Nothing is taboo; nothing is sacred. Thieves have targeted the National Archives located at Victoria Park, east of East Bus Sstation and removed the air conditioning unit and fittings.
The National Archives is a virtual repository of the history of this island and in its walls are housed volumes of valuable papers, including land grants from 1668; church records, some of which are too fragile to view; Acts of the Assembly from 1690; and the Codrington Papers which date back to 1700.
The papers were acquired by government in 1980 and have been housed in the archives since 1991.
Due to the lack of air conditioning, use of the facility is now restricted and the building is closed daily by the staff at midday to avoid the afternoon heat.
The Daily OBSERVER has been reliably informed that the situation has been ongoing since June, and there is uncertainty as to when the matter will be resolved.
Curator Dr Marion Blair, was reluctant to discuss the current situation, but indicated that she had reported the theft to the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, Eden Weston. ? I called the PS. He is the one I report to. I can?t do anything else about it,? Dr Blair said.
A check with the Board of Education revealed that no request had been made for replacement of the air conditioning unit, and executive secretary, D Gisele Isaac said the Board had never been asked to fund anything for the archives.
A source indicated that Bruce Rappaport, owner of the West Indies Oil Company, who donated the building to the government and people of Antigua & Barbuda in 1991, has always undertaken the upkeep of the facility and has offered to replace the unit on condition that there is adequate security going forward.
The Codrington Papers are the 1685 lease agreement between Christopher Codrington and the British Crown for the island of Barbuda. It is noted that the agreement stipulates payment for the land to be one fat sheep per year. It ended in 1870 when Antigua & Barbuda was united as one country.
The absence of air conditioning means that the valuable documents are being kept in less than optimum conditions. Information relating to the preservation of rare papers indicate that documents will last longer if they are stored in a stable environment similar to that which we find comfortable: 60 ? 70 degrees F; with clean air and good circulation. High heat and moisture accelerate the chemical process resulting in embrittlement and discoloration. Damp environments may also result in mold growth and/or be conducive to pests that might use the documents for food or nesting material.