 arts and culture magazines, dating back to the 1960s, was threatened by the ongoing conflict. Through our support, the library’s staff were trained in digitisation so that the collection would be saved and made more accessible. In East Timor, the archive of Centro Chega! was put at risk by the severe floods - we supported them to mitigate the damage, digitise the archive and improve the storage systems. In Lebanon, recovery actions are ongoing at two public libraries that were damaged by the August 4th, 2020 explosions, so they can start serving the public again.

We have received an overwhelming number of applications from more than 70 different countries over the past three years, illustrating a pressing need for support. Through our scouting, we have also seen a sharp rise in needs emerging from disasters caused by the current climate crisis, especially in countries we have not reached during previous cycles. We therefore strongly encourage applications addressing needs related to climate change-related disasters in South-East Asia, Central Asia, Central Africa, South America, and the Caribbean. 

This fourth round will continue to expand the scope of this initiative and facilitate the vital work of local actors in safeguarding documentary heritage and making the information they carry accessible to future generations. In doing so, we hope to contribute to the survival of historical narratives of diversity and the strengthening of regional capacities to respond to future needs.

This year we will be using an online application portal to receive applications. For details on how to apply, our Eligibility Criteria and our Selection Criteria please download and read the document below.

For other inquiries, please contact [email protected]

Please note, proposals will be accepted on a rolling basis throughout the call. The budget for this call is limited and the most urgent applications are given priority. 

The deadline for applications is 30 November 2021 at 23:59 Amsterdam time (CET). Applications received after the deadline will not be able to be considered. We recommended that applicants not wait until the deadline but to apply as soon as possible after your documentary heritage is affected by conflict, natural, and/or man-made disaster.

Image: Ateliê Memória & Arte, a grantee through the 2018 round of our call for proposals to safeguard documentary heritage, working on the restoration and conservation of the collection of the Sociedade Protectora dos Desvalidos in Brazil.