When we think of History, we immediately think that we will be learning about nonfiction events which have already occurred in the past. However, how often do we oppose what we are learning about in history ; we usually just accept what is being told to us and move on. In the Question of Recovery, Laura Helton explains that when Amos Beman looked up the history of Africa and its people, all that was found was racial arrogance and ignorance.
Similarly in his novel, India and the Shaping of the Indo-Guyanese Imagination 1890s-1920s, Clem Seecharan explains that the overall history of East Indians was also always presented in an ignorant manner. Both texts strongly supports Helton’s point of whether or not the information being recovered and archived can be trusted when it comes to learning about our histories. I am somewhere at the midpoint of Helton’s 2 proposals because while I do strongly believe the truth is lost throughout history, I also believe that without the hard work of previous historians and archivists, we would not have been educated about our history. So in essence, there could be successful arguments which support either side of this debate. It is for this reason that I chose to create an exhibition of postcards. I believe that postcards will give its audience a chance to interpret what the images and scripts on the postcards show rather than to read someone else’s interpretation of them.
Deciding which type of project would be ideal for such a short period of time was a difficult choice. I started off with many ideas about how I would like to exhibit a number of materials on a platform that is easy to access. However, when I reviewed what I wanted to relay, I had to settle for a research proposal because rushing and minimizing my presentation would not be an effective way to relay my project’s true purpose.
I eventually decided that for this semester, it would be ideal to work on a research proposal consisting of at least one of the materials I wanted to present. If everything goes according to plan, I will be able to complete my archival site by the end of the Spring 2022 Semester.
The overall purpose of my project is to create an exhibition using postcards to depict the lives of indentured workers on the sugar plantations in Guyana during the time period of 1830-1930. With the help of Professors Lisa Rhody and Duncan Faherty, I decided that this would be a more honest way to display the scene of the plantations during that time, opposed to other types of artifacts, like newspapers, which may have been filtered and/or owned by the plantation owners. My exhibition will allow individuals to become more aware of the lifestyle and conditions of the sugar plantations in Guyana during that time period.
As an American Indo-Guyanese woman, it is an honor and privilege to be given this opportunity to present a part of Guyana’s history. Many individuals I meet usually have no idea that the people of Guyana were indentured servant; even some of the Guyanese youth have no knowledge about the struggles and difficulties the Indentured workers faced after their migration from India. By presenting these postcards, I hope to create an accessible platform that will aid in understanding the lifestyle of indenture Guyanese workers during the 1800s.
The Early Caribbean Digital Archive is a collection of pre-twentieth century Caribbean texts, maps, and images, which include travel narratives, diaries, and poetry. These texts were collected with the intention to tell the story of European Imperial domination. The archive currently has 57 early Caribbean texts, of which 30 texts are prefaced with scholarly introductions, which explain why each text is significant in current studies. The stories of enslaved Africans and Indigenous Americans are explained throughout this collection to show that the lives of the Indigenous Americans and enslaved Africans truly shaped the culture and development of the Atlantic world.
This archive is primarily developed by Europeans who use digital tools to constantly update and incorporate new content into the archive. The diaries in this collection have not been pieced together before as a single collection to focus only on the Caribbean, which makes it evident that the goal of this archive is to expand how we discuss and think about history, colonialism, and the experiences of enslaved Africans and Indigenous people in the Caribbean.
The Project team Professors, Aljoe, Dillion, and Doyle organize their collection in an extremely accessible manner, which aids those, like myself, who are not as technology inclined to easily have access to the archive’s texts, maps, and images. There are also connections across the materials, which grants a more comprehensive sense of the early Caribbean setting. To develop an archive similar to this, one would need to evaluate, retrieve, and arrange new collections of materials that have not been collected before and then be able to collaborate with a team to organize and archive the team findings. This would mean that each researcher would have to effectively evaluate and select the materials they choose to present to other team members. Using this archive, future archivists would learn how to develop unpresented materials into pieces that would aid in understanding history from a different aspect.