The work done by the Archives Department to preserve Barbados’ history has been highly commended by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office with day-to-day responsibility for Culture, Senator Dr. Shantal Munro-Knight.
The Minister, accompanied by Permanent Secretary, Jehu Wiltshire, did a walk-through of the Black Rock institution with Chief Archivist, Ingrid Thompson, and other staff members, where she got a first-hand look at the volumes of records germane to Barbados’ historical development, dating back as far as 1635.
Senator Munro-Knight said she was “extremely impressed” with the scope of work and the expertise of the staff in the preservation of documents.
“The purpose of the tour is really allowing me to see that it (Archives Department) is moving to be ‘fit for purpose’, as we try to ensure that we are really able to expand on our digital economy.”
She further stated: “I think that the Archives Department is going to be doing some exceptional things going forward that is going to make sure that Barbados as a whole is really able to captalise on all of that history that we have that is so rich.”
The Minister pointed to Barbados’ historic records, dating back to 1635 and onwards, as an avenue that allowed the island to map its political and social history in a meaningful way and for locals and tourists to trace their roots in instances where their own records had been lost.
“I think that is something that we have that we are now going to be able to sell to the world,” Senator Munro-Knight added.
The Minister was able to view a copy of the 1834 Emancipation Act; the 1955 Birth Records, showing the record of Dr. Velma Scantlebury – the first black person to do an organ transplant in the United States of America; the Barbados Annual Review Magazine, published during World War II, and the Deeds Record, showing the purchase of Newton Plantation by Samuel Newton in 1662.
The touring party also examined the Inventory of Personal Effects. Also on display was the Health Commissioners’ Minute Book, which showed the minutes of the May 7, 1902 eruption of the La Soufriere Volcano in St. Vincent that resulted in a Health Crisis in Barbados, and the Panama Register of Barbadians, who migrated to work on the canal.
Mrs. Thompson said, over the years, the department had evolved from doing things manually to microfilm, and now digitally, with the ongoing Digitisation of Records Project.
“We want to move into a digital age because the record is not only paper…everybody is speaking about electronic records and digital records, and so on. So, we want to move to the 21st Century, so you are going to be hearing a lot of things from us in the coming months and I am very optimistic…. I am sure that Minister Munro-Knight is going to give whatever assistance, along with PS Wiltshire, in terms of moving the Archives from a manual system into the digital age and into the 21st Century,” she underlined.
The Chief Archivist noted that with the island’s transition to a Republic, it was important that its historic records be preserved for generations to come.