Grenada’s endangered archives programme (EAP295)
Update: Following a Hurricane – Hope For Our Heritage
by Laurence Brown staff of History department at the University of Manchester (UK)
In collaboration with the University of the West Indies, Dr Laurence Brown is engaged in a project to digitise and preserve the unique historical archives of our island of Grenada (in the Eastern Caribbean). The September 2004 Hurricane ‘Ivan‘ destroyed our Government House and many of our the other public buildings on the island causing substantial losses of historical records dating back to the 1760s, and the displacement and deterioration of surviving material.
Historically Grenada was at the intersection of the British and French Empires during the second half of the eighteenth century, and the surviving records provide a rare vision of how the societies of the Caribbean experienced the revolutionary 1790s and later transition from slavery to emancipation.
Grenadians feel that their government ministers care very little for their heritage
Grenadians feel that their government ministers care very little for their heritage – especially when millions were found to build the new ‘nutmeg’ shaped parliament building – yet nothing could be done to repair or protect the National Archives housed in the hurricane damaged National Library building on the Carenage waterfront:
Our National Library and Archives, a World Heritage listed building of old brick, once a shipping warehouse from the early colonial period – totally inadequate and inappropriate for it’s current role now stands closed and since hurricane Ivan of September of 2004 it’s roof had looked like this…
This elegant Georgian building with civic proportions is the property of the Grenadian people, like every other State property; and is maintained or refurbished, as the case may be, by the government of the day.
The building was constructed circa 1720 in brick and stone with its fish scale clay tile roof, and was originally used as a merchant’s office on the first floor and a warehouse at ground level. Up to 1985 the warehouse remained functional, as the metal rails on the ground floor which conveyed the commodities on large metal trolleys across the road, to and from the storeroom (warehouse) to large wooden “lighters,” were still in existence. In the early days the lighters were berthed up to the water’s edge, which took the commodities to and from the waiting cargo ships in the outer harbour, as there was no pier in the inner harbour at that time.
From about 1950, through the tireless effort of then Acting Librarian – the late Sheila Buckmire (nee’ St. Bernard wife of barrister F. L. A. Buckmire), the interior of the first floor of the building was remodelled to house the Public Library, and much later in 1986 the warehouse on the ground floor was included for library purposes, as the need for such services expanded.
In about 1985 the government received funding from the European Union, and the interior of the entire building — (Ground and First floor), was redesigned and repaired together with exterior walls and roof, and became the Grenada Public Library building.
Twenty-seven (27) years on, as far as we’re aware, no major maintenance by the Ministry of Works was undertaken, the effects of which, has resulted in the building now designated as “not fit for human occupancy”, and was abandoned in July 2011.