Some of SVG’s historic information has been recorded digitally
EDITOR: I read with interest the article about St Vincent’s historic documents held in the High Court Registry (Searchlight, January 31, 2020, p. 4). It is certainly true that the storage conditions are extremely poor, and that the historic records held there are in a bad state and deteriorating over time. And, as the lawyer who raised the issue in Searchlight commented, there is also significant risk of their damage or destruction in the short-term, as termites can wreak havoc in only a brief period. The preservation of these records – which contain much unique, unpublished information about St Vincent’s history – is a matter that deserves immediate attention.
More positively however, it may interest your readers to know that in recent years there has been an ongoing project to photograph these documents and so preserve the information that they hold. This project has been funded by the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) – a scheme that operates worldwide, and which has included projects on a number of places in the Caribbean.
The project for St Vincent has been ongoing since 2013. The EAP has awarded over £40,000 of funding to this project, which has enabled the digital photography of most of the historic documents
within the jurisdiction of the High Court Registry up to the year 1840. This includes many documents in Court House, as well as others that are stored in the National Archive.
The project has been carried out by Professor Kenneth Morgan (Brunel University, London) and myself, (an independent scholar who has managed other EAP projects on Anguilla and Nevis). The Registry has provided permission, facilities and cooperation to enable the work to take place, and most of the photography has been undertaken by Vincentians.
The project is nearing completion, with much of the material already freely accessible to view on the EAP’s website (eap. bl.uk – search for projects 345, 688 and 1013). Copies of this same digital material have also been provided to the National Archive.
Thus, while the documents in the High Court Registry still remain physically at risk and warrant urgent preservations efforts, I am pleased to inform your readers that much of the historic information held there has now been recorded digitally, and is now available online for all to see.
Dr Andrew Pearson Independent scholar, Archaeologist and Historian UK