PART A – ESSENTIAL INFORMATION
The Barbados & Museum Historical Society’s collection of Caribbean
Slavery Heritage constitutes a unique corpus of documentary evidence,
including antique legal documents, plantation ledgers, estate and
shipping inventories, rare books and original prints and paintings,
relating to the lives of enslaved Caribbean people throughout the 17th
to the 19th centuries. Issues of leadership, control, ownership and
status amongst Afro-Caribbean populations are all explicitly illuminated
in this context.
It is in trying to understand this society with its stereotypes and
contradictions that records can help to illuminate the past and fill in
the gaps, for although within the last forty years, West Indian history
has been ‘Caribbeanized’ by local scholars and institutions
reversing a 19th century tradition of interpreting Barbadian events as a
Caribbean projection of English events, still more research remains to
be done. Instead of assuming a simple transmigration of social and
political behaviour from metropolis to colony, these documents provide
irrefutable evidence of the symbiosis which developed between the two.
Such research is enabled by the ability to access and analyse extant
documents which have been preserved for that express purpose.
Additionally the loss of family history, the absence of “ancestral
memory”, among the majority of the Caribbean, African and African
American people, whose ancestors had little control over their own
destiny or direction, has meant a loss of cultural identity. Access to
these records could serve to help recover the lost heritage of millions
DETAILS OF THE NOMINATOR
Barbados Museum & Historical Society
Repository and owner of the nominated collection
Ms. Alissandra Cummins (Director)
St. Ann's Garrison, St. Michael, Barbados
Phone 1-246 – 436-1956, Fax 1-246-429-5946
IDENTITY AND DESCRIPTION OF THE DOCUMENTARY HERITAGE
The BMHS collection of Transatlantic Slavery Archives constitutes a unique corpus of documentary evidence, including antique legal documents, plantation ledgers, estate inventories, rare books and original prints and paintings, relating to the lives of enslaved people whose labour made Barbados “ the first successful English Slave Plantation society in the New World” [G.A. Puckerin , 1984]. Forcibly transferred from Africa to the Caribbean under the aegis of the British Empire, in an iniquitous system which inextricably binds their descendants into an unending pattern of relationships, the influence of this atrocious system of human bondage has pervaded the very fabric of today’s society worldwide. Throughout the 17th to the 19th centuries issues of leadership, control, ownership and status amongst these global populations are all explicitly illuminated in this context. This heritage can assist in the articulation of an integrated sense of the political and social evolution of New World plantation communities and their impact on modern social patterns.
The museum’s collection comprises some 17 categories of material, which can facilitate research into that enslaved past and the society that it created, not only in Barbados. It can as well illuminate Barbados’ further influence on the development of the Trans Atlantic Economic complex. Historians like Beckles and others have noted that Barbados was the blueprint upon which the Trans Atlantic plantation complex was based and the documents housed within the museum’s collection allude to this. These include:
1 – Letters and Correspondence
There are letters relating to affairs of plantation life, which may provide insight into the attitudes and belief systems of slave owners, how they treated their slaves, and other everyday master / slave interactions. Correspondence affords insights into the mindset of absentee planters’ residing in the metropolis and their relationship to the property that underwrote their wealth and the luxurious lifestyle they enjoyed in England. These documents track the evolution of a medieval patriarchal society to a purely economic association
2 - Estate Plans and land allotments
As well as highlighting the spatial layout of plantations, these can be used by archaeologists to locate buildings of interest on a landscape which no longer retains their presence above ground, as well as assist in the location of slave housing, and burial grounds with their accompanying artifacts providing a direct diasporic linkage. The map collection of the Barbados Museum contains a sizeable collection of estate plans, which show drawings of plantations and how these properties were allocated. These can provide information on estate ownership, relationship between master and enslaved, allocation of lands and size of estates.
3 - Accounts Ledgers
Accounts or Plantation ledgers provide an informative background to the nature of the plantation enterprise, which was at the centre of the slave system. They are detailed accounts books, showing income and expenditure for each plantation, and in some cases included schedules of slaves. These schedules listed the slaves on the respective plantations, and gave particulars of name, sex, colour (whether black or coloured), employment, age, country of origin, and cause of increase or decrease (deaths and births). Furthermore the slave schedule may also point to the demography of slave populations, in terms of whether they were predominantly Creole or African, how enslaved persons of different sex and age were utilized for effective labour on the plantation, and of the presence of a mulatto population on the plantation and their treatment. The ledgers can at times account for the removal of enslaved persons to other territories. As Barbados became the model for the establishment of enslaved labour within the Western Hemisphere, this system of documentation formed the blueprint upon which other such estates were based.
