Preserve it! Safeguarding Caribbean Popular Heritage (2012)

Panel 9, June 18, 2012, 9:00am-10:30am

Moderator: Gerada Holder (National Library and Information System Authority of Trinidad and Tobago)
Presenters: Sandra Boyce (National Library Service, Barbados); Gerada Holder (National Library and Information System Authority of Trinidad and Tobago); Danielle Fraser (National Library and Information System Authority of Trinidad and Tobago), Glenroy Taitt (University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago)
Rapporteur: Peter S. Bushnell (University of Florida)

Sandra Boyce presented “Safeguarding the Barbados Crop Over Festival: A Collection Management Approach.” In Barbados, Crop Over originated as a festival in the plantation society to celebrate the end of harvest. The enslaved looked forward to this celebration with music, dancing, food and games. In 1974, the festival was revived to attract tourists during the slow month of June. Since then it has become a national festival, part of the island’s intangible cultural heritage. The documents relating to the festival include both print and non-print formats. The collection is diverse and dynamic with governmental and non-governmental institutions responsible for its management because of their role and function. The four agencies reviewed in this presentation were the National Cultural Foundation (NCF), the Nation Publishing Company (NPC), the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), and the Government Information Service (GIS).

The NCF was established in 1983 to manage the festival. Its collection contains photographs, newspaper clippings, video, CDs, and posters. It is in the process of being digitized along with moving towards standardization and a more proactive collection development policy.

The NPC was established in 1983 and automated in 1994. It covers the social, economic and political development on a daily basis. It produces the annual Crop Over Souvenir and recently launched the website There are plans to digitize the collection.

The development of a cultural heritage includes both tangible and intangible aspects. Its valorization is undergoing rapid development. Bills concerning cultural industries and antiquities are being drafted. Conversations, dialogues, and symposiums on cultural policies to facilitate partnerships and collaboration are being held. Finally, Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2011.

The way forward: collection management is critical to the development and sustainability of the intangible cultural heritage; librarians and information specialists must manage the Crop Over Collection effectively and efficiently; it must collaborate to maximize limited resources; standards and guidelines must be set; best practices must be adopted in designing a model collection; there is a need for open access in light of intellectual property and copyright; preservation policies and guidelines must to designed to make the collection sustainable; timely and accurate information needs to be provided through various channels; skills and expertise must be constantly upgraded; changes must be embraced constantly; roles need to be redefined and revamped to accommodate these changes. This will enable collection management to be dynamic and diverse.

During a question and answer discussion it was mentioned that Barbados did not have carnival on a regular basis until the 70s. Angela Kinney (Library of Congress) asked about copyright. An audience member answered that it lasted until 50 years after a person's death. This led to a brief discussion of copyright in general. There then followed a brief discussion about publishing crop over material.

Next, Gerada Holder presented “Collecting Carnival: Creating a Carnival Collection at the Heritage Library Division, NALIS.” The goal of the Heritage Library Division is to preserve and promote the culture of Trinidad and Tobago. The sections of the division consist of: operations and client services; preservation and conservation lab; and collections management (oral history, genealogy and performing arts; special collections; indexing; acquisitions).

Carnival itself is defined as Trinidad and Tobago’s annual pre-lent festival that originated in the period of African enslavement. At its core is music, masking and merriment making. Significant influence has come from the islands’ French, Spanish, African, British and Indian cultures. For the period 1997-2004, statistics were given as to visitor arrivals (from a low of 27,414 in 1997 to a high of 42,646 in 2000). For 2004, the average expenditure per tourist per day came to $345 ($95 for accommodation, $109 for entertainment, $56 for shopping and $45 for other).

The major components of carnival are music (extempo, calypso, soca, chutney soca, rapso), mas (junior, ole mas, traditional, pretty mas), fetes (public and private parties), competitions (extempo, calypso/soca/chutney soca), and steelpan (the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago).

The importance of carnival is reflected in the cultural and historical development of Trinidad and Tobago. It also has a significant impact on the economy, provides a showcase for creativity, and helps create communities.

