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The idea of organizing an International Congress sponsored by the International Council on Archives specifically on university archives in Bogota, Colombia was born in 2018 during the annual conference of the ICA/SUV in Salamanca Spain, where the Universidad de los Andes was suggested as the venue for the ICA/SUV conference in 2020, and this was accepted during the annual conference of the ICA/SUV in Dundee (Scotland). This academic and professional exchange event sought to strengthen links with the ICA/SUV and with Latin American university archives.

Why in Bogota – Colombia?

Bogotá is the capital of the Republic of Colombia, It is located in the geographic center of the national territory at 2,625 meters above sea level, a vibrant and multicultural city where streets from a colonial past converge with the modernity of a thriving capital. With approx. 8,000,000 residents, Bogotá is a city that welcomes its own people and foreigners with open arms.
Author: Felipe Ortega Grijalba. Creative Commons License

The conference was planned to be held at the Universidad de los Andes, located in downtown Bogotá and the historic center of the city (La Candelaria neighbourhood).  In this area, visitors can find the most important museums, churches, government offices and tourist attractions.

The Universidad de los Andes was founded in 1948, and it was the first private university in Colombia that was independent from political or religious movements or parties. It was conceived as a study center, a research center, and a place where truth could be upheld. 

Holding the Congress in Colombia presented a unique opportunity to bring together attendees of diverse profiles (i.e. archivists, historians, documentalists, anthropologists, among others) from the five continents around the discussion of issues that concern us all, such as human rights, the recording and recovery of memory and the role of university archives. Colombia in 2016 signed a peace agreement with one of the oldest armed groups in the region (FARC-EP) in hopes of ending a conflict that has submerged the country in a spiral of violence for more than 5 decades, additionally Central and South America during the twentieth century was a politically unstable area, today with consolidated democracies, but a large proportion of their countries suffered dictatorships and processes of migration and violence, whose experiences we hoped to share with our colleagues from other continents. Colombia, due to its privileged geographical position, offered all the guarantees to reach this goal. 

Foto de Luis Cont en Pexels

We also hoped to learn from our North American, Asian, European and African colleagues about their experiences and progress, still incipient in the Latin American context, on issues of digital transformation in the documentary field, web archiving, use of international standards, among others; a necessary perspective to propose and strengthen projects that seek the preservation and access of documentary memory in the region for the world. 

To support the hosting of the congress from September 28 to October 2, 2020, the Universidad de los Andes began a process of search for strategic partnerships in the country and the region to provide a different image of the city, its people and the country for all our visitors. In this process, the Universidad del Rosario, the Universidad Javeriana, the General Archive of the Nation, the District Archive of Bogota, the National Memory Center, the Faculties of Arts and Humanities and Social Sciences of the Universidad de los Andes and the Ibero-American Network of Higher Education Archives (RIAES) were successful and our target audience evidenced it, since in our call for papers, developed between December and February 2020 (vacation season in Latin America and winter in the rest of the world) we received a total of 67 papers from 15 countries with a marked interest in: Human Rights and Identity, Memory and Archives. 

Unfortunately, due to the declaration of pandemic in March 2020, and the health problems and mobility restrictions that the world has suffered, we decided to cancel the live event in May 2020. However, within the work team of the Universidad de los Andes we considered that the purpose of the Congress “To unite voices from different continents around experiences in preservation, conservation and dissemination of documentary heritage and the memory of nations, through the work done by archivists, librarians, historians, political scientists, anthropologists and other professions that have an interest in safeguarding the documentary heritage of the world” is valid and the barriers of distance and time should be overcome. With this in mind, we decided to make several changes, especially in the scope, talked to the speakers, eliminated the fee, resumed conversations with our sponsors, etc., which was how in August 2020 we decided that this event would be held virtually, free for all attendees, with simultaneous translation and at a time that would allow us to converge with the majority of people around the world. 

Finally, the event took place from February 22 to 26, 2021 from 8 am to 12 pm Colombia time, where 22 papers from 7 countries were presented, with 3 panel sessions and the intervention of archive directors from leading universities in their regions representing each of the 4 cardinal axes of the country. The interventions focused on sharing analysis and experiences in studies on human rights, memory, rescue, conservation, preservation and dissemination of collections and archives, as well as trends and challenges in the management of electronic documents in university archives. We received a total of 1,567 registrations from people from 47 countries, of which 948 people attended during the five days of the event, and the participation statistics were much higher than what we had hoped for in our most optimistic model in a physical environment. 

Special thanks to the Chair of the International Council on Archives ICA/SUV University and Research Archives Section Caroline Brown of the University of Dundee (Scotland) who from the very beginning led and accompanied the process, Pepita Raventós member of the ICA/SUV Bureau of the Universidad de Lleyda (Spain), Philippe Bruneau of PCOM (ICA) for managing the necessary funds for the simultaneous translation process Eng – Spa – Eng during the whole event, Maria Clara Quiróz Director of the Historical Archive of the Universidad del Rosario (Colombia), Alma Nohora Miranda Subdirector of the Historical Archive of the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (Colombia), Sergio Mendez Director of Banco de Archivos Digitales de Artes (Colombia) of the Universidad de los Andes, Alvaro Arias Director of Archivo Distrital de Bogotá (Colombia) and Luisa Fernanda Mesa Coordinadora de Servicios documentales de la Universidad de los Andes (Colombia). 

More information on the thematic axes, memories and general information on the event’s website:


Head of Document Management – Universidad de los Andes. Bogotá – Colombia 

Chair of the planning committee of the virtual congress: Memory, human rights and good practices in university and research archives: Different perspectives but only one objective. 

Member of the ICA/SUV Bureau 2018 – 2022.

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