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The Importance of Preserving Pandemic Records

In a recent statement, Turning the threat of COVID-19 into an opportunity for greater support to documentary heritage, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized that the COVID-19 pandemic, which many countries have already declared to be modern history’s gravest health emergency, will one day become a part of our shared history. In its statement, UNESCO reminds us that “[m]emory institutions around the world, including national archives, libraries, museums, educational and research bodies, are already recording the decisions and actions being made which will help future generations understand the extent of the pandemic and its impact on society.” 

Documentary heritage is key to understanding how governments and their citizens have addressed pandemics in the past. With regard to COVID-19, several countries have issued orders for meticulous preservation of official records related to the pandemic. This not only underscores the gravity of the current situation, but also highlights the important role of memory institutions to preserve the information necessary for understanding, contextualizing and overcoming such crises in the future.

To help U.S. agencies manage records during the pandemic, the National Archives recently issued answers to frequently asked questions, noting that records related to the COVID-19 vary widely in scope, content and value across the federal government. 

Read entire article at FOIA Ombudsman Blog (National Archives)