4 – Deeds and Wills
In the various deeds listed, one can acquire a sense of the manner in which enslaved peoples were seen and treated as property, and as being part and parcel of the plantation system. Individuals were being transferred or loaned to friends and family members, as well as illustrating that slaves were sold to settle debts, given as “gifts”, or at times the sale of these persons was instituted as part of a mortgage agreement for a plantation or estate. In rare instances, this collection may provide historical data related to the location, identification and naming of some Caribbean families, as planters from Barbados, involved in the establishment of plantations and plantocracies in other colonies, invariably took slaves from their plantations in Barbados with them when they settled and established plantations in other colonies such as Guiana, Jamaica and indeed North America.
5 - Bills of Sale
Bills of Sale recorded in the inventory highlight the reality of the movement of enslaved people and in some cases the dislocation of kinship groups in the plantation setting. The several bills listed in the Inventory show the way in which slaves were bought as items in an auction, and receipts issued.
6 - Government Records
Give insight into the decisions made and why, particularly with respect to the treatment and control of slaves as commodities or property of the wealthy. They underscore the legislative framework created to ensure the prosperity and security of a plantation society built upon the labour of an enslaved people.
7 – Licenses
Some colonies established methods of restricting or regulating the movement of its enslaved population. This is borne out when one examines the granting of licenses to travel to neighbouring Demerara by Lord Combermere in 1818, and may serve to illustrate the efforts of the Barbados ruling classes to restrain and control their labour force, by placing restrictions on travel.
8 - Church Records
Underscore the control of the Church and its influence in the slave society whether pro or anti slavery. These records also underscore the power of the church in running the day-to-day activities within the colony. The Vestry system was de jure the local government of the parish overseeing infrastructural development, collecting taxes and appointing civil servants in the various parishes under its jurisdiction. These bear records of names closely associated with the system of sugar and slavery. Vestry members were for the most part the most prominent sugar estate owners, and they used their positions to further strengthen their hold on society to their own advantage, resulting in the emergence of what is familiarly known as the plantocracy. It was this oligarchic ruling elite of white plantation owners who would exercise almost complete dominance in the affairs of West Indian islands right up until the early 20th century.
9 - Military Records
At present what few records exist speak to actions taken at times of revolt and rebellion indicating the control and reactionary nature of the enslaver to the enslaved. These are the source for the more open and physical manifestation of the majority’s dissatisfaction with their condition of enslavement.
10 – Conveyances
These records documenting transfers and mortgages of plantations are significant because enslaved people were invariably affected by such occurrences. They were bought and sold as property, with families dislocated and linkages destroyed, and subject to the decisions of planters to buy or sell them as chattel. They also speak to the management, consolidation or dissolution of plantation lands at the death or debt of the owner.
11 - Legislative Records
These records allow the researcher to examine the laws enacted to regulate and control a society founded on the inequity of slavery.
12 – Inventories
Allow the researcher to compile a demographic and occupational picture of enslavement. They provide, as well, a listing of the various job duties on a plantation or in the urban environment.
13 - Slave Registers
These provide insight into the changing nature of ownership on a plantation and the demographic make up of plantation labour, the origin of the enslaved and their respective classification and work duties. Registers also permit the tracking of an individual’s working life on a plantation and in some cases from birth to death.
14 – Publications
The publications in the collection are historical primary documentary materials written contemporaneously, during the time of slavery. They provide intimate perspectives on slavery, affording a glimpse of what slave societies in the West Indies were like. Some of the items include contemporary descriptions of the West Indies during the slavery period, published debates in the British Parliament, speeches from both pro- and anti- slavery lobbyists, official reports, essays on issues related to the slave trade and slavery, articles by prominent leaders of the anti-slavery movement, most notably William Wilberforce, and contemporary histories of the West Indies. Within this collection are rare items including a book describing the management of plantations and slaves written in 1786 by Lascelles et al, a number of the island’s most successful sugar planters. The book allows the reader a glimpse of the mentalité of the enslaver at the early juncture of the Trans - Atlantic slavery plantation economy, especially as it is undertaken by a group of planters that went on to create additional plantations in other colonies in the region.
