The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, has announced that the John Marshall archive of Ju/’hoansi film and video has been added to the Memory of the World Register. His recent decision, following a nomination by a panel of experts, adds 35 documents, collections and archives to the UNESCO listing, which now includes 193 works in all.
According to the announcement on the UNESCO website, works added to the list this summer include the Magna Carta, the Diaries of Anne Frank, and other very well-known works such as the Ju/’hoansi Film collection. The “John Marshall Ju/’hoan Bushman Film and Video Collection, 1950-2000” is held by the Smithsonian Institution’s Human Studies Film Archives. As the UNESCO citation states, it is “one of the seminal visual anthropology projects of the 20th century providing a unique example of sustained audiovisual documentation of one cultural group, the Ju/’hoansi, of the Kalahari Desert in northeastern Namibia, [for] over half a century.”
UNESCO cites the “unparalleled historical record” of the collection, which preserves, on film and video, a record of the traditional way of life of the Ju/’hoansi. The films also document the ways their lives have been transformed by rapidly changing economic and political conditions in Namibia.
Jake Homiak, the director of the Smithsonian’s Anthropology Collections and Archives Program, commenting on the news from UNESCO, said that “during [Marshall’s] lifelong association with the Ju/’hoansi (Bushmen) he became an advocate for those he documented, using his films as tools for education and empowerment.” Mr. Homiak observes that Marshall was a leading proponent of ethcial values in the field of ethnographic filmmaking.
The Marshall collection in the Smithsonian includes 767 hours of unedited video and film footage, taken during his fifty year career as an ethnographic filmmaker. It also includes edited films and videos, still photos, audio tapes, and maps. Other materials in the Marshall collection include correspondence, logs, transcriptions, translations, and proposals, plus publications about Marshall and his work.
Documentary Educational Resources, in Watertown, Massachusetts, which produces, distributes, and promotes ethnographic film and video resources, including the Marshall works, publicized the UNESCO announcement. The organization states on its website that Marshall’s work “is unrivalled as a long-term visual study of a single group of people.” DER indicates that Marshall’s films include “the personal histories of individuals, documents of a now non-existent way of life, and the unfolding of massive social and economic change as experienced by one group of people over a period of fifty years.”