It is extremely disturbing to read that persons believed to be associated with a publishing company have been combing through the newspaper records in the Walter Rodney Archives, formerly the National Archives, and have been making copies of Kaieteur News articles dating back to 2008.
This is a worrying development in three respects. Firstly, the records of the National Archives are not intended to be made available to any Tom, Dick and Harry. These are historical records that are required to be preserved for posterity and are not like the newspaper records kept at the National Library, which can be easily assessed to source some desired information.
The records of the National Archives should be sparingly used by John Public and their use should be restricted to specified research purposes, and that should not include persons trying to obtain records about articles published in a newspaper of recent vintage, purportedly to pursue legal proceedings.
This is not what archives are about. They are primarily for research purposes, mainly academic research or research related to historical sources of information.
Secondly, for copies to be made of hundreds of articles is subjecting the records of the archives to unusual exposure, something that should not occur given the need to preserve these fragile documents.
One of the problems with using historical records within the National Archives is the high degree of physical deterioration of the records because of poor preservation in the past. The result is that as you browse through old historic newspapers, the pages can easily become torn or crumble to dust in your hands. This is how bad things have become with Guyana’s historical records.
Most modern archives keep backup microfilm copies of newspaper articles. This allows researchers to browse through these records without physically damaging the originals. Newspaper records dating back to 2008 will still be crisp and in pristine shape. But they should still be handled with care and under expert supervision and tight security, since they have to be preserved for posterity and for eventual microfilming and referencing.
Guyana has a far way to go in terms of the microfilming of its historic records and it is hoped that in next year’s Budget the parliament approves considerable sums to accelerate this process which has begun, but which needs to move faster. Guyana cannot afford to have its records deteriorate further.
There is also the issue of security. Many researchers have hinted that in the past, persons using the archives were at liberty to tear out pages that interested them, fold these pages, and walk out of the archives with primary source documents in their pockets, oblivious to the staff at the then National Archives, when it was on Main Street. This is one of the main reasons why access to the new Walter Rodney Archives should be restricted and persons using the archives should be subject to careful scrutiny and undergo some orientation as to how to use the records.
The third concern about what is reported to have taken place in relation to those who are digging up material on Kaieteur News is that any request for access to use the archives’ records of Kaieteur News newspaper dating back to 2008 should have been denied. As mentioned before, seeking information that is only five years old cannot be deemed historical research and therefore should not have been allowed.
There is also another reason why access to information relating to Kaieteur News should have been denied. There are other sources where this information can be easily available. The National Library, for example, will have records of Kaieteur News. Those requesting use of the archives should have been referred to that source.
But there is even a better source available and one that allows for electronic search options. The archives of the Kaieteur News are online and go back to 2008. Therefore, why waste time going through page by page of volumes of Kaieteur News newspapers, when whatever information that is being sought can be easily had, and at the click of a computer mouse, by accessing the World Wide Web.
It is bewildering that persons would want to go through newspaper by newspaper when whatever information they are seeking can be accessed more cheaply and quickly on the Internet. If there is any article that you want that was published by Kaieteur News over the past five years, that article is online and in an easy-to-navigate format and with search options available.
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