What is «ஆவணம்»? – 3

This post is based on the original post at facebook page, “Archive of Tamils in Norway”, on 21th June 2020.

Why should Tamil organisations keep records?

Record keeping is a systematic way of keeping track of activities in an organisational structure.
They capture and record information of incoming and outgoing activities in an organisational structure. Before 1990´s all record keeping where paper based. When the electronic era started the record keeping moved over to electronic systems for record keeping. But still paper based record keeping are in practice in some organisations, and in some countries.

Tamils have formed various kinds of organisational structure in the migrated countries. On the one hand non-profit organisational structures, such as charitable organisations, associations, clubs, foundations. On the other hand, profit making organisational structures, such as shops, other business companies.
However, few organisational structures are in between these two.

If we categorise all the Tamil organisational structures (“non-profit” and “profit making” and “in between”), they will be something like this:

• Educational organisational structures –Tamil schools, arts institutions, organisations that create teaching materials and exam board, so on
• Media organisational structures – Television, radio, website, newspaper, so on
• Political organisational structures – such as a representative organisation of a political ideology
• Human rights/ help organisational structure
• Religious organisational structures
• Community organisational structure – such as Sangam/ Inaiyam/ Manram in the name of a place in their homeland, established in a diaspora country. As well as general Tamil Sangam.
• (if any other category let me know)

However, many other organisational structures than “Human rights/ help organisational structure” do have a part of their mission to help Tamil people in diaspora and back home.

From now on I will use “organisation” as a collective term to make it simple and I will mention the category name if necessary.
Even though I focus on organisations, the work of individual artists and creators have a major role and importance for the historical and cultural heritage of Tamils. For instance, photographers and their photos are essential archival materials. It is said that one image is equivalent to 1000 words.
Photos of all activities arranged by Tamil organisations are resting within Tamil freelance photographers. Same with Tamil writers, reporters and researchers, that can function individually. They are major contributors to the historical and cultural heritage of Tamils.

Here is a link to Norwegian national archive. They write about Ole Friele Backer who was a war photographer in second world war. It is given digital access to the photos. 

There are many Tamil organisations around the world with variety of activities at various levels. But there is a worrisome situation of record keeping at majority of organisations. If there are any records kept, they are not available or accessible for public use. They are neither available for the organization for their internal access and use. I will look at the purpose of access and use in my future posts.

So why should these Tamil organisations keep records? (please look at the images)


1) «பதிவேடு» – Record keeping:
The primary value of record keeping is the organisations´ administrational control. Record keeping is essential for internal administrative control and security. It is the base to protect the rights of the organisation, as well as the customer/ consumer/ user´s rights. Thereby record keeping maintains democracy inside the organisation and among the society.

The secondary value of the records are informational value and evidential value for contemporary and posterity.
Informational value: The records of activities of an organisation give information about an incident, phenomenon, period, or an era.
evidential value: A record is an evidence for an action, activity or one´s right.

2) «தெரிவு» – Appraisal:
The records will be evaluated and selected based on the record´s informational value and evidential value. Then the selected records will be given to an archival institution for long term presentation.
The records with informational and evidential value together give us a historical and cultural heritage. This heritage has various contemporary use, as well as unpredictable future use for the future generations.

3) «ஆவணக்காப்பு» – Archive:
The records are preserved at an archival institution for long term preservation. The records will be given public access if they don´t contain personal or confidential information about a person.

People can lose their memories. Thereby the information can be distorted. They can change their mind set or point of view during their lifetime. But the records/ archive will be a piece of document that will freeze the time that something happened. But it is important to notify that even a document can be created and preserved genuinely, but the content would not be true.
So, basically this is a process of capturing and preserving memories and evidence of our activities.

To be continued…

Next post: What is «ஆவணம்» – part 4: What is archival material?

Please do not forget that your are keeping a piece of Tamil cultural and historical heritage at your home. Please give public access to that heritage.

Reproduction of this article is allowed when used without any alterations to the contents and the source, DsporA Tamil Archive, is mentioned.

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