Barbados receives international assistance to protect its cultural property: the digitization and conservation of slavery records

Slavery – Records/Heritage Stewardship

Barbados receives international assistance to protect its cultural property: the digitization and conservation of slavery records
12/01/2021
At the 15th session of the Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 10-11 December 2020, the decision to provide Barbados with international assistance from the Fund for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict was adopted by its Secretariat. The amount of USD 46,000 goes to the 10-month project Strengthening and Protecting Barbados’ Cultural Property: The Digitization and Conservation of Slavery Records. Another international assistance of USD 44,400 aims to support the design of a Risk Management Plan for the National Anthropology Museum of Mexico.

Armed conflicts destroy lives and communities, and very often cultural heritage such as monuments, libraries and museum collections. Such atrocities deprive communities of crucial elements of their identity, history and economy that are necessary for the post-conflict reconstruction process. In this regard, the protection of cultural property in peacetime should be a priority to mitigate its destruction in times of conflict.

In addition to the safeguards set out in the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (“1954 Hague Convention”), the 1999 Second Protocol introduced an enhanced protection mechanism. This allows a State Party to explicitly designate cultural property of great importance to humanity for enhanced legal protection and ensures that it will not be used for military purposes in the event of an armed conflict.

…Threatened by partial or complete deterioration from natural and anthropological sources, historical documents from the time of transatlantic slavery and the post-independence period of Barbados require special protective measures. For this reason, the project “Strengthening and Protecting Barbados’ Cultural Property: The Digitization and Conservation of Slavery”, whose funding was approved, aims to digitize historical documents to protect and strengthen Barbados’ cultural heritage and to develop a contingency plan to safeguard these documents. These documents date from the transatlantic slavery and post-independence periods, specifically inventories of property and personal effects (1764 – 1888), manumissions and sales (1821 – 1834), registers of powers of attorney and miscellaneous documents (1661 – 1948) and original wills (approximately 12,000).

The project, which will be implemented over a 10-month period, includes training on the digitization process for staff of the Department of Archives and the Barbados Military and Police Force, as well as a public awareness campaign on the results of the digitization and to promote the digitized material. The documents will be made available for online access through the Barbados Archives Department website.