x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Adach appeals for memorabilia to document history of the nation

Historians are growing concerned that the UAE, now 38 years old, is not doing enough to preserve its oral and documented history.

ABU DHABI // Historians are growing concerned that the UAE, now 38 years old, is not doing enough to preserve its oral and documented history. Accordingly, the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach) is appealing for help in collecting videos, audio recordings, photographs, manuscripts or even old letters and documents of historical value. "It is our duty to protect this rich heritage in various ways, and the documentation of oral history and local traditions and values contributes to safeguarding and preserving our traditional culture," said Mohammed Khalaf al Mazrouei, the director general of Adach.

On Wednesday, Abdullah Abdul Rahman, an author and journalist from Ras al Khaimah whose books Cup of Coffee and The UAE in the Memory of its Citizens draw from his archive of photos and tapes from the 1980s, signed an agreement with the National Library to turn over his valuable source material. Under the agreement, the complete terms of which were not disclosed, 150 hours of taped interviews with elderly people and 300 portrait photographs will also be compiled into three volumes to be added to the library's collection in the new year. The volumes will document the cultural, social and economic information of the lives of the founding generation of the UAE.

Jumaa al Qubaisi, director of the National Library, said the responsibility of preserving UAE heritage fell to Emiratis as much as it did to Adach and that the agreement with Mr Abdul Rahman should encourage others to come forward with any historical material. Ahmed Rashid Thani, the manager of manuscripts and national documents at the library, noted that Mr Abdul Rahman was the only researcher in UAE who documented the ancient life in the country.

"Most of the people he met at that time have now passed away," he said, "which makes his work remarkable and very important". Dr Hasan Naboodah, the head of the history and archaeology department at the UAE University in Al Ain, called Cup of Coffee "one of the best books dealing with the social and economic history of the Emirates". "It is an extremely comprehensive volume about the old days before unification as well as life before oil," he said. "It will be a valuable addition to the National Library."

The agreement is part of the National Library's effort to update its visual and audio materials. A digital system to aid researchers and serve the public will be introduced next year. "The development of new cultural initiatives is integrated with the authority's strategy in the maintenance of local heritage and dialogue with different world cultures," Mr al Mazrouei said. @Email:aseaman@thenational.ae