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National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago

Identity area

Identifier

TTNA

Authorized form of name

National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago

Parallel form(s) of name

Other form(s) of name

Type

National

Contact area

Contact information

(Primary contact)

Government Archivist: Ms. Avril Belfon

Address

Street address

#105 St Vincent Street

Locality

Port of Spain

Region

Country name

Trinidad and Tobago

Postal code

Telephone

868-625-2689 / 868-623-2874 / 868-625-1591

Fax

868-625-2689

Contact information

Address

Street address

Locality

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Description area

History

The National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago is the repository for permanent records and archives of the Government as well as historical records of national significance. The beginnings of the National Archives can be traced back to the aftermath of the disastrous fire of 1903 at the Red House, Port of Spain. This fire destroyed almost all the records in the Colony. Subsequently, provision was made in the construction of new Government buildings for fireproof strong vaults for the storage of records. Despite the provision of vaults, there was no policy or procedure for the acquisition and preservation of historical records.
It was not until June 1936 that the Trinidad Historical and the Colonial Secretary agreed to work together for the permanent preservation of records of historical value. This resulted from a memorandum dated May 26, 1936 to the Colonial Secretary; this memorandum drew to his attention the historical value of the records at the Harbour Masters’ Department, their condition and the need for their preservation at a suitable location. The Colonial Secretary solicited the assistance of the Trinidad Historical Society to appraise these records. The Society offered their full co-operation to the Government to collect and preserve ‘records of historical interest’. These developments led to the creation of a Standing Records Committee in 1937. This Committee’s mandate included the appraisal, disposal, accommodation and preservation of records in all Government Departments.
The Trinidad Historical Society began to lobby for the development of a Public Records Office and suggested the appointment of a competent Archivist. The Registrar General supported these proposals and submitted a “Report on the proposed establishment of a Public Records office in the Colony” on December 2, 1937. Nothing was achieved until the 1947 Colonial Secretariat questionnaire on the Administration of the Government. Responses revealed that:-
There was no central repository for the Government Archives
Concrete vaults were fireproof but records were plagued by insect infestation.
They also highlighted the huge losses suffered as a result of fires in the Colony. Fires had destroyed valuable and irreplaceable records in:
1903 at the Red House
1932 at the Treasury and Post Office
1946 at Planning and Housing, Harbour Master, Agricultural Society
1948 at Port of Spain City Council
1949 at the Industrial Advisor’s Office and Medical Council Office.
In response to the Governor’s request for advice, in April 1947, the Trinidad Historical Society suggested the formation of a Historical Records Committee. This Committee was to survey the problem and make recommendations related to surveying, classifying, cataloguing and preserving records of historical interest in Trinidad. Little was achieved due to the absence of a Secretary. Work resumed when Dr. Eric Williams assumed the post of President of the Trinidad Historical Society in May 1954. He advised the Government to request technical assistance in connection with cataloguing, maintenance and preservation of Archives of the British Caribbean with special reference to Trinidad and Tobago. This request was denied due to financial constraints. Nevertheless through his many detailed letters, Dr. Williams persisted to exert pressure on the Government towards preserving archival records of Trinidad and Tobago. These efforts resulted in two major thrusts in the 1950’s. In June 1954 the Acting Governor Maurice Dorman proposed the establishment of an Archival Office under the supervision of the Central Library with an Advisory Committee consisting of concerned persons. In May 1955 the Executive Council of the Government accepted Mr. Dorman’s proposals. He was made Chairman of the Committee. Monies were allocated in the 1956 Budget for a new item, ‘Preservation of Archives’. Tobago’s Archives were treated separately under District Administration (Tobago ).
These developments culminated in the Government contracting the services of Dr. T. R. Schellenberg, Assistant Archivist, U.S.A. and Mr. Clinton Black, Government Archivist Jamaica in 1958.
They were asked to:
Do a comprehensive survey to ascertain the extent of archival records in Trinidad and Tobago .
Give expert guidance on the collection and preservation of valuable records.
Establish a foundation for an archives, including legislation.
Educate the general public on the value of the archives
Schellenberg and Black submitted a report by June 1958. This report recommended the following:-
Creation of an archival institution.
The appointment of an Archivist.
The appointment of a Government Archives Committee.
The establishment of a Records Committee.
The enactment of legislation to govern and maintain the disposition of Government’s records.
These recommendations were implemented almost immediately with the appointment of Mr. Enos Sewlal as Government Archivist in 1960. The Archives came under the Office of the Prime Minister and was located in the basement of the Prime Minister’s Office at White Hall. There was an absence of support staff and appropriate accommodation. The Archives was moved from this location to accommodate another Government Department. During the years 1964 to 1970 the Archives changed location several times. In 1970 permission was granted to occupy a building on the present site on a temporary basis. This building was to become our main repository at 105 St. Vincent Street, Port of Spain.
In the early years, 1960-1969, the newly appointed Government Archivist functioned as a one-man unit. In 1970 the staff was increased to twenty (20) persons. This amount remained unchanged until 1985 when the new position of Manager Records Centre was created. At that time, the Repository consisted of a small Search Room with very limited accommodation, a Conservation Laboratory, a Microfilm Unit and a small Administration area. The 1990’s brought several changes. Previously the Archives shared the compound with the Sacred Heart Girls’ R.C. School whose building had been destroyed by fire. Their departure in 1990 created much needed additional space. The Search Room could now accommodate over one dozen researchers compared to five (5). The Conservation Laboratory was moved to a larger area. Space was allocated for a computer room, an audio visual room and additional storage areas for materials and supplies.
In 1991 the National Archives acquired a new Record Centre at Chaguaramas for housing the secondary records of various Government Departments. Staff received training under an Archives Development Project in 1992 with UNDP (United Nations Development Programme). Towards the end of this period the first phase of a National Archives Refurbishment Project began. This resulted in the construction of a new building housing a Search Room, eight (8) strong rooms, a Database Room, and an Audio Visual Room with listening/viewing facilities. In 2000 our Conservation Laboratory staff was increased by nine (9) Assistant Conservators on contract. This led to an increase in the number of restored documents and the acquisition of state of the art conservation equipment. Refurbishment and upgrading is also being done in the Microfilm Unit and Search Room. We continue to upgrade staff and equipment in all areas to keep abreast of changing standards and technology for the care and preservation of archival information.

