What does it mean to preserve? In the dictionary, the word preserve has multiple meanings, but all of them refer to maintaining or protecting something from decay. This can refer to a physical object or an idea. But how do you preserve an idea? You cannot put it in a box or wrap it in plastic. Collecting an oral history requires a different approach than preserving a book. Many organizations preserve films, ancient texts, manuscripts, and other artifacts. Other institutions preserve languages by teaching younger generations, publishing books, and recording elders speaking the language. Preserving all variations of culture is important to establishing a history among the different people of this planet. It is also important so people can use these items or languages to reject distorted facts about the past. Preservation is the key to keeping history and culture alive and various methods are used to do so.
Preservation in the traditional sense involves caring for physical items and ensuring access to everyone for educational purposes. The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) defines preservation as, “The protection of cultural property through activities that minimize chemical and physical deterioration and damage and that prevent loss of informational content.” This can include everything from organizing items into acid-free boxes, keeping things in climate controlled areas, and disaster planning. Taking the necessary steps to ensure that documents and other items are safe from deterioration is crucial to making sure that history survives. Certain documents like census records, deeds, government files, and etc. are significant to presenting a complete picture of historical events and people. Institutions such as libraries, archives, historical societies and other places take care of items to make sure that people can still use them in the future.
If one wants to preserve something that is not tangible like a language, there are different steps to take. In this modern age, some ind igenious cultures don’t have the technology to document their languages and need outside help. By the year 2100, half of indigenious languages are expected to be lost. Many young people are not learning their ancestor’s language and instead are learning the national language. To save these languages from disappearing, researchers are creating projects that aim to preserve these languages. Many cultural leaders are starting programs in local schools to teach the young people their native language and trying to publish books that are translated to their original language. Preserving an indigenous language is another way to show a history that is not Eurocentric. By documenting a country’s origin dating back to before colonization, people across the world can add to the diversity of the written and spoken word. Social media also helps to push young and older people to engage with their native language. It can be used to advertise different ways that a community can engage and use an older language to show their cultural pride. In the United States, Canada, and similar developed countries tried to force their native people to abandon their native tongue and assimilate into the mainstream culture. Efforts to conserve those languages are a way to reverse the effects of colonization.
Although preservation takes different forms, its main goal is to uphold ideas that were established through paper or spoken word. Projects around the world are taking steps to conserve languages like the Rosetta Project which seeks to protect languages by documenting them on a disk or the countless institutions that are going out and speaking with elders to record how older languages sound. One institution is the Living Tongues: Institute for Endangered Languages, https://livingtongues.org/,which creates talking dictionaries that allow users to listen to a language and see translations. They also work with local language consultants to train them to electronically document their native tongue. Another institution that is working to conserve language is Our Golden Hour, https://ourgoldenhour.org/, they teach children in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh their native language. Traditional methods still work to maintain artifacts and continuously evolving to fit with technology but without preservation the information that our society has today would have been lost or forgotten. These new methods can help communities who need the technology to keep up with the changing times.