Thousands of documents, photos available for research
The Cayman Islands National Archive is neither a library nor a museum. But it is a collection, and on 4 August staff members turned the archive reading room into an exhibition area so visitors could see the kinds of materials preserved there and available to the public.
The occasion was the renaming of the archive’s headquarters as the Dr. Philip E. Pedley National Archive Building, in honour of its first director (Caymanian Compass, 9 August). After the speeches and unveiling outside, guests were invited inside the public area.
There they were able to inspect a few of the more than 15,000 images from the photographic collections, some of the more than 4,400 books, plus documents as diverse as maps, old-style drivers licences or laws no longer in force.
People do not come to the archive to browse or borrow. They do come, generally, with a specific question or a topic they want to find out about from an historic perspective.
“The Cayman Islands National Archive is a treasure trove with a wealth of information,” said director Kimlon Lawrence. She suggests that visitors call to make an appointment and let staff know their subject of interest.
That way, trained archivists, who know the collections, can check databases and retrieve pertinent materials from storage.
One found fact can lead to another and the archivist is there to help along the way, Ms Lawrence said. There is no charge for this service. Any photocopying, however, would involve a fee.
One popular request is for an ancestor’s birth certificate.
That could lead to a photograph, which could lead to an oral history interview.
The process is fascinating but time-consuming, so visitors should plan to spend at least an hour in the reading room. Of course, they can always go back.
Roy Bodden, president of the University College of the Cayman Islands, has acknowledged his use of the National Archive in his several books.
“I found the CINA Reading Room warm and accommodating, and the staff was always courteous and welcoming,” he wrote in one preface.
Mr. Pedley was known for his love of this country and his steadfast determination to give its history back to its people, Deputy Governor Donovan Ebanks said at the renaming ceremony. That legacy continues through the enthusiasm and efficiency of the archive staff.