Geographical and cultural context

The National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago is located in Port of Spain, the capital city of the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Port of Spain is a strong vibrant city that serves as the main business and administrative center of the country. Port of Spain became a "city" in 1914; the ordinance was passed on May 29 and was proclaimed by the Governor on June 25, 1914. The first city councillors were elected on November 2 1914. Among them were oil pioneer Randolph Rust, lawyer and social activist Emmanuel Mzumbo Lazare and Dr. Enrique Prada who was elected chairman by the council and became the first mayor of the City of Port of Spain.

Mandates/Sources of authority

Administrative structure

The National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago is a division of the Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism. The National Archives is administered by the Government Archivist.

Records management and collecting policies

Buildings

The National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago has its main repository at 105 St. Vincent Street and has occupied this location since 1970.
The main repository is home to an administration unit, microfilm unit, conservation laboratory, search room and audio visual unit.
In 1991 the National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago acquired a new Record Center at Chaguaramas for receiving, storing and administering semi-current records.

Holdings

The National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago acquires public and private records of enduring value regardless of format. The National Archives collection contains documents dating from the 18th century to present.
Our Holdings include:
Royal Gazette and Trinidad and Tobago Gazette: The publication arms of the Government from 1837 to present.

Land Ownership Records: selected documents which provide relevant information from 1851 to 1933.

Council Papers: annual Reports of Colonial agencies and departments including estimates of expenditure and Reports of Committees: 1877-1961.

Blue Books: Statistical Reports on the operations of Colonial Agencies and Departments- 1874 to 1947.

Immigration Records: The Immigration collection includes records of the arrival of:
East Indian Indentured Labourers - 1845-1917
Chinese indentured Labourers - 1852-1866
These records consist of lists and registers which include information on physical characteristics such as sex, age and height of immigrants. They also contain particulars such as name of father, name of ship on which immigrants arrived, year of arrival, name of the estate to which he / she was dispatched, clothing and passage allowance.

Hansard Reports: the official verbatim record of parliamentary proceedings from 1900 to present.

Census Reports: 1851-1900

Newspaper Collection: The Newspaper collection consists of the majority of newspapers that were published in Trinidad and Tobago from the nineteenth century to present. The earliest serving newspaper in our records is the Port of Spain Gazette which was formerly called the Trinidad Gazette and first published in May 1821. The Port of Spain Gazette's last publication was June 1956.
Our longest running, current newspapers are:
• The Catholic News from 1892 to present
• The Trinidad Guardian from 1917 to present
Other notable titles include:
• Chinese Weekly 1963-1966
• East Indian Weekly 1928-1932
• Evening News 1935-1989
• The Mirror 1898-1932
• Trinidad Chronicle 1864-1959
• Trinidad Express 1967-2007

Special Collection: The Special Collection consists mainly of books (fiction and non-fiction) which cover the history, culture, geography, flora and fauna, and other aspects of the heritage of Trinidad and Tobago. Included in this collection are books written by noted Citizens of Trinidad and Tobago as well as books that deal with the Caribbean which shares a common historical background and heritage. Several of these books are rare and / or limited editions which were first published in the eighteenth century.

