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Visualizing transparency

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These striking images of people and projects showcase the importance of what the Archives does to enable the World Bank's Access to Information Policy, and offer a visual cue of how important and crucial the Bank?s work is. Photo: © World Bank Group Personnel of supervisory unit of Lae-Port Moresby telecommunications system, Papua New Guinea, 1972.

​In the eight years since I joined the Access to Information (AI) team as a Case Manager, I have come to look at the AI Policy (for which the World Bank Group Archives is one of the implementing groups) as a set of principles and rules that empowers the team to make informed decisions in response to AI public access requests, and also enables us to effectively work with our clients and respond to their research needs and interests.

Tranquilino Flori and Felix Moreno, Ecuador, 1957. See more photos in our World Bank Group Archives. Credit: World Bank Group/Paul Sanche
Tranquilino Flori and Felix Moreno, Ecuador, 1957. Credit: Paul Sanche/World Bank Group

The Policy en​sures transparency by way of Policy Interpretations and Directives, directs the team in our reference interviews with clients and guides us in our liaisons with business units when we need to locate responsive material—  all while maintaining our commitment to Open Archives. This commitment to transparency, while safeguarding the Bank’s deliberative process and its relationship with member countries, creates a deep engagement with the records for us Archivists and a close relationship with researchers, who are consistently amazed by the availability and richness of information in the Bank’s archival holdings. In fact, more than 30 scholarly publications in various languages, have been written by researchers who accessed records on topics that vary from aspects in development to the relationship between the Bank and its member countries. As part of the Archives team, I also manage the Bank’s historical photographic collection which contains over 500,000 photographs documenting project work in member countries, official signings, as well as other historic events and personalities.

These striking images of people and projects keep me grounded in the importance of what the Archives does to enable the AI Policy and offer a visual cue of how important and crucial the Bank’s work is. Photographs from the collection are used both internally by staff in presentations, commemoration events, and reports as well as by the public in various publications. Many of these images portray extreme poverty and hardship and are a constant reminder that these are the people and places that were (and perhaps still are) ultimately affected by the Bank’s work, which is reflected in the project correspondence and project reports. Colleagues often remark how lucky I am to be working so closely with this amazing collection of photos - and they are right- but I feel even luckier that I can complement my role in AI Policy implementation with my work on the Archives’ photographic collection. The connection between the two may seem surprising at first, but public access to both the Bank’s textual and visual documentary memory offer a full picture of the Bank’s work to eliminate poverty and promote shared prosperity worldwide.

Happy 10 years, AI Policy! ​



Shiri Alon

Archivist, World Bank Group Archives

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