15 – Other
Interesting information may be inferred that locate the dichotomous relationship of master/enslaved behaviours. There are a number of wills listed in the inventory, wherein reference is made to the bequeathing of land and slaves to certain favoured slaves or apprenticed labourers. In one case a planter bequeaths some property to one of his female apprenticed labourers, and a codicil stating that should she die, the property should be passed on to her son. This peculiar example may suggest the existence of relationships between planter and slave which are not always openly highlighted.
Attached is a list of the BMHS Slave Archive collection.
JUSTIFICATION FOR INCLUSION/ ASSESSMENT AGAINST CRITERIA
The archival records housed at the BMHS are all original and speak to development of the plantation complex on the island coupled with its influence on the plantation complexes developed in The Caribbean and North America. These documents have been largely acquired from the estates for which they were originally produced through donations to the society by the descendants of the original planter families of the island. In some instances documents have been also acquired through acquisition by the collection fund of the society either at auction or through private sale from unimpeachable sources.
In terms of bibliographic references, there are several comprehensive Caribbean bibliographies which contain items produced in the time period considered here. Despite some limitations, these are some of the most important documentary reviews of this material. Most of these are regional in scope. These include:
Ragatz, Lowell.J. - A Guide for the Study of British Caribbean History, 1763-1834, Washington, D.C, 1932
Chandler, M. J – A Guide to Records in Barbados, The University of the West Indies,1965
Cundall, Frank - Bibliography of the West Indies, Excluding Jamaica, Kingston, 1909
Handler, Jerome S. - A Guide to Source Materials for the Study of Barbados History, 1627-1834, Southern Illinois University Press, U.S.A, 1971
Handler, Jerome S. - Supplement to A Guide to Source Materials for the Study of Barbados History, 1627 -1834, John Carter Brown Library and Barbados Museum and Historical Society, 1991
History of the region
An understanding of the Caribbean archives must root itself in the historiography of the Caribbean region if
one is to critically analyze the abundance and or scarcity of particular archives in one part of the region as
jhjhj opposed to another. Within such a framework, one can begin to understand the development of the Western Hemisphere, a development that cannot be appreciated according to Handler without taking into ‘account the state of affairs in the Caribbean.’ (Handler Supplement to A Guide to Source Materials for the Study of Barbados, 1727 – 1834, John Carter Brown Library & The Barbados Museum and Historical Society, 1991, xiiii) The development of the Trans Atlantic Plantation Complex was experimented with, refined and shaped in the sugar revolution of the 1640’s in Barbados. Watts notes that :
“Eventually, a new type of Barbadian sugar-producing estate system emerged, which was more capital intensive and perhaps more efficient than that of Pernumbuco, but which nevertheless retained the classic tropical plantation attributes of raising an alien export crop, for sale in temperate lands, through the use of imported labour.
(The West Indies: Patterns of Development, Culture and Environmental Change since 1492, Cambridge University Press 1980)"
Barbados' success at sugar cultivation made it the blueprint for other islands to follow and during the 18th and 19th centuries the Barbados model became the template on which the Trans - Atlantic World plantation economy was based. This blue print spread as far south as the Guianas and as far north as the Carolinas which were settled by Barbadian planters. It is the first Atlantic economic complex that shapes and influences the development of all other such complexes in the region. The documents of the museum reflect this pioneering economic and legal paradigm shift.
The occurrence of such records in the region is due to one thing – greed. Iberian and Northern European expansion to the " New World" carried with it genocide, land change and re-population. Carried out over a period of some 500 years the second period of transition was characterized by the change in economic development away from 'plunder' to settled economic exploitation. Enemies of Spain gradually realised that economic wealth could be developed not only through ‘letters of marque’ and the non-dependable capture of a Spanish Fleet laden with gold and other items, but through the growth of cash crops to European markets. A market whose appetite for the 'exotic', tantalised through Saharan and eastern trade, was now whetted for the "glories" of the West Indies.
With this desire for new goods, economic agriculture was begun which was to reach its heyday in the development of Economic Botanical gardens - being the Research & Development laboratories of the day. The experiment to realise the potential cash profit of grown primary products exported back to the metropole had begun. The legacy of such a change was to take many guises and is best summed up with the creation of the plantation economy. This economy brought with it the creation of society that according to Sio and others ‘used colour as its barometer’. Its decisions and responses were as much guided by this principle as they were by the accumulation of wealth.
