THE EDITOR: The announcement from Maxie Cuffie, Minister of Public Administration and Communications, about the reversion of CNMG to “a revived Trinidad and Tobago Television” has stimulated concern about some important issues, such as local content, public service broadcasting and the matter of audio-visual archives.
Filmco, the Filmmakers Collaborative of Trinidad and Tobago, a new organisation, founded by Dion Boucaud, Mariel Brown, Danielle Dieffenthaller and Lesley-Anne Macfarlane, welcomed the announcement and said, “The combined audio-visual archives of TTT, GISL and CNMG must be seen as a financial and historical asset and treated accordingly, with dedicated librarians to catalogue, digitise and license the material.”`
For the time being I want to concentrate on audio-visual archives and I want to suggest some ideas based on what Filmco has stated.
Radio has existed in Trinidad since 1946. We now have over 30 radio stations. Television began transmission in 1962. Film and video have been produced in earnest. The State has had TTT, the Government Film Unit, the Information Division, GBU, GISL and CNMG. As a result a large amount of audio-visual information has been generated.
Unfortunately, a lot of our audio-visual production has been lost. Some material has been destroyed because of neglect. Meagre economic resources did not allow the media the opportunity to keep records permanently and sometimes management at the various media did not care to preserve the works.
The existing material that is stored is another matter. As far as I know, material is stored in the buildings occupied by the media, some in private hands and some more in storage sites in the GB Fernandes Complex and in Chaguaramas.
There are other facilities which have audio-visual records. There is Nalis, the Alma Jordan Library, UWI and the National Museum and Arts Gallery, but in strictest terms these are not audio-visual archives.
There is the National Archives of TT which is “the repository for permanent records and archives of the Government as well as historical records of national significance.” Like the others it is not wholly an audio-visual repository.
In addition, the National Archives is not an autonomous entity. There is a draft policy document applicable to it. That is as far as it goes. The way we have treated the National Archives is a narrative of the way in which we have treated TT’s history, overall.
The authority of the National Archives is derived from whatever ministry it falls under. So far it has operated under seven ministries, from the Prime Minister’s Office in the 1960s to the current Ministry of Public Administration and Communications.
I want to suggest that we in TT work post-haste to craft the direction for audio-visual archives. Consultations should be held with the National Archives and the other institutions, including Filmco. We should source funding wherever it is available, we should establish either bricks-and-mortar or virtual audio-visual archives.
I also recommend that the eventual archives be named the Enos Sewlal Audio-Visual Archives of TT in honour of the first official archivist of this country.