History is not something the average person thinks about daily, but culture is a dynamic entity that changes due to internal and external pressures. History is an invaluable resource, especially at times when ignorance of the past is used to effect changes to the present and future. Its preservation is essential, and initiatives to pass on this mantle to the young generation are critical.
Time is a tricky concept in the world of commodities. It extends the value of an item because of its longevity, but simultaneously heightens its frailty and potential for damage; as such, antiquities often have to be treated with care. One possible way to counter the ravages of time is through the digitisation of material, to facilitate archiving for future generations. Digitisation has its advantages and disadvantages. For one, items are far easier to store – a printed set of encyclopaedia takes up far more physical space than the digitised version, which can easily fit onto a USB drive. However, long-term storage of files can be challenging because methods of storage change over time, and the technology that is needed to access the files may become obsolete.
Conversations about the long-term treatment of a country’s historical artefacts and knowledge are timely in light of the recent fire that swept through Brazil’s oldest and most historically stocked museum in Rio de Janeiro, which damaged over 90 per cent of the items stored there. This unfortunate event sent shockwaves throughout that country and those who are tasked with preserving the country’s culture and identity. At 200 years old, the museum housed at least 20 million objects and collections that were over 100 years old and, according to one of the musuem’s vice-directors Cristiana Serejo, “It was the biggest natural history museum in Latin America.” The museum held a 12 000-year-old skeleton, fossils, dinosaurs, a meteorite found in 1784, among many other precious artefacts. The museum had been in a state of disrepair for years, and firefighters’ response to the fire was hampered by dry hydrants, which was blamed on lack of money for maintenance. In addition to that, government had cut spending on cultural and educational matters to reflect growing austerity measures. Museum officials have even resorted to asking persons who may have previously taken photographs of exhibits to direct them to the museum.
With that background in mind, it is necessary to find unique ways to teach our people about their culture and history, so that future generations are exposed to and learn from our native knowledge. The partnership between the City of Bridgetown Credit Union and the Barbados Museum and Historical Society has created one such initiative. The Little Heritage Champs is a continuation of a programme that started last year and, according to its creator, Klebere Perry, it “works alongside the primary school Social Studies syllabus to encourage awareness of our heritage and to inform students on ways they can assist in preserving and conserving both intangible and tangible benefits”.
We have always been keen on the continuation of educating children about local culture and heritage, past the usual topical subjects such as Independence and National Heroes. Partnerships such as The Little Heritage Champs are key to sustaining future development of historical knowledge. Though there is still room to go, it is heartening and ensures many of our youth understand the totality of Barbados. The archiving of valuable knowledge must be widely shared; as technology moves from one state to the next, curating such knowledge is an ongoing important task that must never be taken lightly.