Montserrat in written records and photographs: preserving the archive for the nation and the Montserrat diaspora (EAP769)

Aims and objectives

Montserrat has suffered from harsh environmental conditions, natural disasters and an indifference to preserving the country’s archive. Inappropriate storage and handling has resulted in material being lost or rapidly deteriorating, creating an urgent need for proper documentation and storage. Recent volcanic activity has destroyed most of the previous storage facilities.

This project will identify archival material held throughout Montserrat, assess its condition and prepare a long term plan for its safe storage, digitisation and increased public access and awareness of this endangered resource.

This pilot project will work on the collection of original material held by the Montserrat National Trust (MNT). This comprises 18th and 19th century estate plans and deeds; 20th century letters, newspapers, land deeds, wills, receipts; and collections of slide photographs from the 1980s, including a 1986 buildings survey which show many buildings no longer standing after the 1995 and 1997 volcanic eruptions. They have been poorly stored and in urgent need of copying.

In addition, the project will work on some of the 18th century records held at the Central Library, a collection in private ownership, and a section of material in very poor condition held by the Government Registry Office.

A test programme of digitisation of selected material will be undertaken and the copies deposited with MNT and the British Library.

MNT is the principal heritage organisation and the project will enable their staff to develop skills, undergo training and raise their profile. Some space is provided in the newly built Museum for an archive store but temperature and humidity controls still need to be installed. The work will be carried out in this space and part of the project will be to store material in acid free boxes, primarily to preserve the items and provide easier access but also making it easier to move it to another location if further volcanic activity or other disasters occur.