National Library and Archives of Bhutan (NLAB) has proposed an Archives Act to preserve archives of Bhutan and promote its use in a systematic and sustainable manner. The draft has been already submitted to the Home Ministry.

With poor archiving culture in Bhutan and poorer record management system today, archiving becomes important to keep the record that would help define the national identity.

NLAB’s Chief Archivist, Kunzang Delek, said archiving is knowledge and a memory bank of cultural heritage.

Today information written on paper are filed and when there is space to store the files, the files are stacked in old toilets and store rooms and are left to rot.

“If important information is not recorded or maintained, how can we trace our history and our heritage?” asked Kunzang Delek. “If such Act comes through, it would guide each public office to have a record officer who would keep the record of everything.”

Kunzang Delek explained that the record officer would record information for 15 years. After that, with the archivist, record officer could select the important information and archive them for future reference.

The draft Act says that public offices should review periodically public records, compile schedule of retention for public records, preserve public records, and appraise public records, which are more than 15 years.

The custody and preservation of archival records would be done in religious records, public records, and private records.

The draft says that all religious records owned by dzongs, lhakhangs, goendeys, community lhakhang or goendeys, private houses or individuals should be preserved in their respective places. If National Archives deems the records to have important archival value, private entities concerned could deposit records and may specify the conditions of the deposit.

Kunzang Delek said that today most of the public offices and institution destroy or damage public records when there is no space to store. With the coming of the Act, that would not happened, he added.

“The Act would require public offices to get authorisation from the National Archives to dispose of public records,” he said. “ The National Archive shall retain public records deposited therein permanently.”

The draft Act also mentions that Bhutan Post and Royal Monetary Authority should deposit specimen of each new postage stamp, revenue stamp, legal stamp, among others, and specimen of any new currency note or coin of every denomination, including commemorative coins.

Any person who willfully or negligently damages, disposes of or destroys any archival records deposited with National Archives would be subject to fine or imprisonment.

Yangchen C Rinzin