This November (2013) , for the first time, the University Archives, UWI, marked UNESCO’s World Day for Audio Visual Heritage with an Open Day. The Archives participated in activities observed around the world as it had recently become a major repository for audio visual material with the transfer to it of the collection of the ‘Library of the Spoken Word’ of the Radio Education Unit (REU). This collection comprises approximately 10,000 items consisting mainly of audio tapes (reel to reel and cassette), CD’s and gramophone records.
The REU was established in 1954 and was responsible for producing radio programmes which were used in Jamaica and distributed within the Caribbean. As one of the early units of the new University College of the West Indies (UCWI) and in particular the Department of Extra-Mural Studies, the REU was a unique channel of adult education, with its radio programming on social, political, cultural, historical and academic import.
The production output of the REU formed the nucleus of the LSW, a collection of audio recordings on a wide range of themes and topics and even more importantly, by the many great social, cultural, academic and political luminaries of the Caribbean.
This collection was transferred to the University Archives with the closure of the REU on the 31 July 2013 and has resulted in a dramatic increase in the Archives’ holdings. They cover not only a greater proportion of the university’s activities but encompasses a wider variety of formats. This will undoubtedly lead to a broadening of our service base.
With the acquisition of the collection it was felt that World Audio Visual Heritage Day provided a timely opportunity to showcase to the university community and to the wider public some of the gems from this collection.
The Open Day had two main components:
A live broadcast from 9 am to 12 noon from the University Archives of the radio programme “STRAIGHT UP” from the radio station (News Talk FM 93) located on the University campus. This is a talk show and the whole focus of the discussion was on audio visual materials especially those from “Library of the Spoken Word”. Persons interviewed included past and present members of staff and researchers who have used the collection. Excerpts from some of the historic recordings were also played.
The second component was a small display on the significance of the occasion, mounted in the Reading Room and tours of the Archives facility especially the Media Digital Laboratory where historic tapes were played throughout the day. The occasion was widely advertised and persons came from the University campus, and other organizations such as the National Library of Jamaica, the Jamaica Archives and the Jamaica National Commission for UNESCO.
The occasion was really a national one in that among the persons interviewed was the Audio visual librarian at the National Library of Jamaica and the Director of the African Institute of Jamaica/Jamaica Memory Bank. It was truly a celebration of the country’s ‘spoken heritage’.