Since no worthwhile debate can ever occur over Lebanon’s conflict-laden and war-loaded past if it lacks sufficient detail, the predilection UMAM D&R has with documenting parts of the country’s history (in particular, but not limited to its darkest periods) has been at the top of its to-do list since its inception.
But while this UMAM D&R endeavor is essentially a citizen-based initiative, the organization can never, and will never insinuate that it is somehow competing with academic institutions that may be involved with similar actions. Rather, the collection being built by UMAM D&R is destined for Lebanon’s public, and everyone interested in Lebanese issues. In sum, the collection (and the effort that feeds the sustainment of this initiative) is open to everyone without the restrictions imposed by State or academic entities.
Since its foundation, UMAM D&R has assembled a vast collection that ranges from books, newspapers, leaflets, posters, videos and magazines, to personal and official documents, narratives, interviews and various types of “gray” or uncategorized, but related information. As many of these materials have never been published, their addition to the UMAM D&R archive saved them from being lost in countless dank basements, damp attics or garbage dumps—as has already happened in more cases than we care to count.
Beyond simply collecting such documentation, however, UMAM D&R is dedicated to safeguarding that important information. In fact, a turning point in our preservation efforts occurred during the 2006 War, when our offices were partially destroyed during an attack. To our great misfortune, we lost irreplaceable written and audio documents. That terrible loss motivated us to commence a broad effort to digitize our collection, with a special focus on its most fragile and precious components.
As its name suggests, UMAM Documentation and Research has been, and will remain committed to gathering, preserving, protecting and disseminating the information that helps advance the debate over Lebanon’s past and present. Suffice it to say, this effort is our contribution to advocating the “right to know,” whether in the technical sense or as an innate right of citizens. As stated above, any debate over Lebanon’s history must be at once comprehensive and detailed. Thus, in keeping with the observation by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe that “God is in the details,” we hope to contribute by uncovering and providing those details.
Who can access the UMAM D&R collection?
In principle, everyone is invited to review this collection. In fact, the number of visitors is constrained only by the ability of UMAM D&R to manage the volume of patrons.
Can the entire collection be consulted by everyone?
Typically, the complete collection is available to all visitors. At the same time, however, UMAM D&R must impose some restrictions on documents or audio files that were given to us with the understanding that the donor remain anonymous. For audiovisual testimonies donated under such conditions, visitors can consult (depending on availability) “blind transcriptions.”
Does UMAM D&R request any financial compensation for the use of its collection?
Generally, no. At the same time, because UMAM D&R is a non-governmental organization dedicated to the advancement of Lebanon’s civil society, it welcomes donations intended to help the organization achieve its mission. Where technical support is involved (such as photocopy machines, internet access or large-scale document scanning), arrangements for appropriate financial compensation are made on an individual basis.
Can I volunteer to assist UMAM D&R in the management of its collection?
Certainly! As you can imagine, managing our growing collection effectively depends on a concerted and continuous effort. Thus, individuals with broad skill sets are always welcome. Today, some of the tasks that cause us significant consternation (and delay) are cataloging books in French, English and German; transcribing audio materials from French and Arabic; and sorting through the archive’s various categories (which continue to expand).
Where can I review the documents held by UMAM D&R?
The broad collection of documentation held by UMAM D&R is usually perused by people visiting its offices.