National Archives completes conservation of Cleghorn Journals

From the National Archives

ST. KITTS – The National Archives has just completed a project of conservation on the Cleghorn Journals, a set of six journals produced in 1835 and 1836 by Ralph Cleghorn, a stipendiary magistrate who was born in St. Kitts and educated in England.

St. Kitts is unique in the Caribbean in that it has a collection of 23 of these journals produced by five different magistrates. The value of these records lies in the fact that for the first time, the formerly enslaved were able to take a case to court if they felt aggrieved by the way they were treated within the work place.

The conservation of the journals is actually a part of a larger on-going project. Dr. Tara Inniss, a lecturer in the Department of History at University of the West Indies, Cavehill, was on a visit to St. Kitts in 2015 when she suggested that, given their rarity, the volumes would be a good basis for fresh explorations into the post-emancipation period. She made the case to UWI for funding to digitize, transcribe and conserve the journals with a view to produce eventually an edited publication. Work on digitization started in 2016 and was soon completed. Transcription was undertaken by Ernest Wiltshire in Canada, who generously donated his fees toward the conservation of the journals.

In 2017, a workshop on digital preservation brought Nerys Rudder, a conservator from Barbados, to St. Kitts as a facilitator. She did an assessment of the journals and was given the task of conserving them. The funds from the UWI project covered most of the costs. The remainder was raised locally through the intervention of Governor-General His Excellency Sir Tapley Seaton, who secured a grant from the SIDF for the National Archives to complete the work on the journals and also to repair the original “Register of Slaves 1817.”

The journals were sent to Barbados for treatment and are now back in St. Kitts. Work on the publication is ongoing, and work on the Register of Slaves, which was on exhibition during the Christmas period, is scheduled to start later this year.

The National Archives wishes to record its appreciation to the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) for its timely assistance in financing the conservation of our history and heritage for present and future generations.