Our National Archives

Case study: Lost of Grenada National Archives-Library, Carenage, Saint George’s
List entry number: 0019

Grenada National Archives abandoned.
Grenada National Archives abandoned.

Background and History

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.

Originally constructed circa 1720, the brick and stone building with fish scale clay tile roof, was first 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. The building survived, the great fire of March 1772, those of the Insurrection of 1795, and the many more recent close quarter fires of 1980, 1981, 1990, 2002 and 2005.

Although as far back as 1846 Grenada established a library, it was from about 1950, through the tireless effort of Librarian – the late Sheila Buckmire nee’ St. Bernard, 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 and archival purposes, as the need for such services expanded.

Unknown to many, in 1985, the government of the day 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. However just twenty-seven years on no major maintenance, especially not since hurricane Ivan (in 2004), has been undertaken by the Ministry of Works was undertaken – resulting in the building now designated as “not fit for human occupancy”, and was abandoned in July 2011.

Is It at Risk?

Yes, the building has been on the Heritage at Risk Register since 2004. The building had its roof damaged and the top floor structure with its vault has since suffered from rot and damp. Upper parts of the building houses most of the valuable ancient archived materials and is under great threat of loss from the elements.

The building is far from adequate as a secure archival environment and is always at risk from fire (many have happened over the Carenage’s history and from seasonal storms and even hurricanes, as we are far to well aware of.

What’s the Current Situation?

Tragically the building has been vacated and closed since 18 July 2011, a long time since the contents of the building would not have seen the light of day, with the resulting deterioration of the irreplaceable archival material contained therein, and the loss of a large component of our documented history, which does not seem to be of concern to the powers that be.

Grenada is a signatory to the World Heritage Convention, and the Public Library building, along with York House, Government  House and the Market Square — as with so many others of our built heritage and sites, appear to have fallen through the cracks, as the powers that be, appear not to be concerned in upholding the requirements of the convention, to the detriment of our natural and cultural heritage.

For the current status check-out our page at Grenada’s Endangered Archives.

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