The Establishment of Archives and Records Training in the Caribbean

Article excerpt

The Caribbean region is diverse - comprised of some 23 islands that span from Belize in Central America to Suriname in South America and its recordkeeping development has been influenced by each island's respective colonial heritage. For example, Curacao was influenced by the Dutch's perceived importance of archives and The Netherlands' injection of capital to develop its archives and train archivists. In the English-speaking Caribbean, however, records were either transported to Britain or kept for administrative reasons only and, in some cases, destroyed after active use. Any thrust toward developing an infrastructure for records' preservation in their natural habitat was postponed for lack of funds. It was not until the 1950s that a strong move toward developing archives on the islands began. During this time an archivist was appointed in Jamaica, and he traveled to Trinidad and Barbados to survey the existing archives and make recommendations for their storage, the training of an archivist, and for accompanying legislation.

Another milestone occurred in 1965 when the government of Jamaica and the University of the West Indies (UWI) cooperated to convene the Caribbean Archives Conference, bringing together archivists from within and outside the Caribbean to discuss how to make available the source materials needed for the study of West Indian history. An attempt was made at this conference to assess archival development in the Caribbean countries, to reach agreement regarding the care and use of archival materials, and to consider the operation of archival agencies and records management in countries that did not have any archival agency. Among the initiatives that started after this conference were the Reproduction and Exchange of Archival Material relating to Caribbean Countries and the establishment of a Caribbean Historical Association.

Despite the enthusiasm and fervor displayed at that conference, it was not until the late 1980s that the university reaffirmed its commitment to the promotion of archives and funding was set aside for the recruitment of an experienced archivist. In 1991, the university established an integrated archives and records management certificate program under the direction of a university archivist based at the Jamaica campus, which was followed by similar programs on the Trinidad and Barbados campuses.

The UWI archivist felt that the university's first thrust should be within the area of records management in order to set the stage for the accrual of records of enduring value. He established a summer school training program that provided an introduction to records management and instruction in managing the records life cycle, administration of records management programs, and records management technologies.

Training was also extended to departments and faculties to ensure that there was efficient control and maintenance of active records and that the records of enduring value of those departments accrued to the archives. …