The Vajont archive is a “Memory of the World”

Two UNESCO acknowledgements now symbolically meet at the Vajont dam, before the 270 million cubic metres of rock that broke loose from the slopes of Mount Toc at 10.39 p.m. on 9 October 1963, raising a wave that took 1910 victims. The first is the recognition of the Dolomites themselves, which border on the Vajont Valley, confirming its importance in understanding human responsibility when it comes to protecting the environment. The other relates to the Vajont Trial Archive, which has been kept in the State Archives in Belluno since 2010, after being transferred from L’Aquila following the 2009 earthquake, and has now been listed in the UNESCO “Memory of the World” International Register. This recognition came on 18 May 2023, just a few months before the 60th anniversary of the disaster.

What is the “Memory of the World” Register?

The Memory of the World programme was created in 1992 in response to the severe threat faced by the conservation of and access to documentary heritage in various parts of the world. Lack of funds, wars and social conflicts, looting, dispersion, illegal trade, destruction and inadequate conservation sites, as the website of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO notes, “have been decisive in this process of deterioration of the documentary heritage”.

Acknowledging the sorrow of the communities

“This is an extraordinary result for the memory and for the Vajont communities,” comments Roberto Padrin, Mayor of Longarone, Chairperson of the Province of Belluno and of the Vajont Foundation. “It had already been nominated in 2016, but we insisted on nominating it again, convinced that this material deserved recognition. The journey began much earlier – the digitisation process had already begun in 2010, when the archive arrived from L’Aquila, with the intention of leaving a perennial testimony that would be available to everyone. Today’s result is a great gift to the Vajont communities, who have always asked for recognition of their suffering”.

Beauty and frailty

“The Dolomites are the only World Heritage Site recognised both for their extraordinary scenic beauty and for their geological and geomorphological evolution. On the other hand, they are also the site of the most serious man-made natural disaster. These are two sides of the same coin – a beautiful and fragile region for which we have a responsibility to all of humanity,” concludes Irma Visalli, Chairperson of the Vajont Foundation Scientific Committee and a promoter of this recognition in which the Tina Merlin Association, the Vajont, the Municipality of Longarone, the State Archives of Belluno and the State Archives of L’Aquila have collaborated.