The British Virgin Islands is in danger of losing centuries of historical documents, which are currently housed in a structurally unsound building in Road Town.
Chief Records Management Officer Christopher Varlack said the territory has documents that are more than 200 years old that need to be secured ahead of the 2018 hurricane season, which is forecast to be active.
He said his department already took a beating during the onslaught of hurricanes Irma and Maria on the territory last September.
“In terms of what was lost … there are many records that should become archives that won’t become archives because they were damaged significantly,” Varlack said.
Documents date back to 1700s
But, the records management chief said his department didn’t only lose undocumented material.
He said the hurricanes damaged the department’s Burnhym Building headquarters in Road Town and made off with a number of archival material.
“We lost a few materials from our main office where we had current archives stored. I would say roughly about three to five percent of those materials.”
“In terms of the older archives that date back to the late 1700s, we didn’t lose any. However, that does not discount that we do have some structural issues with that building and we need to ensure that those records are kept safe because that is really the nucleus of archival material that we have here — the oldest, most ancient records that we have here in the territory and those need to be preserved by any needs necessary,” Varlack told journalists last week.
National Library needed
He was speaking at a press conference with a regional expert from the Caribbean Branch of the International Council on Archives (CARBICA), Valérie Martens-Monier.
Martens-Monier was in the territory conducting a survey of buildings and records collections in the territory.
Ahead of her report on the findings, the CARBICA representative concurred that the roof of the building that houses the Archives Management Unit needs urgent attention.
She also made other recommendations.
“One need is definitely that you need a national repository, be it a national archive and maybe a national library as well.”
While responding to the recommendations, Varlack agreed that the territory needs a national library.
“The stage we are now in our development, it’s time. We’ve had many reports written for national archives, national archives repository so it’s not a new proposition whatsoever. But it’s the will, the funding, and just getting it done.”
According to the territory’s proposed recovery plan, government plans to pump some $1.6 million into a national repository.
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