I agree with the topic and theme of your editorial of Nov. 15 titled “Culture is key in recovery.” To that I might add that records, written and oral, are key to culture and therefore should be key in recovery. Indeed, the entire two columns of the editorial indirectly expounded the fact that records are key to culture.
You see, our forbears of the 17th and 18th centuries contributed immensely to the world’s economy. In fact, they were “masters” of the economy. They may not have left written records themselves, yet in a true sense they were creators of those records. They were themselves the records, and we need to re-connect with them.
The figures of the Leeward Islands 18th Century Blue Books are not just statistics. Behind the figures are subtexts of lives lived out in the slave quarters of the plantations. Everyday incidents and routines tell remarkable stories of our forbears. That legacy and more recent legacies belong to succeeding generations, and it is the duty of archives and archivists to provide access and reconnect so that we may have the opportunity to immerse ourselves into the “mess” of matter: the raw materials and the records of our history. Only then will the community find its cultural, spiritual and national soul.
But how much emphasis was given to records in the Recovery to Development Plan? None. There was an ad hoc adjunct of “archives” to “central library” seemingly without really understanding the function of either and therefore engendering no real commitment. Did anyone sense any commitment there?
That is why the recently published book, De-Colonising the Caribbean Record (edited by Jeannette Bastian, John Aarons and Stanley Griffin with contributors including this writer) is so timely for the Caribbean generally but especially for us here in the Virgin Islands still suffering from post-Irma trauma. It is now imperative for the authorities to re-focus on the importance of records and archives in the overall restoration and renaissance process.
The book is more than a Caribbean reader to support the graduate archives programme of the University of the West Indies. It lays high emphasis on the role of Caribbean archives and Caribbean archivists in nation building. It shows how to mainstream archives as a tool for national development. It explains the need to re-define the role of the national archives in modern society and to include it as an objective in national development plans.
The concept of utilising the archives directly for national development is challenging, but it offers a positive course for development: improving economic and administration management; broadening administrative ability through records management services; and furthering social and economic progress. The book calls for individual nations to own, control and utilise such an all-encompassing resource. It is a book for everyone who genuinely celebrates heritage, history and culture.