The Caribbean Heritage Network was saddened to learn of the passing in January 2019 of Dr. Cherri-Ann Beckles, Assistant Archivist in the University Archives and Records Management Programme at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus. With her passing the Caribbean historical and archival community lost a regional treasure. Cherri-Ann’s enthusiasm and commitment to protecting the region’s archival heritage was unparalleled and she will be missed.
Cherri-Ann held a PhD in Archive and Information Studies with a focus on Information Rights at the Centre for Archive and Information Rights from the University of Dundee; a Master’s Degree in Records and Archives Management (International) from the University College London; and a Master’s Degree from The UWI in History (with Heritage Studies). She gained experience working with records and archival documents at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, the Barbados Government Archives Department, the University of London Institute of Education Archives and the University College London Records Office between 1995 to 2004. Cherri-Ann also served as a Sessional Lecturer in The UWI Certificate of Records Management Programme and as an Assistant Lecturer in a records management module taught at The UWI, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados. She also worked as an archives and records management consultant in both the public and private sector in the Caribbean region.
Cherri-Ann was a member of ARMA International (formerly the Association of Records Managers and Administrators); a Past Chair of the Communications Committee of the Caribbean Branch of the International Council on Archives (CARBICA); and a Past President of the Barbados Association of Records and Information Management (BARIM). She was also a member of the UNESCO Memory of the World National Committee, Barbados.
A Barbados National Development Scholar, she was well respected in her professional life and tributes were offered by many who had the opportunity to work and interact with her.
Cherri-Ann joined the West Indies Federal Archives Centre (WIFAC) in 2004 and Sharon Alexander-Gooding, The UWI University Archivist, said of her: “She excelled as an Archivist ‘extraordinaire’ and was a stellar example of an information professional who spanned the archival spheres in data protection, digital asset management, archival arrangement and description, training and unique exhibitions to name a few.”
Citing some notable achievements by Cherri over her professional life, Alexander-Gooding pointed to her input into the White Paper on Archives in Barbados; her excellent Barbados Development Plan proposal, which was commissioned by the Archives Advisory Committee; her conceptualization of numerous community workshops and projects within the local and regional community; and her service as the Chair of the Campus’ Digital Asset Management project.
“It was always a pleasure for students of the records management programme to do her archives classes and many have sent tributes speaking to her beautiful welcoming smile that put them at ease and her passionate engagement on the care of records,” said Alexander-Gooding.
“On a personal note, Cherri was my colleague, friend, confidante, supporter, travel companion and co-consultant. I nurtured her over the past 14 years and envisioned her as my able successor when I retire. I loved her like my own daughter; some people referred to her as my ‘clone’ for we often said things or wrote the same messages at the same time and then we would laugh about it. She will forever be remembered and revered in The University of the West Indies as the Principal stated: ‘she leaves a hole in the heart of the Campus’.”
Respects were shared by many in the local, regional and international archives, museum and library communities. The University of Dundee, Scotland sent special condolences and Alan Bell – Archivist & Compliance officer at the University of Dundee reflected: “the world is now smaller and duller without Cherri.” Bill Maher former Chair of the International Council on Archives (ICA) Section on University and Research Institution Archives said that “working with Cherri was one of the brightest spots in his service to the ICA”. A tribute by CARIBCA recognized Cherri-Ann’s “stellar service as Assistant Archivist at the West Indies Federal Archives Centre” and celebrated her as a “consummate professional and dear friend to all”.