Since March 2019, I have been involved in the partnership between the Barbados Archives and the Early Caribbean Digital Archive (ECDA) at Northeastern University (Boston) for creating a “Barbados Runaway Slaves Digital Collection” based on runaway advertisements in colonial-era newspapers held in the Archives collections.
The first group of ads to be included in this digital collection will be from the recently digitized newspaper, The Barbados Mercury Gazette. The gazette was digitized through an Endangered Archives Programme grant for which I was the project leader. I have blogged about the different aspects of this project here.
The “Runaway Slaves Digital Collection” will provide a central location for collecting these ads, a transcription platform, and other opportunities for the public, especially students, both in Barbados, as well as abroad, to interact with the material in creative ways.
The ECDA, developed by Northeastern University’s NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks, is an open-access collection of pre-twentieth-century Caribbean material. It aims to use digital tools to foreground the centrality and resourcefulness of enslaved and free African, Afro-creole, and Indigenous peoples in the Caribbean world. Through digital technologies, it offers us the possibility to disrupt, question, and revise the colonial knowledge regime that informs the archives from which we usually draw material for scholarship.
A visiting team from Northeastern University (Boston) presented on challenges and opportunities of developing such platforms as a way to decolonize the record during two workshops. In the first workshop on May 15, 2019, the team facilitated discussion among invited heritage professionals and policy makers with the aim to make these records more accessible to Barbadians. The second workshop on May 16, 2019, was open to the public and was modeled as a transcribe-a-thon to involve the public in transcribing ads.
During the winter of 2019, we will continue on extracting and transcribing the ads through a series of monthly workshops to engage the public.
Follow us on Twitter with the hashtag #BarbadosRunaways for updates.