Treasure Trove of 100-Year-Old Archival Documents Risk Being Destroyed

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Rep. Morris presents the computer to the Legislature Archive for digital preservation.

“Photos and autographs of past officials as well as valuable documents of the country, dating as far back as the late 1800s as well as the 1900s, currently at the Archive of the Legislature are on the verge of being destroyed, lost or unusable if they are not digitally preserved,” observed Jeffery Saydee, director of the Archive of the Legislature.

Saydee said the risks are real, substantial, and imminent, and that the longer the delay, the greater the risk to the Legislature, which would cause the country a significant loss of important official documents, reputational damage, and a failure to realize potential savings of crucial and official papers.

In the late 1970s, the Archives was named in honor of Montserrado County Senator Frank E. Tolbert (February 3, 1910 – April 22, 1980), a Liberian politician and brother of then President William R. Tolbert, Jr. He was a member of the Senate and had been elected President pro tempore.

Mr. Saydee said the Archives Department, which serves the Legislature, has written the leadership of the House of Representatives and the Senate, including Senator Conmany Wesseh, the chairperson of the Joint Legislature Modernization Committee, and members of the 54th Legislature about their plans on an appropriate preservation strategy, including digital preservation, to ensure that the documents remain accessible at all times.

“Up to now, we have not gotten the answers, and because of that, there are no resources and, if any, we don’t actively work in time to ensure that these documents are preserved; these valuable information will be easily lost or unusable,” Mr. Saydee said.

Saydee made the remarks on Friday, October 12, when Montserrado County District #1 Representative Lawrence Morris presented a Dell Computer Desktop to digitize the Legislative Archive.

While turning over the set of computer, Rep. Morris called on Speaker Bhofal Chambers, President Pro Tempore Albert Chie, and heads of other relevant institutions to help save the history of the Legislature and the country.

“The Legislature needs to invest, to save on the future costs of recovering documents relating to the archival preservation or otherwise become locked in obsolete system,” Morris said.

Mr. Saydee said digital preservation refers to a series of activities that are necessary to ensure continued access to resources as long as possible.

“For the Legislature, this means making sure that our digital resources remain authentic and accessible in the future for anyone who needs them,” he said.

It can be recalled that the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) supported the establishment of a Joint Legislative Modernization Committee to guide the development of the Legislature (2009 – 2013) in order to make the august body 21st century compliant.

The Legislature constitutes a 16-member Joint Modernization Committee, with the chairperson rotating between the two Houses and with an aim to re-validate the modernization plan for implementation, while seeking further support from partners, including the Governance Commission.

The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs implemented the USAID-funded Legislative Strengthening Program, the Information Service, the Committee Support Service, the Legislative Drafting Service and the Press Bureaus.

Despite such support, the archival documents remain in ruins. But to preserve it, resources are needed for a  digital repository that would allow the archive to be preserved, with unstructured documents digitized.

“We have a  Digital Preservation team; we need the resources to start work. If we do not save these archival documents in time, neither member of the House and Senate or from Central Administrator and the public will be able to access information whenever they want it in the future,” Saydee said.

7 COMMENTS

  1. NThose histories are those where our original history lies. Thanks honourable, but a single labtab or even 5 to 10 pieces wouldn’t be enough. A system of digital recording in chronological or alphabetical order with emphasis on areas and counties,exc should have been set up. From the 1800s up til now, this really shows how much works our past and educated governments have been working. Thanks saydee for making your side clear for a place where students of political science and others could have gone for research making as well as the poblic to know their rights.

  2. Thanks for the story on the digitization of records within the Legislative Archives repository.Let the department call on NGOs,individuals both private and public to help save these historic records for research and future reference purposes.

  3. First of all this is a big shame on those members of the legislature. In your own office you make huge budget with emphasis on budgetary allocations for huge salaries and benefits. Millions of dollars are spent on these aspects of your budget, but yet fail to allocate funds to uphold and improve that sector of your office building.
    I am sure most of you do not know the importance of this part of your setting and functions as well as activities in your building. This is sad and very shameful on your part.
    All your concentration is focused on how to get those big cheques and fat allowances.
    It is your duties to make sure that those important documents and important information are preserved for the future of the country. Your should also liase with the national museum of Liberia, as another means of having the public educated on works and activities of the national legislature.
    Why every time little projects must be funded by some international organizations? This among other undertakings must be implemented by the Government of Liberia. Too much of dependency on others for things the Government could handled are shoved over to others and available funds in government coffer are expended foolishly and stolen.

  4. Cllr. Phillip Bank’s reminded us recently, just before his retirement that is personal library is ten times better than the Supreme Court’s library. Imagine that! So this should be no surprise. But all this goes to show the caliber of people we have as representatives and senators. All nothing but semi-literate rascals in these offices all about themselves and not the interest of the Liberian people. Should we even be inquiring about the fate of the national archive, when the one under th e nose of these scamps is in such ramshackle state? All these guys care about is gas slips, gas slips and other benefits. If only they could consider cutting that exorbitant gas slip amount in half, the money saved could refurbish that library and many other things in the country. But how else will they sponsor their concubines if they ever did such a radical thing?

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