Remarks, Dr Kris Rampersad,
Chair, Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO at the Opening of UNESCO Pan-Caribbean Consultative Workshop on Memory of the World
Port of Spain, Trinidad, 25-27 September 2013
On behalf of the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO welcome to this Pan Caribbean consultative workshop on UNESCO Memory of the World initiative. While we are a national commission with essentially a national mandate, we also take very seriously our role as a member of the Caribbean community and the wider UNESCO region of Latin America and the Caribbean.
As we mark this year the 21st anniversary of the Memory of the World programme and 13th anniversary of the Memory of the World Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean, it is perhaps timely for us to reflect on where we have reached with the programme.
In the short 13 years since, eight countries from the Commonwealth Caribbean (Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia, St Kitts, Jamaica, Guyana, Dominica, Barbados, and the Bahamas) have inscribed 21 collections of documentary heritage on the International Memory of the World Register and twenty five collections on the Regional Register.
We tend to think of the University of the West Indies and Cricket as two main elements I am sure you will agree that this has offered us an opportunity to collaborate as a region in the 13 joint nominations submitted among several of our countries – and these by four national committees in Barbados, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, and certainly I want to particularly recognise the work of the Trinidad and Tobago National Memory of the World Committee under the stewardship of Mrs Joan Osborne.
But much work still to be done in public engagement and to draw out private collectors and archivists to present their work for consideration so we can have broad representation of the diversity of cultures, languages and heritage.
Last year’s meeting underscored the need for greater involvement by countries in the Caribbean, and to support each other. Through the work of the Trinidad and Tobago national memory of the world committee we have enlisted:
The Derek Walcott Collection
The Eric Williams Collection
The C.L.R. James Collection
Registry of Slaves of the British Caribbean
Records of Indian Indentured Labourersof Trinidad and Tobago
The Constantine Collection
The Donald ‘Jackie’ Hinkson Collection
The Carlisle Chang Collection
The Digital Pan Archive
Records of Indian Indentured Labourers of Trinidad and Tobago 1845-1917
The Samuel Selvon Collection
At the MOWLAC meeting in Port of Spain 2012 the concern was raised of the involvement of countries in the region in the programme and how to encourage the creation of national committees and the number of nominations coming from the region. It was found that there was greater need for collaboration since in some countries the MOW programme was not visible and professionals and owners of collections did not know how to complete the nomination forms.
We should also recognise that much of the critical documentary heritage reside not only within the region but also in internationally-based institutions.
We hope this workshop will meet with similar success of preceding workshops in which nine inscriptions followed the 2009 workshop in Barbados, for example.
We note among the objectives of this is to strengthen the memory of the world programme through greater awareness, to increase nominations at the national, regional and international levels; and to develop an action agenda and a CARICOM MOW action plan for 2013- 2015.
I suggest that among the latter you also take a look at the current draft CARICOM-UNESCO memorandum of agreement and suggest any alternations you may need to make to the text relevant to accommodate the region’s outlook for the memory of the world programme within that MOU to be signed between Caricom and UNESCO at the General Assembly in November.
We know there are many, many areas in which we need to focus the heritage and I’d like to also stir attention away from the printed heritage which we all know limits us to the last few hundred years to other elements of record also recognised by the memory of the world register – to also consider other forms of documentation – items on stone, craft, recordings, visuals.
As we know, UNESCO established the Memory of the World Programme in 1992 from a growing awareness of the poor state of preservation of, and access to, documentary heritage in various parts of the world – looting and dispersal, illegal trading, destruction, inadequate housing and funding have all played a part. Much has vanished forever; much is endangered. So a core element is to raise public awareness and mobilise communities to capture and preserve and promote respect and understanding.
In the region, we need to move quickly to secure our endangered archives – and I draw attention to the invaluable collections of the military history museum in Chaguaramas that contains information on the connections between our islands and South America, unrecorded elsewhere, and which can further expand the recent inscriptions by Cuba of the Life and Works of Ernesto Che Guevara, and Columbia’s of Francisco De Miranda and Simon Bolivar and it may be useful to supplement that with the archives of Mr Gaylord Kelshall of the Military History Museum who has researched and written extensively about this period which though recent, has still not been injected into teachings on our history and as the Minister of Education is here with us I’d like to recommend that we look at this immense UNESCO resource and work to revising the materials in the school curriculum – in history, social studies, civics, visual and performing arts, among others. This presents us with an opportunity to revise our textbooks using new research and information s there is need to establish critical synergies between archiving and education soWebiste is not just fossilised – and consider utilising this model of engagement between ministry of education, archive and library and the school system.
I’d also like to suggest that you consider how we may establish a facility to resource and fund acquisition and maintenance of public and private collections: like those of the Chaguaramas Military History Museum, and dozens of others in private collections and establish linkages with these.
And we also need to place some emphasis on capture yet undocumented heritage and utilise digitisation and engage the enthusiasm of our young people to collate data from disappearing knowledge holders.