What Bahá’í Archival Work Means to Two Honduran Bahá’ís: Accompaniment

How to Organize and Maintain a Bahá’í Archives 2018
Roger Dahl, Sue Rishworth, Lois Walker

Five Bahá’ís from Honduras, all first-time Wilmette Institute learners, signed up as a group for the course How to Organize and Maintain a Bahá’í Archives 2018. Sandra Varela, whose report is shared below, was born into a Bahá’í family in Honduras. Her mother, Lidia Centeno, who passed away eight years ago, served for many years as the Secretary of a Local Spiritual Assembly and of the National Spiritual Assembly of Honduras. Sandra, Lidia’s daughter, says that she has “always had an interest in how to manage Bahá’í documents and files,” particularly because she is now the secretary of the Local Spiritual Assembly in San Pedro Sula.” Nabil Pavón, one of the group of five, adds his comments about Sandra and what he learned in the course.

Sandra VarelaSandra Varela’s Assessment of What She Learned about Setting Up a Bahá’í Archives. It is time to reflect about the course! It has been challenging and has given me the chance to learn something that has been on my mind for a long time: organizing Local Spiritual Assembly minutes and correspondence. I kept putting it off, but the archives course gave me a good start.

First, I need to thank the National Spiritual Assembly of Honduras for giving me the opportunity to be part of this course. My goal included focusing on minutes and the correspondence of the Local Spiritual Assembly in my community. Second, I have to be honest. At this time, I have not been able to work at the Bahá’í Center as I planned, due to personal reasons. As was mentioned in the course, we often have too much on our plates. A presentation during an Assembly meeting kept being postponed, and that is the main cause of my delay.

When I started the course, I thought it was intended more for people who have some instructional background, and I was concerned because, in countries like Honduras, we lack a good educational system. The majority of the people have reading and speaking difficulties. I am so glad that, thanks to the Ruhi Institute, many of us have been challenged, and we now able to improve our organizational skills and function as members in the administration of the Bahá’í Faith.

My feelings about this course, of course, have changed. My understanding now is that anyone can be a great support in helping maintain records, as long as guidance is given. And this is not only for documents and papers but artifacts, art work, and any documents related to the history of the Faith in a community. Keeping the archives is like keeping a house: one needs to keep it clean but also well organized, and members need to know where things are so they can find them easily.

I believe that more people should benefit from taking this course to help secure and preserve our history. I strongly believe that the National Spiritual Assembly has fulfilled the goal of having several Bahá’ís from three different communities in Honduras (San Pedro Sula, Siguatepeque, and Tegucigalpa) take this important course. Now it is our turn to put our learning into practice. I suggest that the course be given in other languages, if that has not been considered, for people who do not speak English well could benefit. From my part, I will be sharing important issues with the Spiritual Assembly in my community as soon as the new Assembly is elected.

In my opinion, it is very important for any member in any agency or institution to be able to organize time. I have learned that one has to be well motivated to be organized and not to leave things for later. Consistency is the key to being well organized.

One never stops learning! I plan to continue to apply what I have learned. It is my hope that other members will be motivated to help out in preserving our history.

Sandra then shared the following list of the many things she needs to consider for the future.

  1. Consider time for managing documents, papers, and any other artifacts, art materials, and so on.
  2. Answer the “wh” questions: who, where, when, which, and how. One needs to know who will be responsible for the archives, where the place will be chosen and agreed upon to keep the archives, where is it going to be located, which things need to be preserved and saved, when to keep or discard them, and mainly how is it everything going to be archived.
  3. Make an inventory of what it is important in order to be able to preserve and maintain the archives. That will also include materials that need to be collected and classified. Everything needs to be put into boxes.
  4. Count on other members in the community to help preserve the materials for the archives. This is so important because it really does not depend on only one person; therefore, working together toward the same goal is the key.
  5. Develop skills that will enable the community to keep up its archives. For secretaries, treasurers, and members in committees: it is important that each keeps the minutes, correspondence, and reports organized in order to be able to provide needed information to others at any time. Personnel working or serving in a Bahá’í Center need to be aware of procedures for helping preserve the archives.
  6. Understand guidance on how to be organized. Reviewing this course will be useful.
  7. Share experience and knowledge about how things came to be, which is necessary for helping preserve the history in a community. Passing on what we know to the younger generations helps with that goal. Keeping the archives well organized can be a way for others to find out what we have and how the things came to be, as well as helping to find information easily and quickly.
  8. Share knowledge on how to preserve materials in an archives, including information on temperature and climate control, as well as the quality of materials in which archived material are stowed.
  9. Post these guidelines in the archive room for others to see and be aware of the importance of working together.

Nabil PavonNabil Pavón’s Learnings in the Bahá’í Archives Course. Nabil Pavón began his comments on the Archives course by complimenting Sandra Varela: “The group of Hondurans are very proud of the work you carried out during this course. The Bahá’í community of San Pedro Sula will definitely set an example to the rest of the country of how to start organizing our archives.” Here is what Nabil learned:

  1. All the material was incredible and useful, but the section that helped me the most was Unit 6 (Processing Material Other than Unpublished Documents), mostly because of my interest in audiovisual archives. This unit helped me realize that my Personal Learning Plan was too ambitious and that I needed to clarify my vision. Hence I simplified my Plan to concentrate on preserving photographs.
  2. I realized how urgent it is to acquire as much information as possible from our communities’ past before too much time has passed, and the people that lived it are gone, and the evidence (photographs, videos, and so on) has deteriorated.
  3. Right now I have learned all the theory. I hope to learn new skills from this course as soon as I get things in progress.
  4. I can summarize that the feelings I have are a sense of urgency and desire to accomplish my project, especially remembering that one of the most inspiring moments in our lives is when we get the opportunity to visit the International Bahá’í Archives In Haifa, Israel.
  5. I feel a greater understanding of why archives are so essential for our communities in providing a stronger identity as Bahá’ís.
  6. I hope to share as much as possible with my Bahá’í community, through social media and by promoting the use of the wonderful photographs that my friend Ken Cutler helped to rescue and then donated to the National Spiritual Assembly of Honduras.

The course How to Organize and Maintain a Bahá’í Archives will be offered again in early 2019.

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