Tamil organisations: How to preserve documents safely and take good care of in the diaspora?


All Tamil organisations should come forward to make a plan to preserve their historical documents in the diaspora and make them available to public access. This is the DsporA Tamil Archive´s humble request to all Tamil organisations in this November month of the Great Heroes Day (Maveerer Naal) or the Tamil National Remembrance Day.
Graphic: Baheerathy Kumarendiran. “Maveerer Naal” (The Great Heores Day) (2005).

Tamil organisations need to preserve their historical documents so that generations can be capable to deal with social challenges, questions and issues. They should be preserved in a repository as authentic and reliable documents available to contemporary and future generations in the time they seek. Now everything is scattered all over the Internet. It is challenging to re-find documents. The Internet and social media are not a preservation platform. They are a platform for sharing and dissemination. Documents on the Internet may be unreliable or untruthful. On the other hand, authentic and credible documents are being threatened, destroyed and erased from the Internet.

In this situation, the historical documents are the only fundamental for people to reconcile the past as well as to intellectually preserve their traditional values with historical evidence!

Today the history of the diaspora Tamils is depended on oral tradition. The history of the homeland is intertwined with the history of the diaspora. In such a situation, history can be questioned, distorted, obscured, and destroyed if the history of the diaspora is an oral tradition for many generations. So the oral tradition should be documented as oral history. In addition, historical documents should be collected, preserved and made available for public access. This will enable those who would like to transfer cultural-historical heritage of the Tamil diaspora, as well as the homeland. They will be enabled to do so in written, audio, video or other art forms based on authentic and reliable sources. The sources will also be the basis for researches on Tamil and Tamils. That is how history will continue to live. Guide us and protect our existence.

Based on Mr Veluppillai Prabhakaran´s reflection, «Nature is my friend. Life is my teacher of philosophy. History is my guide» (Schalk, 2007b, p. 258)1, the history will always guide us! But for the history to guide us, it needs to be complete! Thereby, all Tamil organisations are requested to come forward to create a plan to preserve their historical documents in the diaspora and give public access.

Which records can be generated in your organisational activity?

Examples of published documents

  • Information reports/ letters to the public
  • Press release
  • Annual report
  • Annual plan
  • All types of registry form to the public
  • Sample of participation certificate
  • Contest results (i.e. drawing competition winners)
  • Publications

Examples of unpublished documents

  • Administrative documents (i.e. statute, procedures, rules, guidelines)
  • Emails, letters, and other communications sent to the organisation by the public.
  • The organisation´s responses to the general public by email, letters, and other communications.
  • Meeting minutes
  • Monthly report
  • Data collected from registration forms to the public.
  • Contest participents´ details
  • Contributions in a competition (i.e. drawing submissions for a drawing competition)
  • Complaints
  • Reports on handling the complaints
How can organisations implement documentation and archive practices?
  1. Identify records generated in the activities of your organisation that have archival value.
  2. Centralise e-mail and post-reception, as well as social media reception of messages from and to the public.
  3. Create a system for those records into a record-keeping system.
  4. After 5-10 years, preserve those records that are no longer needed for your organization’s administrative needs.
  5. Find out where your historical documents can be safely preserved for 100 years or more.
  6. Give public access to your historical documents.
  7. You can implement «record-keeping and archiving» in your organisation’s statute to keep your organisation’s internal record-keeping and archiving practices continue smoothly in the future, despite administrative changes. Along with that, you can create a guide with a record-keeping and archiving plan, and rules of procedures.
  8. Find a person in your organisation who can do record-keeping and records management.
  9. Arrange or sign-up that person for knowledge enhancement about record-keeping and records management.
How can archive collectors improve their collection activity?
  • Create a plan to preserve your documents from natural disasters, man-made disasters, technological disasters, and other disasters.
  • Purpose of documentation is public use. So, documents need to be read and understood despite technological development.
  • Create a plan for digital migration for converting documents from one media platform to another to adopt technological development. (i.e. digitalise VHS videotape).
  • Preserving the original analogue material after digitalising a document.
  • Develop a plan to preserve digital documents as authentic documents that are not subject to manipulation.
  • Purpose of documentation is public use. Give public access to your documents.

How can you help to create a historical and cultural heritage?
Tamil Eelam Liberation Struggle Documents: Part 1

Share with us your ideas, thoughts and suggestions on how to preserve Tamil documents safely in the diaspora.

Endnote and references

1 Peter Schalk undertook an academic work with Professor Alvappillai Veluppillai. This is a work of translating the original Tamil publication of «Reflections of Leader» published by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 1995 and 2005. This work includes the original Tamil text as well as the translations in German, English, Swedish and Sinhala.

Schalk, P. (2007a). talaivarin cintanaikai Retrieved from http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:173420/FULLTEXT04.pdf

Schalk, P. (2007b). Tamil Source in English Translation: Reflections of the Leader. Retrieved from http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:173420/FULLTEXT06.pdf

Schalk, P. (2007c). Uppsala University Publications. Retrieved from http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?amp;dswid=contents&pid=diva2%3A173420&dswid=5816

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

Updated: 06.02.2021

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