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'Safeguard all manner of cultural heritage material' – Christopher Varlack

- Records Mayday celebrated on May 1, 2018
Records pertaining to the Territory were damaged during the passage of Hurricane Irma on September 6, 2018. Photo: Internet Source/File
According to Chief Records Management Officer Mr Christopher Varlack, the 2017 natural disasters have forever changed the course of history for the Virgin Islands and it is imperative, more than ever, to take the needed steps to safeguard all manner of cultural heritage material; most especially, documentary heritage records and objects. Photo: GIS
According to Chief Records Management Officer Mr Christopher Varlack, the 2017 natural disasters have forever changed the course of history for the Virgin Islands and it is imperative, more than ever, to take the needed steps to safeguard all manner of cultural heritage material; most especially, documentary heritage records and objects. Photo: GIS
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI- When the natural disasters of August and September 2017 hit the Virgin Islands it threatened to erase much of our history. Records lost in destroyed buildings ranged from old family albums to business records and even museum artifacts and other records of VI history.

While celebrating Records MayDay on May 1, 2018, Chief Records Management Officer Mr Christopher Varlack, reiterated the importance of securing our records. “Disaster planning remains of critical concern for all of us, but especially for those of us in the cultural heritage sector where the value of records, archives and historical objects is not given the needed priority to aid in the survival and preservation of those materials. Our true cultural heritage, tangible and intangible, is being lost to a culture where proactive preservation is still seen as too expensive,” he stated.

In an earlier article of this news site, Mr Varlack was quoted as saying “There are many records that should become archives that won’t become archives because they were damaged significantly by the natural forces.” Thus, the call to Businesses and Government agencies to maintain and secure records in preparedness and readiness for the upcoming hurricane season is much needed.

Government had initially planned a $1.6 million for the development of a repository for the territory, from the recovery funds.

Preserving records important

Approximately 3 to 5 percent of the archived records of the Records and Management Office were destroyed due to natural disasters last year, stated Mr Varlack back in April of this year. He recently added "The 2017 natural disasters have forever changed the course of history for the Virgin Islands and it is imperative, more than ever, to take the needed steps to safeguard all manner of cultural heritage material; most especially, documentary heritage records and objects."

Records Mayday celebrated

The Archives and Records Management Unit of the Office of the Deputy Governor commemorated Records Mayday 2018 by “repurposing its 2017 disaster preparedness tips for records poster, to assist individuals and groups from all walks of life safeguard records in preparation for the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season which begins on June 1,” a Government Information Services (GIS) statement dated May 1, 2018 stated.

The poster titled ‘The 2018 Year-Round Records Management Tips Flyer’ is themed ‘Working towards ensuring Records Preservation’

Records Mayday which was “started by the Society of American Archivists after the 2005 Heritage Health Index published that the passages of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma in the United States revealed that many cultural heritage institutions did not have disaster management plans,” no doubt took on a more real meaning in light of what the territory experienced last year.

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