Education Minister Nyan Gabsy-Dolly, left, presents George Chambers’ neice Lou Ann Mooking, right, with a plaque as PNM stalwart Ashton Ford, second from left, and other Chambers family members look on at the launch of The George Chambers Commemorative Exhibition celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the former PNM leader and prime minister of TT at NALIS in Port of Spain. – SUREASH CHOLAI
The National Library and Information System Authority (Nalis) plans to curate and make publicly accessible the collections of Trinidad and Tobago’s past prime ministers and presidents.
These collections may include past papers, correspondence, memorabilia and other items belonging to officials during their lifetime and tenure in office.
The George Chambers Commemorative Exhibition was launched at the National Library, Abercromby Street, Port of Spain on Thursday. It will run until November 18.
The exhibition was compiled in collaboration with the St Ann’s East constituency. The current MP, Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, delivered an address, as well as Minister of Housing and MP for Arouca/Maloney Camille Robinson-Regis.
Former minister of sport, culture and youth affairs under the Chambers administration Marilyn Gordon also delivered an address.
Nalis chairman Neil Parsanlal spoke about the authority’s plans to curate and host these collections.
Speaking of Chambers and the need for the collection, Parsanlal said, “Chambers has been one of the most understated, one of the most unpretentious leaders you can find. We look for flash and glamour, and Chambers, clearly, was not like that.”
Asked if enough documentation of TT’s notable people had been done, Parsanlal said the country did not do as much as it could but there was a lot of work being done at the moment.
“We have this collection. Anybody can come off the street and ask to view this collection. What we want to do is make collections like Chambers more accessible to the people of TT.
“From a Nalis perspective, for instance, we have the Eric Williams Memorial Library (the former Old Public Library) which will house the Williams collection. But at Carnegie Free Library, San Fernando, for instance, we intend to house, like the Patrick Manning collection, Kamla Persad-Bissessar collection, the Noor Hassanali collection.”
He said the library in Scarborough, Tobago, library will house the collection of the late PM and president Arthur Napoleon Robinson as well as the Dr Keith Rowley collection when the latter demits office.
He said the physical collections will be housed closer to where the prime ministers and presidents lived.
There were collections for late presidents Noor Hassanali and Sir Ellis Clarke and former prime minister Basdeo Panday.
“All of these collections will be digitised. Although the physical collection might be housed in one particular space, because it will be digitised, it will be accessible now to the entire population, and also in a research capacity as well.”
He took the opportunity to encourage people to join the library, saying today’s library card allows people to stay at home and access all Nalis’s facilities.
“You can stay in the comfort of your home and borrow a book or a magazine, do research. You can access all of the collections with your library card.”
Parsanlal said much of the region’s history was still shared anecdotally and Nalis instead intended to have the history documented.
“That is why we have these collections, so scholars can come, students can come, and really examine the work that is here, and not just take the stories for granted, not just take the stories that they hear from this one or that one.
“We have the actual evidence, and people can come in. That is what we want to encourage more and more,” he said.
Asked how the authority plans to combat misinformation and drive particularly younger people to use and read this kind of information, Parsanlal said he often told people if they wanted information, use Google, but if they wanted facts, ask a librarian.
The authority has partnerships with YTEPP Ltd and the Ministry of Youth Affairs, where there is a digital literacy component managed by Nalis, he added.
He said the authority feels it has a responsibility to help people understand the difference between information and facts.