Existing carnival information at the Heritage Library Division include: Wayne Berkeley Collection, Bill Trotman Collection, calypso lyrics database, interviews, photographs, audio visual (music CDs/carnival shows/competition DVDs), periodicals, monographs and information files/pamphlet collection. The Performing Arts, Genealogy and Oral History Section (PAGOH) deals with four major areas: record life-history and thematic interviews; record-on-the-spot interviews with performers, record cultural activities through photographs and video; network with performers and cultural organizations to collect ephemera and other non-published information.

The four major methods of acquisition are through purchase, gifts/donations, deposits and loans. Sources include newspapers, carnival organizations, networking with collectors and traditional booksellers/music shops.

As part of the UNESCO Memory of the World: Trinidad and Tobago Register, there is a digital archive.

The challenges of collecting carnival material include deciding/narrowing on what should be collected, creating non-traditional avenues for the collection of carnival data/information and changing the public’s attitude towards valuing and saving cultural (and by extension) carnival material. The challenges of then indexing carnival is the creation of information files per carnival topic, the adaptation of relevant LC subject headings to accommodate local terms, the creation of carnival descriptors/thesaurus and the use of carnival subject specialists (non-librarians). Carnival information files can include: information by year, carnival bands with their bandleaders listed in alphabetical order, specific biographical files on calypsonians which can include sobriquets along with surname. In addition to traditional carnival descriptors, specific terms such as jab jab, blue devil and Dame Lorraine can be used.

Finally there are two general questions to consider for the future. What additional methodology should be applied for carnival acquisitions/collections? What should be the form for collaboration among carnival stakeholders given the different organizational mandates?

Kinney (Library of Congress) asked about Indian (Hindi) influence in carnival which led to a brief discussion. Hortensia Calvo (Tulane University) talked briefly about Tulane’s carnival collection.

“Keeping Our Culture: A Look at the Development of Preservation and Conservation at the National Library of Trinidad And Tobago” by Danielle Fraser started with an overview. The National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS) was established September 18, 1998 by the government of Trinidad and Tobago as a statutory authority. In preserving Trinidad and Tobago’s national heritage, NALIS is responsible for collecting Trinidad and Tobago imprints, works by Trinidad and Tobago nationals, other works about Trinidad and Tobago or the Caribbean, and oral history of Trinidad and Tobago. A look at trends in library preservation cannot ignore work done by the Library of Congress, the British Library and IFLA. For IFLA, a core activity on preservation and conservation (PAC) is to create a focus on issues of preservation and to initiate worldwide cooperation for the preservation of library materials. There are 14 IFLA-PAC Regional Centers with NALIS being made the regional center in 2004 for the English-Speaking Caribbean.

In 2005 a preservation consultant recommended the following: develop a PAC laboratory; hire library conservators; and develop policies and practices. Early implementation of a preservation plan included the purchase in 2005 of a Wei T’o Dryer and Insect Exterminator (BDIE) and hiring and training staff to develop a laboratory.

Some of the lessons learned include: keep stakeholders informed; prevention is better than the cure; everyone wants to know how to preserve; document everything.

Tony Harvell (University of California, San Diego) asked if there was a disaster plan. It is under exploration. Stacy Norris (Library of Congress) asked about the preservation of non-book material. They know that the need is there but they are just in the early stages. Some digitizing is being done and they are slowly replacing obsolete formats with more current ones.

The final presentation was by Glenroy Taitt on “Write It, Say It, Snap It: Documenting the Heritage of St. Joseph, Trinidad’s First Capital.” This is a project in the works with a final goal being a book. Using his background as a librarian, historian and photographer he has been able to gather a lot of information. For gathering memories of St. Joseph itself, he has worked with his mother and godmother. He gave his mother a copybook with the hope that she would write down her reminiscences about St. Joseph. After some delay, she finally filled up one book and asked for a second. Eventually she used a third. For his godmother, he recorded a batch of interviews for oral history. Between these two sources he was able to get a large amount of information that now needs to be edited. He then entertained us with a few stories from his mother and godmother. The final part of his presentation was a comparison between historical and contemporary photographs. For the Mosque built in the late 40s, there was only his photo.