Castle Archives to go Digital
The British Library has agreed to fund a pilot digitisation project for the internationally-significant St Helena Archives. This project will audit the collection as a whole, digitise the earliest records (beginning with ‘Goodwins Abstracts’, 1673-1707), provide training for local staff and lay the foundations for a potential major project grant.
The Archives, held principally at the Castle, are a relatively small but invaluable collection of historical records, documenting the history, people and daily life of the Island from the late 17th century through to modern times. They also provide an irreplaceable historical record for the Island’s extensive built and archaeological heritage, as well as vital shipping records. There is also extensive documentation on Napoleon’s exile, including his death certificate. Many of the surviving documents have international significance and are absolutely unique to the Island.
But housed as it is, on the ground floor of an historic building with no temperature control, the Archive is at risk from long term deterioration due to humidity, and even from insect infestation and potentially, catastrophic loss. The condition of the records is variable, from good to very poor, and there are no microfilm or digital copies of any materials. This means that all current research is carried out on original documents. The ultimate longer term aim is to provide modern and dedicated storage for these records.
This work will be carried out primarily by Dr Andrew Pearson, who has an affiliation with St Helena, extensive experience of both archaeological and archive-based research on the Island, and good working relationships with key local archivists. Dr Pearson, who has also published on St Helena’s history, and carried out important research on the slave graves in 2008, will spend about six weeks on-Island from 12 September 2012.