“Photos and autographs of past officials as well as valuable documents of the country, dating as far back as the late 1800s as well as the 1900s, currently at the Archive of the Legislature are on the verge of being destroyed, lost or unusable if they are not digitally preserved,” observed Jeffery Saydee, director of the Archive of the Legislature.
Saydee said the risks are real, substantial, and imminent, and that the longer the delay, the greater the risk to the Legislature, which would cause the country a significant loss of important official documents, reputational damage, and a failure to realize potential savings of crucial and official papers.
In the late 1970s, the Archives was named in honor of Montserrado County Senator Frank E. Tolbert (February 3, 1910 – April 22, 1980), a Liberian politician and brother of then President William R. Tolbert, Jr. He was a member of the Senate and had been elected President pro tempore.
Mr. Saydee said the Archives Department, which serves the Legislature, has written the leadership of the House of Representatives and the Senate, including Senator Conmany Wesseh, the chairperson of the Joint Legislature Modernization Committee, and members of the 54th Legislature about their plans on an appropriate preservation strategy, including digital preservation, to ensure that the documents remain accessible at all times.
“Up to now, we have not gotten the answers, and because of that, there are no resources and, if any, we don’t actively work in time to ensure that these documents are preserved; these valuable information will be easily lost or unusable,” Mr. Saydee said.
Saydee made the remarks on Friday, October 12, when Montserrado County District #1 Representative Lawrence Morris presented a Dell Computer Desktop to digitize the Legislative Archive.
While turning over the set of computer, Rep. Morris called on Speaker Bhofal Chambers, President Pro Tempore Albert Chie, and heads of other relevant institutions to help save the history of the Legislature and the country.
“The Legislature needs to invest, to save on the future costs of recovering documents relating to the archival preservation or otherwise become locked in obsolete system,” Morris said.
Mr. Saydee said digital preservation refers to a series of activities that are necessary to ensure continued access to resources as long as possible.
“For the Legislature, this means making sure that our digital resources remain authentic and accessible in the future for anyone who needs them,” he said.
It can be recalled that the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) supported the establishment of a Joint Legislative Modernization Committee to guide the development of the Legislature (2009 – 2013) in order to make the august body 21st century compliant.
The Legislature constitutes a 16-member Joint Modernization Committee, with the chairperson rotating between the two Houses and with an aim to re-validate the modernization plan for implementation, while seeking further support from partners, including the Governance Commission.
The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs implemented the USAID-funded Legislative Strengthening Program, the Information Service, the Committee Support Service, the Legislative Drafting Service and the Press Bureaus.
Despite such support, the archival documents remain in ruins. But to preserve it, resources are needed for a digital repository that would allow the archive to be preserved, with unstructured documents digitized.
“We have a Digital Preservation team; we need the resources to start work. If we do not save these archival documents in time, neither member of the House and Senate or from Central Administrator and the public will be able to access information whenever they want it in the future,” Saydee said.