Plans are apace to make the National Archives exciting and fun. This disclosure was made recently by Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Dr Frank Anthony, who revealed that efforts are currently being made to expand the holdings of the archives and move it into the 21st Century.
And there is much to be done, he said, given the fact that many persons feel that an archive is nothing other than a boring place.
“We want people to be able to learn about their history and not be intimidated by the records that we have here. Therefore, we recognise that there is need for the archive to be more visible in presenting itself.”
Moreover, over the past few years, the National Archives has set aside a few special days when people can visit and learn more about the facility. In fact, according to the Minister, “persons can come in and see what we do. We are exposing the archives to school children and other persons who might have interest in research.” This strategic move, he said, has lent to a growing interest in the National Archives, evident by the number of persons often seen entering and browsing at the materials contained within the facility on a daily basis. Several persons, he noted, have been accessing the records at the archives for their own research, a development that will be effectively boosted.
The Minister related that while the use of the facility has been very encouraging he was not pleased with the holdings. For this reason, he said that constant efforts were made over the years directed to expand the facility.
However, as fate would have it, just last year officials at the National Archives became aware that there were some records in Berbice that were not of the best of conditions and were most suitable for archival use.
“We sent out a team and we were able to bring those records in to the Archive. We have been doing that kind of extension work…looking for records locally, wherever they exist and once they are of a certain age we bring them in, sort them out, catalogue them and have them available for researchers.”
And while efforts are being made locally to boost the resource capacity of the National Archives, Minister Anthony asserted no little effort is being made to collaborate with external agencies as well in this regard. Accordingly, he noted that his Ministry has been strategically encouraging partnerships with a number of archives around the world, with one of the primary archives being the Archives of the Netherlands with which the local National Archives has been in constant correspondence over the past few years. Just last week this collaboration saw the local facility being endowed with a quantity of digitised maps from during the Dutch colonial reign.
However, the Minister expressed confidence that the recent endowment does not represent an end to the collaboration but rather is one of the many partnership steps that are planned. “We will see this collaboration grow…We are exploring other areas of collaboration and co-operation with the Netherlands and we feel that we can benefit from those experiences.”
At present, about five percent of the collections at the National Archives dates back to the 18 century, which is regarded as the Dutch colonial period.
According to Director of Culture within the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, Dr James Rose, it was around 2004 that Guyana was given an opportunity to become part of the Dutch Atlantic Heritage Committee. This, he said, was a project that attempted to integrate colonial Dutch holdings. “It was not an attempt to re-establish the Dutch imperial system but to consolidate, preserve and promote Dutch Cultural traditions along the Atlantic. Out of that grew the Mutual Cultural Heritage Unit…” And according to Dr Rose, the Netherlands has always expressed an interest in the local archival holdings. In doing so, the state of the holdings was considered as well as the possibility of preserving the holdings and the sharing of the knowledge contained in the holdings. The interest exhibited by the Dutch nation was strong enough to have a team travel to Guyana in 2006 to offer a better understanding of their operation. And because of the kind of relationship that has been fostered, Guyana will have unimpeded access to all digitised materials across the Dutch Atlantic, Dr Rose has asserted.
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