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BACKGROUND TO THE PROBLEM
It is incredible but true that the generality of people including some educated elites do not know what archives are, some associated archives with artifacts, monuments, and others believe that the word is derived from archeology. At best, a good number of people think that archives are the old and use less staff meant for the incinerator. This ignorance permeates some an official publication in which archives is mentioned in casual reference to art and culture.
The word “Archive” is pronounced “Arkive”. An ordinary meaning of the word Archive is public or government records and the place for keeping them. This is to say that the word has a dual meaning of being public or government records as well as being a place where such records are housed. They are kept officially or privately but the documents are exclusive.
According to the Italian Archivist Casanova defined “Archives” as the orderly accumulation of documents which were created in the course of its activity by an institution or an individual, and which are preserved for the accomplishment of its political, legal or cultural purposes by such an institution or individuals. The essential elements in this definition relates to the reasons why materials were produced or accumulated.
To be archives, materials must have been created or accumulated to accomplish some purpose. In a government agency, the purpose is the accomplishment of its official business. Casanova stressed their creation to accomplish “Political, Cultural or legal purposes.
In professional parlance, Archives are document drawn up or used in the course of administrative or executive transaction (whether public or private) which formed a part and which are subsequently preserved (in their own information) by the person or persons responsible for that transaction or their legitimate successors.
Originally, the term “Archive” is derived from Greek word “(Acheron) which means that archives belongs to an office. They are generally used to designate agencies or administrative units, responsible for identifying, appraising, accessioning, preserving, arranging, describing and providing reference services on archives materials and for approving the destruction of records of transitory values.
When archivists accept holdings into their repositories, they are taking responsibility for the custody for these materials. All their efforts may come to naught if the archives are lost as a result of a disaster or breach in security. Security and disaster management are the key to the protection of archival materials from human and natural causes. However, many incidents which can be described as disaster have destroyed or seriously damaged parts of archives collections and building. An early account of damage to a book is a pious account of the loss of Queen Margaret’s gospels by a careless priest who dropped the book into a deep and fast flowing river. The story tells us that due to divine intervention, the book was located on the river bed and recovered undamaged and that this minor miracle occurred because the original owner was a saint. Since few of us are saints, we can take little comfort from this.
More so, modern accounts of damage resulting from disaster include the Florence disaster of 1966 when a flood caused serious damage to National Library Holdings. This was perhaps the point in time when the disaster risk was fully realized. Also, the Los Angeles Public Library fire in 1986 and the tragic fire at the Academic of Science Library in Leningrad in 1988 were examples of disaster encountered in modern times. In modern times too, are also records of archives damaged due to earthquakes including the National Archives in Mexico in Mexico City which was damaged by the Mexican earthquake of 1985, the San Francisco City Archives in the U.S.A damaged by the Loma Pieta earthquake in 1989 and several archives institutions in the Hanshin Region of Japan in 1995.
Thus, one of the fundamental aims of the International Council on Archives (ICA) is to promote the preservation of the world’s archival heritage. Aware of the widespread threats to this heritage, not least from armed conflicts in various parts of the world, and the role of disaster planning in meeting them, the XII General Assembly of ICA meeting in Montreal in 1992, called for the preparation of plans and publications to assist in preserving damage to archives from natural and man-made disaster. It would be comforting to think that the disaster threat comes from events which might be described as natural phenomena are therefore, infrequent and confined to a few regions of the world. This sadly is not the cases all too often that result from the carelessness of man himself.
Also, a disaster can result from an act of vandalism; it could be a fire resulting from poor maintenance, negligence or arson. It is as well frequently simply as the result of a burst of water main pipe, which of the devastating effect of water.
The word “disaster” is a strong one bringing to mind catastrophic occurrence such as the Florence floods, Mexico. One should remember that an event does not have to be of any significant size for it to be disastrous in an archive. A small event happening in the wrong time can be as potentially damaging as a large one. The use of the word disaster is to describe such events, whatever their size, is a careful and deliberate choice.
Archival collections are created because of the enduring values which they posses. Necessary steps must therefore be taken to ensure their protection and physical well being. Unfortunately, the greater percentage of valuable records and volumes of archival materials are not housed under suitable ideal conditions but are kept as best they may be by multitudes of smaller archives and other establishments of a public or private nature that may not be primarily concerned with records protection.
Also, it should be noted that far too many archives in the world have neither disaster preparedness nor a security plan in a place. Many archivists as well recognize the need to protect their holdings, but they fail to develop disaster preparedness and security plan due to a number of factors including inadequate funding and staffing and shortage of supplies. However, these problems should not prevent archivists from developing disaster preparedness and security plan is very simple, although it is time consuming. Archivists do not need high tech and expensive equipment and supplies to develop sound plans.
