Senate President Myron Jackson convened in a meeting with officials from the Smithsonian Institution to discuss the “USVI Legislative Records Recovery Project,” which is preserving 20 bound volumes of Legislative Journals that are at risk because of damages sustained by hurricanes Irma and Maria that struck the territory in 2017, according to a press release from the Office of the Senate President.
“The Legislature of the Virgin Islands has its challenges because the Division of Legal Counsel is where the collections were stored, and after the storms occurred, later breached. The collections were relocated to St. John, USVI, and later became inundated with mold,” said Sen. Jackson.
“I am hoping to retrieve the information on the collections. The collections are significant because it linked us to our past and will be utilized in the future. We have employees who function within archives which are accessible. However, they are untrained archivist[s].”
The collections were removed from the Legislative Archives on St. Thomas and St. John, transported on a plane and ground transportation from St. Thomas to BELFOR located in Ft. Worth, Texas, and freeze dried in consultation with the custodian.
Denmark, U.S. National Archives, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have collaborated to preserve the documents. Digitizing archives is the modern approach to which archivists are transferring the material. To date, archives in the territory are kept on microfilm.
In 2014, policymakers enacted into law Bill No. 30-0155 to use the Enid M. Baa Library and Archives Building exclusively for archives, records management and supportive economic initiatives. Unfortunately, a funding source has yet to be identified.
“I have passed legislation to dedicated archives in the Enid Baa Library located in Downtown Charlotte Amalie. There were challenges in bringing this to fruition. The plan was to place the archives on the top two floors. The building needs to be converted to hold central files of the government,” said Sen. Jackson.
The loan period for the USVI Legislative Records and Recovery Project will commence upon all parties signing the Permission and Release Agreement. It will end on Jan. 1, 2019.