International Archives Day in Trinidad and Tobago

International Archives Day logo

International Archives Day is celebrated every year on the 9th of June. Though most countries have a National Archives Day or in the case of Trinidad and Tobago an Archives Awareness Week, the International Council of Archives found it imperative to create this day. Launched at their annual General Meeting in November 2007, the date June 9th was chosen as it is the birthday of the International Council of Archives since it was created under the auspices of UNESCO.

The International Council of Archives hopes that by celebrating International Archives Day they can increase awareness on the importance of archives and to illustrate that they are not only limited to use by historians. They state that through International Archives Day, they can:

  • Raise awareness among the public of the importance of records and archives, in order to make it understood that records and archives provide the foundation for their rights and identity
  • Raise the awareness of senior decision makers of the benefits of records management for good governance and development
  • Raise the public, private and public sectors’ awareness of the necessity of preserving archives for the long-term, and of providing access to them
  • Promote and bring to attention of the larger public unique, extraordinary and rare documents preserved in archival institutions
  • Improve the image of records and archives and enhance their visibility globally

The history of the National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago can be traced back to disastrous fire at the Red House in 1903. However, a formal National Archives was not established until the Schellenberg and Black Report of 1958. Two of the most important recommendations produced by this Report included the creation of an archival institutionand the appointment of a Government Archivist. These recommendations were implemented in 1960 and Mr. Enos Sewlal was appointed as the first Government Archivist. Since 1960 there have been four Government Archivists namely:

  • Enos Sewlal 1960-1979
  • Edwina Peters 1985-1999
  • Helena Leonce 2000-2010
  • Avril Belfon 2010 – present

Located at 105 St. Vincent Street Port of Spain since 1970, the National Archives of St Vincent StreetTrinidad and Tobago has undergone numerous changes and is the home of numerous significant documents relating to the history of Trinidad and Tobago. Most notably the National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago is known for housing two collections that have been inscribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World that is the Registry of Slaves of the British Caribbean 1817 – 1834 and the Indentureship Records of the Indian Indentured Labourers. However, numerous other historical gems can be found at the National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago.

Did you know that the oldest running newspaper in Trinidad and Tobago is the Catholic News which began in in 1892 and is still in publication to date? Newspapers such as the Catholic News, the Port of Spain Gazette, San Fernando Gazette, Trinidad Guardian, Sporting Chronicle also locally published Chinese, Spanish and East Indian Newspapers can be viewed at the National Archives.

Apart from newspapers, the National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago also houses a Rare Book Collection which includes the Starks Guide to Trinidad and Tobago by J.H. Stark, History of Trinidad Volumes I and II by Lionel Mordaunt Fraser, Fiver Years Residence in the West Indies by Charles Day and At Last: Christmas in the West Indies by Charles Kingsley. Other notable documents which can be found at the National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago include, the Publications of the Historical Society of Trinidad and Tobago, Judgement Books, Ordinances and Laws, Trinidad Royal Gazettes (later known as the Trinidad and Tobago Royal Gazette), the Saunders Diaries, the Butler Diaries and an Eric Williams Collection.

Visit the National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago from June 9th – 12th 2015 as we celebrate International Archives Day and view these pieces of our documentary history.

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