Caribbean genealogists and historians need this project to access the wealth of documents related to U.S. Virgin Islanders held at the U.S. National Archives in College Park, Maryland. The Danish state archives is currently conducting a huge digitization project of Danish West Indies archival documents. There is no such project underway for documents held in the U.S.
The documents held at the U.S. National Archives include official correspondence, minutes, petitions, proclamations, registers, indexes, photographs, and maps. These documents are invaluable resources in preparation for 2017 Transfer Centennial events, ceremonies, and production of educational materials. By digitizing these documents and making them publicly accessible online we promote the interpretation of Transfer and the people who lived through it.
During three days in May, 2015, volunteers from Caribbean Genealogy Library (CGL) will visit the U.S. National Archives in College Park, Maryland, to digitize historical documents related to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Danish West Indies from the period immediately preceding, and subsequent to, the 1917 purchase and transfer. The volunteers will work under the consultation of the U.S. Virgin Islands Territorial Archivist and other individuals familiar with the Caribbean holdings at the U.S. Archives. Technology gurus at CGL will create an easily accessible public website to view the digitized documents.
In order to digitize the U.S. National Archive documents the volunteers will identify priority items in the collection related to the period of Transfer. The volunteers will coordinate project activities with specialists in Virgin Islands history and research. Initial areas of investigation will include the holdings of:
Record Group 55: Records of the Government of the Virgin Islands Danish West Indies 1672-1917
Record Group 126: Records of the Office of Territories
Record Group 46: Records of the U.S. Senate, Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs and Predecessor Committees, 1816-1968.
Record Group 45: Naval Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library.
Record Group 38: Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations
Digitization equipment must be acquired, tested, and transported to the National Archives.
Documents will be requested from archival storage, reviewed to confirm that they meet project goals, and digitally captured.
Captured digital images will be made publicly available online. CGL will hold public seminars and workshops to assist U.S. Virgin Islanders and other Caribbean researchers in understanding the breadth and meaning of the documents available.
The project budget is as follows: Travel $900; Equipment $500; Consultants $500; Promotion and seminars $100. Additional support is being raised privately.
Risks and challenges
The archives are vast and there is much to be discovered. The project risks include:
1) Portions of Record Group 55 are not in circulation. We may discover that archive documents of interest cannot be retrieved for imaging.
2) Technological problems may arise which slow down our imaging process.
3) The archives have limited request windows. We may overlook the most valuable documents available during our short visit.
However, we are prepared for these obstacles after successfully completing a test-phase imaging project at the archives in 2013. Examples of the published results are available here:
- (33 days)