Museums and archives can both keep pieces of an institution’s past. But then, what is the difference in their roles? That was the question put to UWI Museum Curator Dr Suzanne Francis-Brown and UWI Archivist Mr John Aarons when members of the Library and Information Association of Jamaica (LIAJA)’s Record & Archives Management Section visited the UWI Museum. The occasion was a Jan. 23, 2013 activity at the UWI Archives & Museum organised by Deputy Archivist Dr Stanley Griffin.
During the discussion, it was clear that each type of repository has a different focus, even though these roles sometimes overlap. And that the UWI Museum was especially interested in seeing how the roles of museum, archive – and library – can complement each other within the context of the University of the West Indies.
The UWI Archives and Record Management system was set up in 1991 to keep the university’s records for purposes of reference and research. Like other archives worldwide, it keeps records according to the way they were originally generated. The university’s library system, which was put in place from 1948 when the first students arrived, is organised around subject areas and is designed to support teaching as well as research.
The UWI museum, a recent introduction though long discussed, draws on both. The museum aims to be a space in which the university can recall its heritage and affirm its continuing relevance to the Caribbean region. The museum will do this through exhibition and other means of communication.
The role of this and other museums role is, of course, most recognisably stated in the 2007 statutes of the International Council of Museums (ICOM): “A museum is a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.”