So here’s a small story: Several mentors for first-year University of the West Indies (UWI) students all called wanting to bring groups on the same Thursday afternoon – a popular time because classes are suspended to facilitate extra-curricular activities. It ended with one amalgamated group starting in the University Archives, while another started in the museum. Then we swapped! The students found it a different way to spend a couple hours, but what was particularly interesting to me (I’m the Curator!) was my Archives colleague’s way of summing up the activity:
“I tell them what a record is, and then you show them how it’s relevant to the university story!” (Dr Stanley Griffin, Deputy Archivist)
The Archives has also recently included the UWI’s former Radio Education Unit within its walls, which makes it possible for students to meet university records…and university recordings! Definitely more enlivening!
So when the students came to the museum, they again met some paper records – such as the first Charter document and the current Charter – which are also artifacts of the university’s early days. They also saw and heard audio-visual recordings, in context, along with being exposed to three dimensional artifacts, and textual interpretation. All of these pull together to offer a sense of connection with the UWI past, across the real distance of time.
And for those who started in the museum, we simply reversed the focus…and the process.
Having started in the ‘front of the house’ so to speak, they already knew the story by the time they got to the Archives. For them, the experience was one of going backstage to see what was behind the production; in this case, to gain an understanding of why particular records that contribute to the museum’s story had been considered important enough to hold and conserve, and how that process had been – and continued to be – carried out.