National Archives, A Vibrant Research Hub in the Making

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Archives workers sorting out presidential papers from several past administrations

-Preserving presidential papers, others

The Center for National Documents/Records Agency (CNDRA), like every ministry, agency and other organs of government, was never spared the brutal destruction visited on the country during the civil war.

The agency, as the historical nerve of the republic, bore its own brunt of the civil crisis but things are gradually getting back into shape as CNDRA strives to live up to the mandate for which it was created.

As a result, the Director General of the CNDRA, Bloh-Sayeh, and her staff, with support from the Carter Center and Dr. Gregg Mitman, a Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States, are working to get the agency back on track.

Since the restructuring exercises began DG Sayeh said a four-year project from a grant obtained by Dr. Mitman, is ensuring that the center is equipped with the requisite resources.

During a tour of the facility on Tuesday, the Daily Observer observed workers and other trainees sorting out documents in boxes brought from the old national Archive center.
The boxes contained presidential papers of some of Liberia’s past Presidents, including William Tubman, W. R. Tolbert, Samuel Doe and others.

P. Bloh Sayeh, Director General, CNDRA

CNDRA is the nation’s record keeper, Madam Sayeh said, and all documents and materials ranging from the declaration of independence, presidential papers created in the course of businesses conducted by the Liberian government and important historical records.

In addition due to the crisis, some important collections of documents were mixed up when the center was relocated from the National Archive Building on 12th Street to the J.J. Roberts residence on Ashmun Street and back again.

The CNDRA boss noted that her administration wants to build “This place into a research hub where intellectuals, academicians, students, writers, and others can come to get the information they need for their works.”

Dr. Verlon L. Stone, an expert with the CNDRA initiative

The current project, according to an expert who is working on the project, Dr. Verlon L. Stone, aims at organizing GOL records at the CNDRA to make them publically accessible.
The documents are arranged in Administrative/Executive; ministry/department/agency; division/bureau/section, including financial documents. They also include contracts, budgets, invoices, bill of sales and others.

“We want the public to know that this place is not only about marriage certificates and land deeds as many Liberians perceive it. This is the hub of our national history and so we’ve got documents ranging from international and national protocols signed by the Liberian government.

“Speeches and inaugural addresses of our past presidents and many other important documents that would be a great use to our people are here. We want Liberians to take advantage of these things. Let them visit us and see what we are doing here.

“Those valuable records are preserved and are available to you, whether you want to see if they contain clues about your family’s history, need to prove a veteran’s military service, or are researching a historical topic that interests you. So we want to encourage our people to come in and do research,” DG Sayeh said.

Workers sorting out papers

The CNDRA, she said wants to ensure continuing access to the essential documentation of the rights of Liberian people and the actions of their Government.

“We want to make these important documents accessible to our audience. This is why we are here to ensure that our people are served with the information they want.

“One major hurdle that the center, as well as every entity of government, faces is the issue of funding and human resource development. We want to train more professionals so that we can be more efficient,” Madam Sayeh told the Observer.

Liberia has enacted a comprehensive freedom of information act-the first of 16 West African countries to pass such a bill-the push is on to make public information available so Liberians can access records ranging from birth certificates and land deeds to legislative acts, Supreme Court decisions, and government budgets, she said.

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