The documents contain some rare pieces such as a book written to describe the management of plantations and slaves written in 1786 by Lascelles et al. The book allows the reader a glimpse of the mentalité of the enslaver at the early juncture of the Trans - Atlantic slavery plantation economy, especially as it was undertaken by a group of planters, who went on to create additional plantations in other colonies in the region. Thereby supplying proof to the often-repeated phrase of the export of the Barbados Model of plantation economy to other islands in the region. Barbados according to Eric Williams and other writers of Caribbean history in the seventeenth century was more important to the British crown than the entire 13 colonies of America. Handler goes further and states:
From the moment of the first European colonization of the Western Hemisphere, initiated by Columbus to the early nineteenth century, the West Indies played an enormously important role in the history of the Americas. For a true picture of the Western Hemisphere in those 300 years, looked at from almost any perspective, it is usually essential to take into account the state of affairs in the Caribbean, with Barbados being among the very most significant of the islands. Such a point of view is not one that we are used to. (Handler,1991 ,p.xiii)
Also housed within the Museums collection are the records from Newton plantation. This plantation was established in 1660 and continued with enslaved labour until emancipation in 1834. To date it is the only scientifically excavated communal slave burial ground on a plantation setting in the Western Hemisphere. The records of this plantation allow a more comprehensive understanding of plantation life during the heyday of enslavement. One is introduced to the bleakness of slave life the allocation of food, cloth and medical attention.
The collection underscores the specific material record of some 300 years of enslavement on the island and contains records, for some plantations, such as The Newton plantation, a site that has produced the only professional excavated communal slave burial in the Western hemisphere.
While the collection housed at the BMHS is representative of the specific history of the Island during the period of slavery and the plantation economy that was created and sustained, it is also reflective of the documentary heritage of the first true Trans Atlantic economic complex. A complex that was perfected on this island and then exported to other colonies such as Antigua, Jamaica, South Carolina, Guyana, Trinidad, and Suriname, to become what is known as the Trans Atlantic plantation economy and its attendant society. This transfer did not comprise only the model for a physical plantation but also its Slave laws and the legislative frame work to regulate a society that was neither slave nor free. Beckles notes ‘that the Barbados Slave Code of 1661…served as the blueprint for colonists in Jamaica and the leeward islands…1688 Code …was copied by settlers in the Windward Islands( St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Tobago and Dominica)’. ( Beckles 1997,p.201,UNESCO Volume III, General History of the Caribbean).
Within each category of document there resides invaluable information awaiting analysis. The information might be interpreted differently according to the discipline and methodology of the writer; however this information once examined as a totality, can help to reconstruct the various components of the society that hegemonic interest and mercantilism brought to this region during the 17th – 19th centuries.
Although archival holdings within their respective repositories speak of the unique nature of slavery within that given country, there must be the realization that some nations owing to circumstance and long standing tradition of preservation have more archives in situ than others. It may be further argued that some archives take precedence owing to their place in the origin of the plantation economy in the region, therefore their potential to document the lives and fortunes of some Caribbean families and individuals is greater.
Based upon this, the nomination of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society (BMHS) collection is representative of that economic, social and political change that began the in the Caribbean region in the 17th century. With the implementation of this change, Barbados became the first colony to successfully make the transition from frontier society to mercantile economy.
In establishing the importance of the BMHS archives, an archival survey of the region was conducted. It illustrated that regional archives contained holdings ranging from plantation ledgers to estate plans with some holdings having documents not listed in other institutions. Some of the earliest holdings from the 17th century, at the time of the establishment of the first European settlements in the West Indies are to be found at The Barbados Museum and Historical Society.
When comparatively analyzed against regional holdings, the collection at the BMHS is unique and its deterioration and disappearance would constitute a harmful impoverishment to the heritage of humanity as it records one of the most traumatic events in human history – Trans -Atlantic Slavery. It also is the only record that can be used to piece together the family history of a society and region which is still searching for a rootedness of self, a self that can only be authentically researched and engaged at the source, that source being legalized bondage for some 300 years and its attendant society. The engagement and understanding of this past provides the island and region with the mandate to ensure that the story of slavery is not forgotten least it happens again.
These documentary resources chart the transformation of the country from a small, isolated frontier settlement from the first decades of the 17th century to its zenith as the island's flourishing economy made it the richest jewel in England's crown. Within the first two decades of settlement the island's economy was inextricably intertwined with the growth of sugar and slavery, an inglorious system of labour which had so defined both it and the region in general for more than two centuries, and still resonates through national and regional sensibilities today.
