Why Archives are Important

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Archival photographic records from the slavery years (as seen at the Badagry Heritage Museum)

By Pelu Awofeso

“Every society thrives on a good records and archiving system,” says Prince Adesegun Ogunlewe, a former Head of Service in Lagos State, All human beings, he adds, are embodiments of records and archives and that both the Bible and Quran are two of the world’s most important archival documents, preserving stories of societies dating back many centuries.

Ogunlewe was lead speaker at the 2018 International Archives Day (IAD), hosted by the Lagos State Records and Archives Bureau (LASRAB) and which held on June 11 at the Adeyemi Bero Auditorium of the Lagos State Secretariat in Alausa.

He was joined by other eminent professionals to discuss the year’s theme, “Records And Archives Management in the Public Service: A Key to Good Governance and Quality Service Delivery”.

“Protection of records of governance is key to everything we do,” says Kehinde Bamigbetan, the state commissioner for information and strategy, which supervises the bureau’s activities. “Lagos State put Nigeria in global focus by hosting the first IAD event in 2011.”

Professor Sunday Olanrewaju Popoola of the Department of Library, Archives and Information Studies at the University of Ibadan commends Lagos for taking the preservation of its records and archives in the public service far more seriously than any other state in Nigeria has done.

“But you are not perfect–there is room for improvement,” he says, emphasising the need for more professional conduct for personnel deployed to the Registry sections of ministries. “There are three key points to note if archives are to be best kept: Skills, knowledge and attitude. If you have the first two but not the third, then there is a problem.”    

He also recommends that government at all levels consider establishing a clear cadre for professional archivists so that staff who find themselves in that line of duty will give it their best if they realise that they can rise through the ranks to higher grade levels.

According to LASRAB Director-General, Biodun Onayele, the International Archives Day is a global programme held on 9th June every year and celebrated by archival organisations in accordance with the declaration of the International Council on Archives. The celebration is an opportunity to highlight the importance of proper records keeping and to sustain public interest in the documentation and preservation of archives for social development.

“Since 2011, we have consistently strived to observe this celebration by organising events like this one, to discuss national or state challenges and how a credible records and archives management could be used to solve them,” he says in his welcome address. “As such, we ensure that all the records of government activities from the planning stage through implementation to the completion stages are kept in the Registries of agencies for preservation and consultation.”  

In a goodwill message read on his behalf, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode observes that records of past events provide useful information necessary for proper understanding and sound decision making for the future.

“Reference to the past through records and archives ensures that past mistakes are not repeated thereby enriching the quality of governance and service delivery to the people…It is our responsibility to ensure that we procure and protect for posterity evidence or relics that depict our history, culture and tradition as a people, more especially, our socio-cultural value system, commerce, industry and mode of governance.”

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