symbolic value was acknowledged, but international projects primarily focused
on their informational value. Now the Nationaal Archief is one of the main
actors carrying out the Common Cultural Heritage Policy of the Netherlands
government, the focus in international collaboration projects has shifted towards
the preservation and appreciation of archives as common heritage. As I have tried
to describe in this article, this is not always easy to accomplish.
Obviously, as I have discussed only two examples of activities carried out within
the Mutual Cultural Heritage Program of the Nationaal Archief, my conclusions
are limited. With these examples I tried to illustrate the following points
though. First, the Common Cultural Heritage Policy has given a great impulse
to international cultural cooperation. Without this framework, the Nationaal
Archief would not be able to initiate and participate in so many international
projects at the same time. The Dutch Records Project in Chennai, for example,
would have been very difficult to realise without the funding allocated by the
CCHP. Now these records have been scanned, it no longer has to be feared that
valuable and unique information will be lost forever. Therefore, the CCHP can
be lauded for making it possible to preserve heritage. At the same time, stressing
that this heritage has to be 'common' can be problematic. In any case, the same
heritage object is bound to be interpreted differently by different communities.
Simply labelling archives as 'common' does not make them common heritage,
this has to be actively pursued. Whether this should be the responsibility of an
archival institution is questionable. Acknowledging and facilitating the heritage
value of archives is not the same as actively shaping it. Finally, the potential of
Dutch archives as common heritage would be highly increased if the language
problem could be dealt with. Next to Dutch language training, this also means
recognizing the need for translations.
Where do we go from here? As the CCHP runs until December 31, 2012, the
Mutual Cultural Heritage Program of the Nationaal Archief is not finished
yet. In fact, at this very moment, policy makers and heritage institutions are
brainstorming about the future of common cultural heritage cooperation. In
these sessions, 'to claim or not to claim' is not a topic of discussion as common
heritage cannot exist without it. The question 'to claim or not to claim' has been
central to this article though, as I wanted to examine what happens when you
confront policy with practice. In the Netherlands, the common cultural heritage
approach is still fairly new, but the outcomes can be, literally, far-reaching.
Practitioners should therefore not just carry out this policy, but also be critical
of its assumptions and implications. Moreover, the experiences gained while
working in the field should be reported back to the policy makers. After all,
practice may not always make perfect, but practice should always inform policy.
JINNA SMIT TO CLAIM OR NOT TO CLAIM - SHARING ARCHIVES: POLICY AND PRACTICE