Old, dark, and musty.
These characteristics come to mind when we think of archives. And the impression we have of the UP Diliman University Archives is no different. Who would even want to go there when going online would be much more convenient?
But tucked away in boxes, filed in folders and envelopes, are treasures that line rows upon rows of shelves at the top levels of Gonzalez Hall, the UPD Main Library. The Archives do not only contain printed matter, but memorabilia as well. There are things you won’t ever find online and for serious researchers, history buffs, or the just plain curious, archival materials are like manna from heaven.
Tangible memories, priceless value
The University Archives protect permanent University records, theses, dissertations, procedural documents, scholarly works, personal papers, UP publications, photographs, and items from UP personalities like medals, trophies, togas, artworks, and even furniture.
“I can’t put a monetary value on what we have here,” said University Archives Head Librarian Eimee Lagrama. “We’re talking about institutional memory and it’s not something we can simply put a price tag on.”
Materials at the Archives are tangible records of memory, documenting the history of a University community, recording UP’s development not just as an institution but capturing the intellectual ferment UP is known for.
For those who want to know if there are confidential materials, the answer is yes. And if you happen to be faced with such, the best course of action would be to consult the University’s legal office.
Ideal vs. real
Keeping priceless materials requires a lot of care in their preservation, maintenance, and management. In an ideal situation, Lagrama said that archives should be temperature-controlled, humidity-controlled, and secured in a structure that can withstand natural and man-made disasters. In addition, archivists should be armed with conservation skills and have “intellectual control over the collection,” which means knowing each material “down to the last item.”
She cited the British Library and the Getty Research Institute as having some of the best archives in the world. “They’re well-funded.” Locally, Lagrama said Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University are doing a good job of maintaining their archives because of the resources that are being poured into their upkeep.
A visit to the UPD University Archives will show that its conditions are far from ideal—tarpaulins covering shelves to shield them from leaking ceilings, cramped spaces, no protection from dust, and no humidity or temperature control—but its people clearly do the best they can.
“We just do passive preservation, so we try to keep the materials in a stable condition. Changes in temperature and humidity are bad for paper, which means it’s better to have no airconditioning at all than to have it turned on during office hours and turned off at the end of the workday.”
Its house, Gonzalez Hall, also leaves much to be desired. It’s looking its age, being one of the earliest structures erected in UPD from war reparation funds in the late 1940s. Lagrama revealed it “failed all the tests for structural integrity” and is now “the number one fire hazard building” on campus. She said that because of the sensitive structure, they have been moving heavy furniture to the lower levels and making use only of light materials for storage.
Despite its current state, Lagrama expressed hope that things will improve for the University Archives.
Future plans and wishes
Gonzalez Hall is due for a makeover and there are plans for this to be done in the coming years. Because it failed structural integrity tests, however, renovation would have to give way to retrofitting first, which means additional expense and a bigger budget.
“Before President Alfredo Pascual left office, he earmarked more than P200 million for renovation. We’ve also gotten commitments from Chancellor Michael Tan and President Danilo Concepcion. I hope things will get started by 2019 and completed after five or six years.”
More than fixing the existing physical structure, Lagrama also hopes that the University Archives will someday get its own building. “The Library and the Archives are growing entities and both need ample space.”
Additional human resources wouldn’t hurt either. “For now, our staff complement is better because we’ve grown from a staff of six to fourteen. But more manpower is always welcome.” As for the staff’s development, Lagrama said she always encourages them to pursue graduate studies or take advanced training in conservation. She added that Prof. Chito Angeles, the University Librarian, is also looking into partnerships with foreign institutions for internship programs.
“I look forward to the day our archives become the ideal in the country—that we have the infrastructure, facilities, and resources to keep these materials safely and properly preserved, and available for future generations to see and learn from.”
For Lagrama and those who recognize the value of the University Archives, there is no better time than now to begin ensuring the kind of protection these treasures deserve—one that befits the national university of this country, whose history and life are inextricable from the development of the Filipino nation.
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