Equally important is the illumination of the attitudes and behaviours firmly entrenched within a plantation system based upon slave labour. The status of Barbadian sugar was subjected to many pressures over the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and despite marked fluctuations in the island's economy, the traffic in African slaves continued. Fundamental patterns developed during the slave period. The Plantation, as a social and economic institution, dominated island polity and society, and a rigid stratification system, based primarily on racial considerations, perpetuated the low status and limited opportunities for the majority of the island's population. The origins of racism are illuminated throughout this collection and reflect in devastating detail the development of the racial stereotypes that govern social systems incubated in the Caribbean and institutionalised throughout the Western world.
Documents such as the slave schedules, travel licenses and plantation plans serve to delineate literally the controls and limits placed on enslaved Barbadians throughout their lives. At the same time more poignantly, these same documents provide the only evidence of early ancestral or family heritage for the majority of the island's population. Family names and origins, both Caribbean and African, listed in these documents are invaluable to those engaged in recovering family history. For many, these documents serve as the only link with family members who exist only in memory before the formal recording of black births, deaths and marriages on a consistent basis.
An additional consequence, only recently being recognized, is the impact this documentation had contemporaneously either entrenching cultural attitudes or equally eradicating the opposition to the abolition of the Slave Trade, both within and outside the region. Many of the rare books in this collection serve to define the intricacies of a monumental debate, between the realities of commerce and the strictures of Christian conscience. The consequences of this exploitation of human tragedy has been incalculable and have completely defined European, American, Caribbean, and Barbadian historiography for over 350 years. Historians, both academic and amateur, engaged in documenting aspects of these regional histories have benefited through the study of this collection. Equally important has been the work of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society in publishing transcriptions, interpretations and analyses of these documents in its well-respected Journal for more than six decades, since the inception of the institution in 1933. More recently the Museum has started to co-publish with the University of the West Indies (UWI), a series entitled "Rewriting History" which provides insights into the histories of Afro-Caribbean personalities during the period of slavery.
Though the archive holdings of the museum might be seen to be representative of a type of archive that is extant regionally, it in fact speaks of the record of one of the darkest periods in human history. However in its specificity lies its uniqueness that is without equal. It helps to document what some scholars have labeled the Black Holocaust and documents one of the transforming human economic episodes. Williams notes that the industrial revolution could not have been started were it not for the capital accumulated because of the use of enslaved labour in the West Indies. Therefore the archive represents that defining moment in the development of the modern world, the causal shift from an agrarian to an industrialized society.
The collection comprises documents that span the 17th – 19th centuries and cover the entire period of Trans Atlantic Slavery in the English speaking Caribbean. However its worth can be seen in the contemporary creation and dissemination of an effective method of managing plantations and controlling the slaves that worked the plantations, and in that context this collection is the earliest of its kind still extant. The entire archive is evocative of the time and place in which it was created; it speaks to the issues involved in managing a society based on enslavement from legislative establishment to insurrection, and from birth and to death of individuals caught up in the system.
Barbados was the birthplace of the Trans Atlantic economic complex which utilised forced enslavement as the primary means of production therefore it can be seen as a place of great historical importance to humanity. The documents reflect the genesis of legislated and enforced enslavement which occurred first in Barbados and it illustrates the pervasiveness of enslavement and its institutions worldwide.
The collection speaks to the creation of a society that if not for slavery and sugar would never have been formed. The colonisation of the islands in the region was founded upon the wider European desire to break Iberian hegemonic control of the New World, through the creation of an exploitative primary agricultural resource. It is reflective of man’s inhumanity to man and is proof of man’s ability to rationalise in order to exploit. It offers documentary evidence to the commercialized nature of slavery in the New World and highlights the extent to which its legislation and methods were practised by the other colonies which succeeded it.
Subject and theme
The archive holdings, as it relates to subject and theme, speak to one of the defining moments in mankind - the legalised and institutionalised enslavement of a people, modern slavery at a globalized level which the world had never before witnessed. The slave laws of Barbados are the template against which most of the other slave laws in the West Indies including, the continental United States, are based.
Form and style
The collection is representative of records that were undertaken during enslavement many of which are no longer extant elsewhere in their original form. They are primarily handwritten, with some typed script both in English. The clarity of the writing allows one an uninterrupted insight into the development of the plantation system and the society it created. The collection is also in keeping with the literary standards of the time.