However, whether National Archives Owerri Branch had or has not experienced any of these dangerous disasters like floods, fire, earth quake, hurricane, tornado etc. Despite, it has or has not experienced any of these mentioned disasters since it was established, it does not mean that it could not encounter any disaster throughout its life span. So there is a need for National Archives, Owerri Branch to be acquainted with, and prepare for disaster in case it occurred.
The need for disaster preparedness should be a factor that should be taken serious by every archive establishment. The essence, of disaster preparedness is to reduce the dangerous effect cause by disaster since i.e. is known that total protection may not be achieved through preventive measures; this is why efforts are made to put in place preparedness measures. It is therefore, necessary to have a reaction contingency plan for the purpose of reading to an emergency situation. The objectives of such reaction will be to protect materials and to take action to remove the threat to the archival collections.
Though, because of the valuable nature of archival collections, they need to be properly secured. So, there should be a need for adequate security management measures to be taken by the National Archives, Owerri Branch to secure her collection and buildings from disasters. This is because disaster is a thing that could come at any time hence there is a need to get ready for it at all times. The number of different disastrous incidents world-wide has caused many damages to archival collections. This has however, created on increased awareness of the need for disaster prevention, security and control planning is recent years.
Protection from loss by fire is basic to any record-preservation program, which will emphasize fire prevention by insisting on high standards of housekeeping, periodic patrols and the like. Nevertheless, provision should be made by National Archives, Owerri, by providing some of these fighting equipment or fire detecting systems that are used in modern times like automatic fire alarm, automatic sprinkles, automatic extinguisher or automatic carbon-dioxide extinguisher etc. And also they should ensure that equipment are manned or handled by a well trained staff or expert.
HISTORY OF NATIONAL ARCHIVES, OWERRI BRANCH
The National Archives Owerri was founded in June 1986 alongside other institutions that were founded at that time. Formerly, the institution was temporary located at Okigwe Road Secretariat Owerri before it was relocated to the Federal Secretariat in Port Harcourt Road, in September 1996, under the leadership of Mr. E.I. Nsoro, who was its Pioneer Archivist.
On its establishment in 1986, National Archives, Owerri was under the Ministry of Education.
Later, it was attached to Ministry of Youths, sports and culture before it finally found itself in the Ministry of Information and culture. Later in the year 2001, culture was removed from information and it became known as Ministry of Information and National Orientation.
The National Archives Owerri has the following sections:
1. Administrative section
2. Account section
3. Search room section
4. Repository section
5. Library section
6. Binding section
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Human beings do not think about disaster. However, whether we think about disaster or not, they surely do occur sometimes with devastating consequences. A disaster whether natural or man-made or by a combination of these is an event which timing is unexpected and which consequences are seriously destructive. This, disaster is a threat that might cause harm to the office records, building, staff or an unscheduled disruption of normal office services. In as much as the National Archives Owerri may or may not have witnessed any dangerous disaster since its inception, thus the researcher wants to embark on this because of an interest to find out the need for disaster preparedness.
More so, since there are needs for disaster preparedness, prevention, control planning and adequate security of archival collections, the researcher however wants to find out the reasons why there should be a proper security management and different protective measures in which the National Archives Owerri Branch should adhere to.
SCOPE/LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
This study is limited to subject areas such as different cases and prevention of archival disaster as well as its control measures and different fighting equipment for disaster and disaster preparedness which will serve as a medium for securing archival collections and buildings of National Archives, Owerri Branch.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
For any work to have a base, it must aim at something. Therefore, the researcher aims at studying the need for disaster preparedness and adequate security measures to be taken by the National Archives, Owerri Branch in other to secure and protect its collections and building from dangerous disaster.
The researcher wants to use the following questions:
1. How is the management of National Archives, Owerri Branch preparing for disaster?
2. Is there adequate funding for disaster preparedness and how does the government in Owerri branch help in funding disaster preparedness?
3. In terms of securing archival heritage what type of fighting equipment do you have that would facilitate adequate security for National Archives Owerri Branch.
4. Do you have trained/skilled staff who would handle disaster occurrence?
SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY
The study is meant to keep the archivist of National Archives, Owerri Branch abreast in need of guidance to implement a disaster management policy and strategy. It will also be of a great value to the students, educators, researchers and even the lecturers who are researching on disaster and/or disaster planning of archives and the security of archival collections.
To have a reliable research, the method to be used in carrying out research work ought to be stated. Thus, the research is a case study of National Archives, Owerri branch, the method to be used in collection of data for this project include the use of the three method of data capturing techniques. They are:
1. Gathering of data through visits
2. Administration of questionnaire and
3. Use of oral interview.
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