Grenada National Archives – Endangered Archives Project

Grenada's Endangered Archives

Grenada’s endangered archives programme (EAP295)

Update: Grenada National Archives – Protection, conservation, access

The threat to archives –

Documentary heritage reflects the diversity of languages, peoples and cultures. It is the mirror of the world and its memory. But this memory is fragile. Every day, irreplaceable parts of this memory disappear for ever.
UNESCO Memory of the World Programme.

Ric Greaves on histories in peril

Sadly very little protection or conservation has been undertaken by Grenada and reconstructing this important and endangered archive relies heavily on a 1968 document produce by E. C. Baker’s called A Guide to Records in the Windward Islands.  Thankfully the Endangered Archived Project number 295, undertaken by the British Library (with the financial support of Arcadia) has now managed to give us a little ‘access’ to at least some 4500 digital images from our existing archives.

Back in 2009 the British Library (with the financial support of Arcadia) began an US$64,000 project to protect and disseminate historical records of pre-industrial societies such as our own.

This British Libraries EAP was part of the US$18.0 million awards of some 41 research grants for records throughout the world, including the Caribbean, which are fast disappearing through neglect, physical deterioration or destruction – the Endangered Archives Programme is aimed at safeguarding some of this documentary heritage world-wide. The entire programme now has over one million images available online!  They have new online collections every month which has taken the total number of images available in our collections over this one million mark. These collections come from India (EAP201), Lesotho in Southern Africa (EAP279), Mongolia (EAP529) and finally our own Grenada (EAP295).

A word of caution – this wonderful project has not ‘saved’ the heritage assets of the Grenadian people or its National Archives. Far from it. The EAP has merely conserved, in digital format alone, a small proportion of this heritage. We are grateful for that much but the very documents themselves are still in tremendous danger of being completely lost to all for all time because of the continuing conditions they are under and what is not being done to restore, conserve, preserve and protect them.

Although 132 volumes of deed records and local government correspondence were identified in Grenada, the EAP295 Project had to remain modest in conception and rooted in practicality – it was not aimed at promoting theoretical advances in archival management or cutting-edge technology in digital preservation – it was about quick achieving result on the ground.

Project EAP295 began with two weeks of digital photography under a team from the University of Manchester led by Dr Laurence Brown and photographer James W Robinson which took place in November 2010.  This was only a part of the unique historical archives of our island, material which provides a micro-vision of how Grenada was transformed in the late eighteenth century by imperial conflicts, the expansion of plantation slavery and revolutionary politics.

The two main sources of records are from Government House and the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court records reveal the multi-racial alliances and conflicts that marked slave society while the Government House correspondence shows the local negotiations and conflicts that shaped the prolonged transition to a free society during the mid-nineteenth century.

During Hurricane Ivan in 2004 the Grenada Public library (our National Archives) lost part of its roof and the Government House correspondence became displaced and out of order. There was no item-level index of this material so series P material needed to be ordered chronologically then digitisation focused primarily on those works which were seen as the most fragile due to their age or unbound condition. This greatly hampered the project which needed to have material chronologically reordered before digitising could take place.

Just Twelve Volumes Rescued

The project focused on digitising just twelve volumes and files of Governor and Lieutenant-Governor’s correspondence covering the period 1764-1879 and the Letter Books of the Administrator and Colonial Secretary (series P) because these were far more fragmented than the Governor’s correspondence.

The material at the Supreme Court Registry was far better preserved than at Government House as it was relatively unaffected by Hurricane Ivan. Loose-leaf documents previously identified as connected to the eighteenth century French Deeds formed the initial focus of in situ digitisation in the Supreme Court Registry. Many of the bound volumes of French Deeds identified by the project required such extensive preservation and conservation work that their digitisation would have destroyed their physical structure. By stabilising their storage and digitising those materials in the Supreme Court Registry which were already fragmentary or fragile, the project was able to make a significant step towards its original aims.

Digitisation also continued in the Supreme Court Registry on the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registers for St Georges and records related to Forfeited Estates, 1794-1802. During this time one of the Archival researchers employed by the project cleaned, sorted and ordered the French Deed bound volumes and unbound materials.

The material at the Supreme Court Registry was far better preserved than at Government House as it was relatively unaffected by Hurricane Ivan in September of 2004. Loose-leaf documents previously identified as connected to the eighteenth century French Deeds formed the initial focus of in situ digitisation in the Supreme Court Registry.  Digitisation also covered some of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registers.

1 Image 3

A total of 4589 pages were finally digitised, indexed, catalogued and a full list of digitised documents now available online are:

EAP295/1
“Holding of Government House are listed in Baker (1968), pp. 14-18. After Hurricane Ivan, around half this material has survived, with particularly heavy loses of documents from the late 1800s and first half of the twentieth century. Digitisation focused on the earliest surviving records of Government House”.

EAP295/1/2
“Holding of Government House are listed in Baker (1968), pp. 14-18. After Hurricane Ivan, around half this material has survived, with particularly heavy loses of documents from the late 1800s and first half of the twentieth century. Digitisation focused on the earliest surviving records of Government House”.

EAP295/2
The earliest court records held by the Grenada Supreme Court Registry is for the period 1762-1785.

Unbound French legal document.

Note: Arcadia is a grant-making fund established in 2001. Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin form the Donor Board. Peter Baldwin is Chair of the Donor Board. The fund was formerly the Lisbet Rausing Charitable Fund. As of September 2013 Arcadia had awarded grants of more than $243 million.

Remember to check out the latest by joining our Facebook Group at Grenada’s Endangered Archives
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