NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
As a graduate student studying archives it is easy to get caught up the national industry and national issues that affect archives and the historic community in the United States. It is easy to forget that many other countries contribute to archival theory and are as interested in collecting and saving the heritage of their countries as American repositories.
As a first generation American I find myself to be not only interested in the history and national collections of the United States but from my parents’ home country, Trinidad and Tobago.
Trinidad and Tobago is a twin island Caribbean nation off the coast of Venezuela. The islands have a colonial history, which has left the mark of a myriad of European countries. Trinidad and Tobago was also an immigrant destination which promoted numbers of Chinese and Indian immigrants to ascend on the island to run plantations. These events have created a nation with a rich cultural, social and political history.
Shortly before Trinidad and Tobago gained its independence in 1962 they contacted U.S. archivist Dr. T. R. Schellenberg as a consultant to develop a national archive for the island nation. In 1958 Dr. Schellenberg was asked by the Trinidadian government to:
- Do a comprehensive survey
- Provide guidance to develop collecting practices for the country
- Establish an archive
- Create policies for the archive and
- Develop an education program to properly inform the public about the functions and importance of a national archive.
Many of the recommendations of Schellenberg were implemented and since 1960 the archive has served as a national repository and is listed as a government service.
According to the official website the National Archive of Trinidad and Tobago:
- Acquires public and private records of enduring value regardless of format.
Cares for and preserve records acquired according to international archival standards.
Provides guidance and technical advice on the management of public records.
Provides secondary storage facilities to Government Ministries, Agencies and Departments for semi-active records.
Provides access to information from our holdings through our Reference Facility.
Provides advice on the preservation of records, including disaster recovery.
The archive has eight major record groups. They are:
- Reference Library
- Special Collection
- State Records
I found it interesting that even though the country is very small, (with a population of almost two million people), they only had gathered enough material to create these very broad categories which could potentially serve large numbers of people for various reasons.
I recently watched a documentary by Trinidadian filmmaker Richard Fung entitled “Dal Puri Diaspora.” In the film Fung was able to use the National Archive to find immigration records for Indian immigrants in order to trace their passage from places like Calcutta to Trinidad. The information he found there supported his notion that traditional Indian foods were brought over from India and have heavily impacted the food culture of Trinidad and Tobago.
Of the record groups that the repository has I would assume that their immigration records are among the most popular, primarily because of their enormous research value.
For more information about the National Archive of Trinidad and Tobago visit: http://www.natt.gov.tt/index.aspx
For more information about Richard Fung’s documentary visit: http://www.richardfung.ca/index.php?/scv/dal-puri-diaspora/