The documents are original and therefore rare. The original documents, ledgers, inventories and journals, as well as the site plans and maps are all in their original manuscript form and have never been reproduced in their entirety. Their rarity and authenticity remain unequalled and unchallenged. With respect to the printed materials listed, in most instances these are quite rare, with few issues having been identified in collections elsewhere. Handler notes that in his publication ‘A Guide to source materials for the Study of Barbados History 1627-1834’ “ Many of the printed works in this guide are found in very few libraries”(p.xi) . In this he goes on to note that some of the collections are indeed unique. The book, Instructions for the management of a plantation in
Barbados. And for the treatment of negroes, London 1786, he states is “an apparently rare work … this is the only copy of this item”. A small corps of the recorded documents are clearly unique examples, with others as yet unrecorded elsewhere joining this rarified group. In a few instances a second edition has been published, although extant examples are often similarly rare.
The extant documents for plantations like Newton speak of a unique narrative, that of the day-to-day living on a plantation the traumatic experience of plantation life chilling spelt out in the routines of the record are harrowing to read. It underscores the commodification of a system of enslaved labour that in the present day is difficult to contemplate, but that is brought to life because of the existence of such records.
The collection is rare due to its site specific nature of recording the first authentic Trans Atlantic Plantation complex . Rarity is further verified by the compilers of Bibliographic material for the region who express their opinion upon the uniqueness of the collection, its importance for research into the history of the region. The collection elucidates the paradigm shift and development of an economic agricultural model based exclusively on enslaved labour producing a primary crop for a foreign market which contributed the capital necessary for the industrial development of Britain some 50 years ahead of the rest of Europe in the mid 19th century.
The collection as a whole is comprised of primary source materials in its original state. It therefore remains accessible for research purposes. The documents are largely complete and legible in their original form and have not been altered; some minimal tears do not affect the value or access to the collection. Bindings of the majority of bound documents are original, the few that have been changed are due to professional remedial conservation carried out to protect their integrity.
The collection due to its age is of course under threat of deterioration. However a preventative conservation management programme is in place to ensure its survival, an effort that is constrained by funds. At the same time a conservation assessment of the collection has been carried out to ensure its longevity and remedial conservation plans are being developed to sustain the collection. An assessment of the condition of the entire collection conducted in August, 2002 has noted the steps to be taken as it relates to remedial conservation and these measures are being carried out.
Owner of the documentary heritage (name and contact details)
Barbados Museum and Historical Society, Ms. Alissandra Cummins (Director)
Custodian of the documentary heritage (name and contact details, if different to owner)
Eustace Maxwell Shilstone Memorial Library, Barbados Museum and Historical Society; Mrs. Betty Shannon (Librarian)
Category of ownership
Private, non-governmental, non-profit institution
The collection is held largely within the Shilstone Memorial Library, a unique, Caribbean research facility, housing over 5000 volumes, including other historical material illustrating aspects of Caribbean heritage and culture. The library is open on a daily basis, to members, researchers and the general public. Access is free of charge for members, sister institutions and agencies, and to schoolchildren. A modest fee is charged to others to help support the collection’s conservation and acquisition programmes.
The whole collection spans a period from the 17th to the 19th centuries and is therefore no longer subject to the copyright laws of Barbados. However, the BMHS maintains stringent controls through its reproduction policies and procedures, to ensure protection against infringement of its reproduction rights.
Reproductions of some of the original documents, including secondary related publications, have either been exhibited in the Museum's galleries or have been published in a variety of sources, both locally and elsewhere. However, the core of the collection has had to be removed from open, public access or display, due to their fragile condition, and viewing is restricted to demonstrably essential research. Other photographic reproductions are available on request
The Museum has recently updated its collection management policy, including new library rules for use by the general public. A conservation survey of the rare book collection was carried out in 1995 and the document collection in 2002, and the Museum is in the process of instituting some of its provisions.
Is there a management plan in existence for this documentary heritage? YES
COLLECTION SURVEYS- In 1994 an inventory and conservation survey of the rare book collection of the Shilstone Memorial Library was conducted. In 1995 a conservation assessment and environmental survey of the Library area was also completed, examining and assessing the conservation status of the Library. Recommendations from both activities have been initiated and serve as the basis for the management of the Library collections. These recommendations have been further enhanced by a conservation assessment completed for the slavery archives and related documentation housed in 2002. The recommendations of the 2002 Conservation assessment have been incorporated in the collection management policy for the materials housed in the Shilstone Library.
