CHN CCC Seminar 2: Centring the Caribbean in Conservation and Collections Research

The Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the UWI/ OAS Caribbean Heritage Network (CHN) Caribbean Conversations in Conservation series is pleased to announce the next seminar in the Caribbean Conversations in Conservation Seminar. The CHN is pleased to partner with the Museums Association of the Caribbean (MAC) to bring you this event to help mark International Museum Day (May 18). 

The session is scheduled for Thursday, May 20, 2021: "Centring the Caribbean in Conservation and Collections Research". Register now:


Please see the programme:

"Centring the Caribbean in Conservation and Collections Research"

ChairDr. Shani Roper, Director, CHN/ MAC/ The UWI Museum

Moderator: Mrs. Ruth Linton, Chair, ICOM Barbados

Thursday, April 20, 2021 at 10 am (Jamaica)/ 11 am (Barbados)/ 4 pm (UK)


Conservation and the Tropics: The Adaptation and experience of Transforming Conservation Techniques to Fit a Tropical Climate

Evelyn Thompson

Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT). 

Jamaica, as any other tropical country is exposed to harsh climatic conditions that adversely impact our objects of art, be they in storage, on exhibition or in the open air.  Akin to that is the general per capita income of these countries.  This contrasts to the Nations of the North, with their temperate climate and generally more affluent society.  The availability of funds often dictates the priority given to the preservation of our material cultural heritage.  Most often person who are trained in cultural resource management and more specifically collections management, including conservation of the material cultural heritage are influenced by what obtains in the temperate climates.  The expectations and interpretation of these expectations will now need to be modified to reflect the factors that influence conservation in the tropics.  Some of these factors are temperature. Relative humidity, seasonal changes and the influence on the climatic condition to which our objects are exposed, pollutants, building codes and the resulting environment in which or objects are stored, availability of funding, brain drain and the retention of institutional knowledge, population sizes and the ability to benefit from economies of scale in our operations.  This list could go on.  This paper aims to examine how different are these factors in the tropics vis-à-vis the temperate region, the challenges they pose and how we may attempt to overcome them. 


Digitisation versus Conservation: Misperceptions of two sides of the same coin

Anne Bancroft

V&A Museum (UK)

Accessibility to objects is high on all repositories priorities and digitisation instantly facilitates it. In recent years there has been an evangelical underpinning of preservation practices with digitisation. It will discuss justifying the risks to the objects to just create these images in the name of conservation? How digitisation is being perceived as the answer to safe guard material cultural heritage and the conservation of the real object ‘can wait’. What are the rationalisation of the investment in a transient solution with dubious longevity instead of investing in the original? Using case studies and international guidelines this paper will critically look at past and current approaches to digitisation projects discussing the ethical issues and practical ramifications. It will define digitation and conservation. It will look at how these two can be ethically co-joined with appropriate due diligence in the face of pressure for accessibility.


Conservation and Digitization for the purpose of research

Ann Marie White

Sidney Martin Library, The UWI, Cave Hill Campus

Libraries worldwide face challenges of conservation of materials held in stock as well as those steadily acquired adding value and relevance to libraries in this information age.  Libraries have options of either conservation or digitization.  In the real world, both are necessary and for different reasons.  Conservation of the library’s holdings is essential because as time passes the material becomes aged, worn and fragile.  Therefore, managing these treasured items of the library and the university should be treated in a manner conducive to their longevity and prosperity.   Sometimes it means protecting the item from human handling and environmental hazards like lighting and insects, thereby denying access to the material.  What is uncertain is the conservation of born-digital items.  Digitization, on the other hand, can still give patrons visual access which is at times all researches crave.  Researchers are still able to view the information within the pages of the item or an artefact.   What they would not be able to do is feel or smell the item — a foiled relationship between material and researcher.  Digitization poses challenges to the library in deciding which items to work with, workflows for the process, policies on the procedures and of course, human input.  Financing the projects also has a significant impact on how much and when to execute.  It also speaks to the maintenance of both conservation and digitization.  Libraries are challenged to keep abreast of the changing technological environments created by the digital era.


Analysing the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names to Improve Intellectual Access to Caribbean Collection Materials 

Alexandra Gooding

Ryerson University

This paper examines the intellectual access challenges faced by users when they attempt to find historical photographs of the Caribbean in online institutional collection catalogues. In recent years, scholars have increasingly demonstrated interest in ‘decolonising’ and ‘reclaiming’ archives and collections under the umbrella of postcolonial theory. Despite these recent tendencies, there appears to be minimal studies on historical Caribbean photography. I argue that improved intellectual access to these materials could encourage further research by scholars in numerous disciplines, potentially uncovering counternarratives to the existing histories taught about this region. First, I address how the socio-cultural concept of “regions” and ambiguous terms — such as “West Indies” and “Caribbean” — complicate geographical indexing of the Caribbean in collections catalogues, as illustrated by specific examples. Next, I summarise my critical analysis of the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names to show that, despite its stature as one of the most-used geographic thesauri in galleries, libraries, and archives, the TGN does a poor job of efficiently indexing the Caribbean. Then, using the Royal Commonwealth Society Department’s West Indies Postcard Collection, housed at the Cambridge University Library, England, I demonstrate how we can apply the TGN to statistically increase intellectual accessibility through controlled geographic access points. Finally, I point to non-traditional classification systems that are paving the way for more meaningful cataloguing of non-European and non-North American subjects.