Records of the Colonial Secretary’s Office: Files which record the administration of Trinidad and Tobago under British rule (1814-1954).

Laws of Trinidad and Tobago:It includes the laws of Trinidad existing in 1884 which predates its union with Tobago in 1888.The ordinances or acts as they are called after 1962 are grouped together under chapters and vary in number of volumes for each edition. Consolidations of the laws have been published periodically in 1925, 1940, 1950 and 1980. In recent years indexes have been produced annually.
Maps: At the National Archives we boast a wide variety of maps dating from 1770. There are maps of Trinidad and Tobago showing counties, wards, electoral districts, parishes and estates. Others show the location of:
• Crown Lands and boundaries
• Government Agencies
• Friendly societies
• Churches and other buildings of note
There are also maps of our cities such as Port of Spain and San Fernando and places of interest including:
• Queens Park Savannah
• The Royal Botanic Gardens
• The Pitch Lake
Additionally, some maps depict areas that were being developed or where some sort of activity, such as quarrying, was taking place. There are also several agricultural maps. Finally, there are some historical maps of the Caribbean region from as far back as 1783.
The collection includes a small amount of plans, most notable among them being the architectural drawings of the Queens Royal College.

Photographs: The majority of this collection is comprised of approximately 3,000 black and white prints. These are mainly official prints recording notable events in the history of Trinidad and Tobago from the late 1950s to the end of the 1960s. They originated in the Information Division of the Office of the Prime Minister.
The collection also contains photographs of notable public figures, monuments and buildings. Among these is a substantial amount which represents Port of Spain in the early 1900s.

In addition, there are annual reports and other publications produced by Government Ministries and Agencies. These cover areas such as Petroleum, Agriculture, Water, Health and Housing, Forestry, Police and Prisons, Local and National Elections and Carnival.

Finding aids, guides and publications

Accessing the collections at the National Archives is guided by various types of finding aids. Researchers may click the link to browse the detailed listings provided below to locate items of interest.
http://www.natt.gov.tt/load_page.aspx?id=67

Access area

Opening times

Opening hours are from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm. Monday to Thursday and 8:30 am to 3:45 pm on Friday. Closed on Weekends and Public Holidays.

Access conditions and requirements

To access the Search Room you must first check with the Security Guard. He/She will then brief you on the rules of the Search Room. You then proceed to the Reference Desk where you must complete an “Application for Research” form. You are required to fill out a form for each visit. However, you only fill one form per day.
Only pencils are to be used.
There is a strict no eating or drinking policy in the Search Room.
All cell phones must be either switched off or put in the silent/vibrate mode. Additionally, all cell phone calls must be answered out of the Search Room so other researchers are not disturbed.
Written permission must be obtained from the Government Archivist before any photographs are taken.
Bags and other personal items, except a pencil and writing paper, must be deposited in the lockers provided.

Accessibility

Location Map:
For a location map of how to find the National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago, please visit our website:
http://www.natt.gov.tt/about_us.aspx?id=20
Parking facilities are available for researchers and the Search Room is accessible to the physically challenged.

Services area

Research services

Reading Room facilities are available at the National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago where Archive Assistants facilitate individuals who wish to consult the finding aids and order archival material for viewing. A remote reference service is available to overseas clients who require information from our national records but are unable to visit the archives personally. This service is limited to preliminary research.
For more in depth research the National Archives can supply users with a list of professional researchers who work on a fee basis.

Please note that these individuals are in no way associated with the National Archives and any contractual arrangements arrived at will be the responsibility of the user and the service provider.

Reproduction services

Photocopies are free of charge. However, they can only be granted if the documents are in good condition and at the discretion of the Government Archivist. Please note that reproduction of the records in any format is subject to the Copyright Laws of Trinidad and Tobago .
Each researcher is allowed five (5) copies per day. If however, the researcher requires more than five (5) copies, he/she must complete the “Reproduction Application Form” and supply white, blank sheets of copy paper. The paper is calculated at a ratio of five (5) to one (1) that is, for every one copy, five (5) sheets of paper must be provided. Again, there is a limit to how many copies any one person is allowed on any given day and this is also at the discretion of the Government Archivist.
Written permission must be obtained from the Government Archivist before any photographs are taken.

Public areas

The National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago has the following facilities:
Small Reference Library
Lockers at the security desk.
Toilets (male and female).

Control area

Description identifier

TTNA

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