This was a great moment for me. Finally, I would get to show people what I was here to do! I’m always introduced as the Visiting Archivist at the Museum, but I’m sure that people don’t know what that means. Or how significant it is in the Turks and Caicos.
I have the same speech for everyone: The holdings of the museum are the only secured and publicly accessible archives in the country. And we’ve just applied for a grant from the British Library for Endangered Archives to collect pre-1900 records. (that always gets an eyebrow raise). When pressed, I’ll add a bit about archives as living memory.
So at the event that night I was able to show people exactly what I’ve been talking about. I showed them a “before” (unorganized piles) and “after” (pristine boxes with labels). We talked about the importance of acid-free containers, the ink/paper reaction of 1800’s records, the benefits of saving the originals vs. placing materials in a database.
I think this last point hit home when we looked up one of the participant’s family names in the 1888 hurricane relief report. The report listed the occupation of the head of household (carpenter), the number of family members (6), and the damage (kitchen totally destroyed). Of all the documents I’ve come across in the collections, this report is the most powerful. It tells a story all on it’s own and demonstrates how archives can tell a story long after living memory has forgotten. Which is what I told my listeners and watched with satisfaction as they nodded in agreement (success!!).
All in all, I think the Archives Event was a great way to end the Spring 2 Collections Series at the museum. I was happy at the response we got, and we had a rather large crowd and some new faces. We finished the night at the Bohio (Italian night) with some new friends and some old. For my first lecture I think it went very well.