By: S. Sivaselvam
Pix by PKK and Unit Foto UKM Press
BANGI, 25 Sept, 2011 - Datuk Zakiah Hanum Haji Abdul Hamid, who powered the development of the National Archives to a globally recognised organisation, was today bestowed the Doctorate in Letters at UKM’s 39th Convocation here.
Her daughter, Fardha, received the award on behalf of her mother from Pro-Chancellor Tunku Panglima Besar Kedah Dato’ Seri Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz binti Sultan Haji Abul Halim Mu’adzam Shah.
In 1961, upon competing her bachelors degree at Universiti Malaya, Datuk Zakiah began her career at the National Archives as an assistant keeper of archives. Over the years she became an expert in archiving and upon becoming Director-General of the institution, she grew it to be on par at the international level.
Being full of ideas, she brought about several innovations. This included historical anecdotes, a pioneering activity that was adopted internationally.
The establishment of the Tun Abdul Razak Memorial, the Tunku Abdul Rahman Memorial, the P. Ramlee Memorial Library and the Declaration of Independence Memorial in Melaka arose from Datuk Zakiah’s proposals to enable the public to view, through exhibits, documents and other forms, the contributions of the nation’s leaders.
Datuk Zakiah received recognition from the International Council on Archives and succeeded in making Malaysia the ICA’s headquarters and secretariat for the Southeast Asian region (SERBICA).
Her deep interest in history, race and culture also meant that she was a prolific writer. Besides penning several books on race, traditions and culture, she also wrote articles for newspapers as well as local and foreign magazines on issues regarding the archivists’ profession, historical matters and on society.
Through the Muslim Women’s Action Organisation (Pertiwi), among the major projects she initiated was the publication of a book on the biographies of the top women in Malaysia.
Datuk Zakiah was the first woman from Malaysia to receive the Ramon Magsaysay award in 1989 for government service.
She was Chairman of SERBICA between 1990 and 1993 and was also Honorary Editor of the International Oral History Journal published in the United States. She was a member of the Indian Record Commission based in New Delhi from 1986 to 1989.