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Historic documents destroyed in fire at Archives Department

by Dawne Parris
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A fire sparked by a lightning strike just before midnight destroyed a two-storey block at the Archives Department which housed major historic documents.
Chief archivist at the Barbados Archives Department, Ingrid Thompson reported this morning that only a few records were salvaged from Block D at the Black Rock, St Michael compound.
“The majority of the records were destroyed, and some of these records included vestry records, city council records, records of the mental hospital and general hospital and so on,” she told reporters. “In most cases, some of those documents are documents that we cannot retrieve. We may be able to retrieve some of the information from other documents, but for right now, we have to do further assessment. We’re actually in the process of salvaging what we can.”
Thompson, who has been at the department for 38 years, said she was saddened by the loss, as she revealed that they had been in the process of securing a fire suppression system.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office with responsibility for culture, Dr Shantal Munro-Knight became emotional as she reported that the blaze was a massive loss.
“We’re still making an assessment of the full damage. We were able to retrieve some records, and the team is already on site trying to salvage those records, but this is still a major blow for us,” she said.
As she continued speaking about the government’s intent to have an archival economy, she was moved to tears and Minister of Information Wilfred Abrahams, who was also on site, told reporters that Minister Munro-Knight had been personally invested in projects related to the archival economy.
He said there would be a full investigation into what had occurred and a full report would be made public.
“This is a tragedy,” Abrahams said, though applauding the Barbados Fire Service for containing and extinguishing the fire that was reported just one minute before midnight.
Divisional Officer Marlon Small said 23 fire officers were responsible for bringing the fire under control and there were no injuries in battling the blaze.
“What is of significance is that we were able to salve some of the records while we were conducting fire suppression efforts,” he said.
“From our initial reports, the fire was caused from a lightning strike which ignited the roof of the structure and due to the condition of the records there – they’re very old records – there was rapid fire spread throughout the structure.”

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