Preserving the World’s Most Important Artifacts

The Memory of World Register lists over 800 historic manuscripts, maps, films and more to help raise funds for preservation

The 13th century Tripitaka Koreana features 81,258 wooden blocks thought to be the world's most complete collection of Buddhist texts. (John Van Hasselt / Corbis)

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The official nomination describes the collection as “one of the seminal visual anthropology projects of the twentieth century. It is unique in the world for the scope of its sustained audiovisual documentation of one cultural group, the Ju/'hoansi, of the Kalahari Desert, in northeastern Namibia.”

Other nominees this year are an encyclopedia of Eastern medicine, compiled in Korea in 1613; the “Woodblocks of Nguyen Dynasty,” which help to record official literature and history of the family that ruled Vietnam from 1802 through 1945; a sound collection of Mexico’s indigenous languages, traditions, celebrations, rituals, ceremonies and music; an archive documenting the ecological catastrophe following the damming of Aral Sea tributaries, and the Anchi Gospel, a masterpiece written in Nuskhuri, an old Georgian script, made partly in a red ink unique to Georgia.

Fortunately for the panel, there’s no limit on the number they can select: it’s all based on “world significance.” That’s fortunate, too, for the world.


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