CLIMATE CONTROL and ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING - The Library is fully air-conditioned and is environmentally monitored on a regular basis. Readings from the thermohygrograph and the hygrometers stationed in the area are taken twice a day. Each unit is re-calibrated on a monthly basis. Any variances or anomalies are recorded and reported to the curatorial staff for any further action. The shelving and storage cabinets holding these collections are subjected to regular, meticulous cleaning under the supervision of the Librarian. In 2000 the entire collection was removed and closed to enable the replacement of the roof, window and door casings, old storage cabinets and part of the floor. The Library was re-opened in February 2001. Upgrade in storage units and cabinets for the enslaved documentation has been carried out 2001 -2002.
CATALOGUING OF COLLECTIONS - Rare book collections were all accessioned and recorded on computer. The historic documents, plans and ledgers were fully inventoried in 1997 and have been comprehensively accessioned as part of the Library collections. Since 1999 the Museum has proceeded to document all collections in a computerized database.
STORAGE - The rare book collection is segregated and stored separately from other collections. Oversized items are stored together in acid free containers. The historical document collection has been similarly separated and have all been stored in acid free boxes. Flat items have been stored in new flat steel file drawers.
ACCESSIBILITY - Access to these materials is restricted given the vulnerability and the deterioration of some of the pieces. The librarian controls and monitors access to the collections. Several items are withdrawn from public use pending appropriate conservation/preservation treatment. Cotton gloves must be used for handling of these items. Greater access is being developed through the digitisation of the collection and development of a user-friendly database.
CONSERVATION - a programme for the restoration and conservation of the identified works in the collections has been established using the skills of a professional paper conservator; this was expressed in the conservation assessment of the collection undertaken in 2002.
Activities Undertaken during the period 2001 -2003
1. Collection catalogue has been completed for the historic document collection.
2. Scanner and appropriate software for library management to be acquired.
3. Collection inventories and registers have been developed as a computerized database
4. Conservation assessment survey of document collection has been carried out.
5. Conservation programme, based on survey results and recommendations for original manuscripts have
been and continue to be instituted.
6. Reproduction of the Collection has began with some 8,000 digital photographs being taken with goal of
providing a digital access terminal for the public on a user friendly interactive database. The provision for
that database to be accessible on CD-Rom is also being examined. The overall digitization process is
also part of the preventative conservation programme being implemented for the collection sustainability.
PART B – SUBSIDIARY INFORMATION
ASSESSMENT OF RISK
The danger to the collection lies in the demand for its research potential that can place it at risk. Excessive handling of the original document can result in damage to the object; as such the institution is embarking on digitization both as a preventative conservation measure as well as providing greater access to the public. It is in this area that the museum would have to seek additional funding not only to digitize but to conserve the document through traditional remedial methods
ASSESSMENT OF PRESERVATION
COLLECTION SURVEYS- - In 1994 an inventory and conservation survey of the rare book collection of the Shilstone Memorial Library was conducted. In 1995 a conservation assessment and environmental survey of the Library area was also completed, examining and assessing the conservation status of the Library. Recommendations from both activities have been initiated and serve as the basis for the management of the Library collections. These recommendations have been further enhanced by a conservation assessment completed for the enslaved documentation housed in the library in the year 2002. The recommendations of the 2002 Conservation assessment have been incorporated in the collection management policy for the materials housed in the Shilstone Library
CLIMATE CONTROL and ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING - The Library is fully air-conditioned and is environmentally monitored on a regular basis. Readings from the thermohygrograph and the hygrometers stationed in the area are taken twice a day. Each unit is re-calibrated on a monthly basis. Any variances or anomalies are recorded and reported to the curatorial staff for any further action. The shelving and storage cabinets holding these collections are subjected to regular, meticulous cleaning under the supervision of the Librarian. In 2000 the entire collection was removed and closed to enable the replacement of the roof, window and door casings, old storage cabinets and part of the floor. The Library was re-opened in February 2001. Upgrade in storage units and cabinets for the archive was carried out 2001 –2002.
CONSERVATION - a programme for the restoration and conservation of the identified works in the collections has been established using the skills of a freelance paper conservator, this was expressed in the conservation assessment of the collection undertaken in 2002 by Luis Larrazabal.