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September 22, 2018
Diocese mourns death of first Guyanese bishop
September 22, 2018

History in your hands

Janice and Susan who are part of the conservation team at The National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago. They are presently binding the 2017 CN papers.

By Simone Delochan,

On September 7, curator of the 126-year-old Catholic News Dr Kwynn Johnson presented the Editor/Acting General Manager Raymond Syms with the 1942 archive which had been restored.

The Catholic News (CN) is the oldest newspaper in Trinidad and Tobago, with an archive dating back to its inception in 1892. Every issue of the Catholic News since then has been compiled and according to Dr Johnson, CN leads the way in archiving and preservation.

The restoration of the 1942 archive was headed by Wendy Williams of the Conservation Unit at the National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago. The pages of the archive were affected by heat, humidity and storage conditions, and suffered from deterioration which is typical of papers of this age.

There are others in need of restoration but priority was put on the 1942 collection as it represents the paper’s 50th anniversary and there were important columns that were severely fragmented.

The process took three months altogether. The first stage was the removal of acid from the pages. Then, in what requires a precise and steady hand, pages are patched and words in columns are pieced together. Area-bonded fibre is added to each page to ensure longevity, and each page is then ironed and pressed between heavy clamps for two days. The pages are then hand sewn together with a false spine.

CN archives can be found in three places: the offices at CAMSEL (Catholic Media Services Ltd), the Archdiocesan Archives and the National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago.

There are copies at the Regional Seminary—although these begin at a later date—and microfilm copy in the West Indiana section of the library at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine.

As a part of the 125th anniversary celebration last year, the digital archives were launched on the website of the CN: Thus, says Dr Johnson, “The staff at Catholic News has preserved both hard copies and digital copies in multiple locations, conserved, and enabled dissemination through hard copy, microfilm and online access. Show me a newsroom/media house with this type of preservation activity.”

In her essay in the booklet Bookmarks of an Antillean Experience which was given out at the launch of the digital archive, Dr Johnson details the document preservation:

Starting in May 1892, each week, the editor Charles Williams retained three copies of the Catholic News. Later in keeping with the Newspaper Ordinance of 1935, a signed copy of the Catholic News was delivered to the office of the Registrar General and Public Records. By 1958, with the formation of the National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago with a mandate to protect our document heritage, a copy of CN and all other newspapers were sent to the archives. The ten subsequent CN Editors/General Managers have carried through this procedure to date” (p 23).

It’s important to realise, that when you buy a copy of the Catholic News, you are holding history in your hands.

The legacy of the Catholic News is examined in a 40-minute documentary ‘The Pursuit of Truth @ 125’ which was scheduled to be shown yesterday (September 22) at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival at MovieTowne, Port of Spain at 10.45 a.m. This documentary covers the period 1892–1990.