National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago
The National Archives is responsible for acquiring, preserving and providing public access to the documentary heritage of the nation (in all formats); and guiding in the management of all government records throughout the public service.
The National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago provides services that build, maintain and provide access to Trinidad and Tobago’s records to sustain a free, open and democratic society and to support the cultural and intellectual life of all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
The National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago was formally established in 1960 with the appointment of the first Government Archivist, Enos Sewlal. However, agitation for the establishment of an archive began earlier following the Red House fire of 1903, in which many government records were lost. With the urging of the Trinidad Historical Society, a Standing Records Committee was created in 1937 with oversight for the appraisal, disposal, accommodation and preservation of records in all Government Departments. Eventually technical advice was sought by the Government, led by Prime Minister, Dr. Eric Williams and in 1958, Dr. T. R. Schellenberg, Assistant Archivist, U.S.A. and Mr. Clinton Black, Government Archivist Jamaica, were contracted. Among their recommendations, only two were implemented – the establishment of an archival institution and the appointment of an Archivist.
For Government, we are the custodian of the public record, guiding in its management to strengthen democracy and good governance. We acquire, manage, preserve and provide access to records deemed to be of enduring archival value and national historical and cultural significance.
For citizens, we are the custodians of the nation’s documentary heritage and provide free access to over 200 years of Government’s and the nation’s irreplaceable historical documents and records in all formats, to support citizens’ claims to their rights, empowerment, discovery and identity. These records also support their academic, genealogical, legal and other research. As primary sources of our history, written and oral, archives provide evidence of our past – decisions, actions and memories that shaped our nation. They help tell the stories of our rich history and heritage.
Who we are
The current Government Archivist is Avril Belfon who was appointed in 2010. She is also the President of the Caribbean branch of the International Council on Archives (CARBICA).
Head of the National Archives
- A reference service is provided to the Public Service and public in the Search/Reference Room at #105 St. Vincent Street, POS, Monday to Friday, and online (email, website and Facebook). The National Archives’ Collection includes colonial and government records, Legislative Council papers and Laws of Trinidad and Tobago, newspapers, Indian and Chinese Indentureship and Slave Registers, maps, rare books and journals, photographs, microfilm, audio visual recordings and a small reference library collection. In 2009 and 2011 two of its collections – the Documentary Heritage of the Indian Indentured Labourers and the Registry of Slaves of the British Caribbean 1817-1834 – were inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World International Register as documentary heritage of world significance.
- Outreach activities for schools, communities and the general public to engage them in our national history (lectures, tours, exhibitions, Annual Archives Awareness Week) and collaboration with academia such as University of the West Indies, University of Trinidad and Tobago, and University of the Southern Caribbean, heritage institutions and community organizations. Ongoing technical support is offered to government ministries and community archives.
- Provides advisory services to Government Ministries and Agencies on records and information management, including :
- Guidelines on the preparation of Retention and Disposition Schedule
- Procedures for Disposing of Public Records
- Record Centre facilities for offsite storage of secondary records
- Repair and restoration of documents, disaster preparedness and recovery/preservation management of archival records.
- Digitization of at-risk and in-demand archival records is carried out in its Digitization Lab. In 2017, the Catholic News, the oldest running newspaper in Trinidad and Tobago, was digitized through collaboration with CAMSEL, the communications arm of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese.
- Repository – 105 St. Vincent Street, Port of Spain
- Record Centre – NIPDEC Compound, First Avenur, Chaguaramas