by Janell Anderson
While working as a JAMVAT student in the UWI Museum and Archives, every day was a new adventure, a journey through time. Through the various collections that I worked with, I found myself being transported back to the foundation of the University College of the West Indies during its early years. I was quite fascinated by the Owen Minott collection, Leonie Forbes, Mervyn Morris and Phillip Sherlock Centre for Creative Arts (P.S.C.F.C.A) collections because of their impact on the history of the UWI and Jamaica’s cultural heritage.
My experience with these collections inspired a deeper appreciation for photographs, audio and video cassettes. As I worked, I was drawn to the memories which had been preserved for so many decades and were available for younger generations to learn about the past. The Owen Minott collection, in particular, was very engaging. A single photo/negative told a million stories. I could relate to the photographs because as I walk past the old buildings, the aqueduct and the Undercroft on campus, the images of how they looked back in the 50’s jump to my mind. The evolution of UWI had been captured, coming from a small college (UCWI) of 33 students to a first-class mega university with 5 Campuses of almost 50,000 students!
Working with the audio and visual recordings was also enjoyable because I was able to listen to the various programs that had been recorded years ago. I discovered special events and discussions of issues that had been taking place on campus such as the opening of the park, chapel services and various council meetings. All of these represented important activities of the UWI.
It really was an eye opening experience because I realised that I really didn’t know much about the UWI’s past. Fortunately, the Museum and Archives have done a wonderful job of safeguarding those precious items that tell of past events so that future generations can also access that knowledge. I was intrigued to find myself in the midst of so much historical memorabilia, not just from the photos and the audio/visual tape recordings, but also, the whole environment and atmosphere of the space. The artefacts on display, paintings (especially the Seacole revolt) and the passion of my colleagues also fostered an appreciation of the rich and diverse history of the University.
My travel through time and space was worthwhile. Stop by the Museum and Archives some time and take your own journey!