The St. Kitts-Nevis Observer
No. 808 • April 23, 2010
 
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National Archives Unveils New Website, Slave Registry Inscription

 

UNESCO National Commission Secretary General Antonio Maynard presents the certificate attesting to the inscription of the St. Kitts Registry of Slaves into UNESCO's Memory of the World Register to Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas.
 
History took center stage during the dual celebration of the inscription of the St. Kitts Registry of Slaves into UNESCO's Memory of the World Register, and the launching of the Web site, 'Basseterre, Past and Present, tomorrow' (www.historicbasseterre.com), on Tuesday afternoon, April 20, at the National Information Communication Technology (ICT) Centre.

Among those attending the event were His Excellency the Governor General Sir Cuthbert Sebastian, Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas, Minister of Education and Information Nigel Carty, and UNESCO National Commission Secretary General Antonio Maynard.

"If people did not know that St, Kitts had historical records, then we wanted to show them that we do in a way that was interesting," said National Archivist Victoria Borg-O'Flaherty, addressing the creation of the historical Web site.

"What better way then, to tell a story, or in this case several stories, and then show some of the sources of the information? Histories and some of the records connected with them will be online for students to use, in the hope of encouraging research into local history."

"But education does not stop with graduation," she continued, "and we hope that we can also get the attention of adults who might not have had the opportunity to lean Kittitian history in school. In public forums we often heard people complain that they have never been taught this kind of history in school. We have now made a start in making it available."

Borg-O'Flaherty also explained that archivists from around the world recognized the value of their slave registers. She was eventually tasked with developing one proposal submission to the regional UNESCO Memory of the World Committee on behalf of the region. The success of the proposal and its acceptance led to the development of the Web site.

The Archivist equated the slave registries listing with having a UNESCO World Heritage Site registration, the only difference being that the former is specific to records and libraries. Some of the actual slave registry records were available for viewing by attendees.

According to Borg-O'Flaherty, the St. Kitts Registry was originally established as a reaction to the 1817 abolition of the slave trade. The first registry was formulated in that year. Registries were used as a tool by abolitionists to ensure that no new slaves were smuggled in to the territory.

The Web site displays images showing the changes in Basseterre over the years. There are many stored pictures from the St. Kitts collection, in addition to clippings from newspapers, and other items. The site is a work in progress, with information being uploaded on a consistent basis.

UNESCO established the Memory of the World Programme in 1992 to guard against "collective amnesia" by calling for the preservation of valuable archive holdings and library collections all over the world to ensure their wide dissemination.

 
 
 
 
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