Libraries play an important role in preserving and providing access to the country’s heritage material. Were it not for libraries, the history of a country would be lost forever. It is within this context that the Heritage Library Division, NALIS has preserved over 50 collections of national, regional and international significance. These collections serve to showcase the peoples, places, lifestyles, culture and events of Trinidad and Tobago throughout its history.
Among the Special Collections housed at the Heritage Library and available to researchers are the Wayne Berkeley collection; the Bill Trotman collection; the George Chambers collection, the ANR Robinson collection, the Lord Learie Constantine collection, the Masonic Lodge collection; the Anson Gonzalez collection and the Noel Norton collection, just to name a few.
Recently, former Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran donated his collection of books, speeches and other memorabilia to the National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS). These, as well as recently acquired historical items of the late Phillip Louis Ulric Cross, are currently being processed to be made accessible to researchers.
Cross, born May 1, 1917 in Port of Spain was an honoured airman of World War II. After his time served in the Royal Air Force, he studied law and went on to become a judge of Trinidad’s High Court. In 1990, he was appointed the High Commissioner in London.
During the visit to the late veteran’s home, the NALIS team found a commemorative hat which was given to him in acknowledgement of his time served in the Royal Air Force which was unfortunately in a bag marked for disposal. The moment was one of emotion for those present as the team cautiously retrieved the artefact.
Often, individuals are unaware of the treasures they hold that are hidden in their trunks, bags, boxes or closets. Manuscripts, rare books, photographs and your other documents may be the missing link to our heritage. We urge citizens to THINK HERITAGE before they decide to throw items out. Ask yourselves, “Can these be of historical significance?”
NALIS has subscribed to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) programme on preservation. In 1992, UNESCO developed a model for the preservation of documentary heritage titled “Memory of the World” (MOW). The programme charts the development and achievement of human society as well as enriches and identifies the nation’s contribution to the world’s cultural diversity. Much of the Memory of the World resides in libraries, archives and museums.
NALIS has two collections inscribed in the MOW’s Register. The Constantine Collection inscribed on the International Register in 2010 gives a unique and valuable insight into 50 years of world cricket as well as British race relations. The second is the Anson Gonzalez Collection inscribed on the Regional Register in 2014. It represents the single most comprehensive reference for poetry in the Caribbean from 1924 to 2012 and chronicles the literary career of over 120 writers. Poet Laureate of Port-of-Spain, Anson Gonzalez, passed away on September 6, 2015 in Wales.
In 2004 NALIS was named the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions’ (IFLA) Preservation and Conservation Regional Centre, for the English speaking Caribbean. NALIS’ fully equipped Preservation and Conservation Laboratory, located at the National Library of Trinidad and Tobago, with specially trained staff, is capable of attending to the region’s preservation needs.
The preservation of heritage is a community effort, so before disposing of old documents, books, relics and photographs think about the key it may hold to our past.