George Orwell Archive added to UNESCO Memory of the World Register

The British author and journalist George Orwell’s personal archive have been formally inscribed to the UNESCO Memory of the World International Register. The George Orwell Archive consists manuscript notebooks, letters, diaries, other personal papers including photographs belonging to the writer.

The George Orwell Archive also contains the first jottings of the most well-known words and phrases from his books; including ‘War is Peace, Freedom is slavery, Ignorance is strength’ from Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The Memory of the World Register is the archival equivalent to UNESCO’s world heritage sites. It lists unique historical documents from the Diary of Anne Frank to Magna Carta. The main intention of the Memory of the World Register is to fully preserve and protect historical documents for all.

University College London houses the manuscript diaries, letters, notebook and photographs that make up the Orwell papers. UCL said it underwent a highly competitive selection process to win a place on the list; and that UNESCO’s selectors had recognized the “world significance and outstanding universal value” of Orwell’s writings.

Orwell’s adopted son, Richard Blair said: “This prestigious award granted by UNESCO to the Orwell Archives at UCL is a clear indication of the value attached to the works of George OrwellNot only am I immensely proud of this achievement and what it means personally; but also to those who have put in so much hard work to bring about this singular recognition.”

George Orwell’s widow Sonia Orwell loaned Orwell’s manuscripts and notebooks to UCL in 1960. According to the university, the writer kept very few personal papers and fewer manuscripts; with what remains occupying only three linear metres in its high-security storage in Bloomsbury.

Along with the Orwellian concepts such as ‘Two Minutes Hate’ and ‘Newspeak’, the George Orwell Archive also includes Orwell’s working notes and diary entries for his writing of ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’. It was his major work of reportage on the working conditions of miners in the north of England.

UCL said “George Orwell’s writing had a profound influence on human thought in all parts of the world, an influence that remains potent today. It is rare to find serious reviews analyzing current events even now, in the first quarter of the 21st century, with no mention of Orwell or his ideas. The manuscripts and personal papers are the only writings in existence in Orwell’s own voice and as such are unique and irreplaceable. The history of humanity would undoubtedly be all the poorer should any harm or loss befall the material.”

UNESCO’s UK Committee had held an awards ceremony on 19 September, 2018. The award was formally presented at Imperial College, London; where they had made presentations to successful applicants to the UK Heritage Register; and also honored new inscriptions to the International Register.


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