Archive building renamed for first director

Ceremony honours the late Dr. Philip E. Pedley

The structure housing the Cayman Islands National Archive has been renamed the Dr. Philip E. Pedley National Archive Building in memory of the man who spearheaded the archive’s development in the first 15 years of its existence. 

A ceremony on Thursday evening, 4 August, included tributes from government officials and unveiling of the new name and commemorative plaque, followed by a reception and tour of archival displays. 

“I’ve always been a proponent of naming buildings for individuals, so I was pleased when the Deputy Governor approached me about this,” Premier McKeeva Bush told the gathering. He said honouring people was part of building the nation and he hoped proposals to rename government administration buildings and the Gerrard-Smith Airport in Cayman Brac would be applauded. 

“I personally am in favour of honouring people in their lifetime,” Mr. Bush said.  

Mr. Pedley, whose doctorate was in English Literature, died of cancer in May, 2010. 

Arthurlyn Ebanks Pedley said her husband did not approve in principle of people being recognised while they were still alive. “He was too aware that we as humans are very fallible, and the possibility of falling from grace is ever present for even the best of us.” 

Rightly or wrongly, that was his view, she said, so he would have approved of being recognised posthumously. 

Reasons for that recognition were cited by Mr. Bush, Deputy Governor Donovan Ebanks and Education Minister Rolston Anglin in their tributes. 

Mr. Ebanks said Mr. Pedley, who came to Cayman from England in 1971, was considered by many to be a true Caymanian because of his love for this country and steadfast dedication to giving its history back to its people. 

The National Archive was established by law in 1991. From its infancy with a few boxes on the top floor of the old Tower Building, the archive has grown tremendously, Mr. Ebanks said, with thousands of photographs, documents and reference books along with 1,382 oral history interviews.  

He described Mr. Pedley as having a passion for the preservation of history. Moreover, “he basked in seeking knowledge and sharing it.” 

Mr. Bush said the archive’s purpose is to collect and preserve historic documents, make them accessible to the public and establish a records management protocol for government. He said Mr. Pedley had unearthed material here and in other countries that led to a better understanding of Cayman’s history and culture.  

The premier pointed out that Mr. Pedley mentored staff members and four of them obtained their master’s degree during his tenure. He was also well known for his years as English and Religious Education teacher and for his work with the New History Committee in seeing through the publication of Founded Upon the Seas in 2003.  

Mr. Anglin said the National Archive was a textbook case study of how any institution should be run. Mr. Pedley had recognised that the institution was bigger than he was – “That is the hallmark of a great leader,” he said. The archive will grow from strength to strength, he predicted, because it is built on the strong foundation laid by its first director. 

In her thank-you speech, Mrs. Pedley said the archive staff members had made it possible for her husband to succeed in his work. She asked them to stand and be recognised. She said she and Mr. Pedley were convinced “that as Cayman continues to wrestle with the rapid rate of change and development, that the work of the National Archive will become increasingly more necessary to provide the historical perspective for future generations of Caymanians.” 

Others taking part in the programme were George Town MLA Ellio Solomon, master of ceremony; Rudy Myles, who led the singing of the national anthem and national song; and Pastor Alson Ebanks, who offered prayer. The Governor, Mr. Duncan Taylor, and National Archive director Kimlon Lawrence did not speak, but assisted with the unveiling of the new building sign and plaque. 

Archive name unveiled

Dignitiaries applaud after the new sign is unveiled. – Photos: Carol Winker
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