Minister with responsibility for Information, Senator the Hon. Sandrea Falconer, has underscored the importance of Jamaica’s collection of historical data in helping the nation to further embrace its identity.
Speaking at a ceremony at the Jamaica Archives and Records Department (JARD) offices in Spanish Town, St. Catherine, on June 27, Senator Falconer said that contrary to misconception by some persons, historical data is more than “what took place in the past” and “simply for curiosity”.
“Historical knowledge and memory are about drawing on the past to provide strength and coping skills for today, and hope for the future. Historical data helps when you are tempted to think that you cannot go on or make it; when you feel all hope is lost or you don’t have it within you to face the challenges of another day,” she explained.
The Minister added that historical memory documents the nation’s ancestry, while providing the “tools to give us strength, courage, and hope.”
Senator Falconer noted that the economic and social challenges which Jamaica currently experiences, consequent on a “volatile global environment”, has in cases, resulted in a sentiment of hopelessness resonating among some persons.
“I believe that part of our problem in Jamaica, today, is that we are not sufficiently grounded with a strong sense of history and historical memory. We lose hope and tend to get pessimistic too easily and, yet this pessimism and sense that we cannot overcome is not part of our culture and heritage, as Jamaicans,” she noted.
The Minister said some may argue that there are “more important things” to deal with other than official colonial documents, slave records, or immigration data of ethnic groups.
“By taking the time to go back into the archives and our historical memory, we will discover that Jamaica has a heritage to preserve. A heritage of fortitude, resilience, and perseverance. A heritage of a people struggling against monumental obstacles and overcoming adversities,” she pointed out
Senator Falconer further contended that history can embolden and inspire a people.
“We need to draw more on our rich historical memory and build our faith and our destiny. When we do that, we will not be tempted to think that history and culture is just for curiosity lovers,” she said.
The Minister said the stories of Jamaica’s heritage, documented in the archives will “empower us” with a different perspective that “embraces a sense of who we are.”
“These stories will build our optimism and give us that indomitable will to fight against the odds, rather than choosing to give up. It is with such a perspective that we can truly appreciate our motto, ‘Out of Many, One People’,” Senator Falconer added.
The Minister unveiled two Plaques of Inscription at the JARD’s offices, which the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has awarded the agency for three of the country’s outstanding historical collections that have been incorporated in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register. This is in recognition of the significance of Jamaica’s heritage to the international community.
The collections: ‘Protector of Immigrants’, ‘Registry of Slaves’, and ‘Silver Men of the Panama Canal’, document Jamaica’s heritage during the period of slavery, Asiatic indentured immigration, and involvement in the construction of the Panama Canal.
The Jamaica Archives and Records Department, which falls under Senator Falconer’s purview in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), is the sole government entity mandated to preserve Jamaica’s cultural and documentary heritage for posterity. Its main purpose is to preserve records of government which are documented on paper, and in electronic and audio/visual formats.
Contact: Douglas McIntosh