Marvellous March Mash-up!

“Come Mek Wi Dig Out Dem Roots!” was the enthusiastic cry as Sharon Tomlin, a Caribbean family historian, took to the stage at the March Mash-up at The National Archives this week.

The event was a celebration of various projects that have been running as part of the Caribbean through a lens Outreach project over the past year.

‘Caribbean through a lens’, led by my colleagues Sandra Shakespeare and Sara Griffiths, is part of the wider Through a lens photograph project that has released Colonial Office images online over the past few years. The Caribbean collection has had particular focus from the Outreach team, working with Caribbean communities across the country in response to the images – evoking memories and re-interpreting and re-using the information in their own way.

One of the popular images from the Caribbean collection. INF 10/39/10 Barbados 1950-1968

The March Mash-up took place on Monday in a whirlwind of colour, singing, dancing and food. It was introduced by Patrick Vernon OBE, one of our User Advisory Group members. Patrick spoke about the importance of continuing work such as ‘Caribbean through a lens’ in public institutions like The National Archives so everyone has the opportunity to learn about their heritage.

Sharon Tomlin then gave an insight in to how to begin Caribbean family history research, encouraging participants to look in to their history in order to discover hidden stories that might otherwise be lost, and build foundations of memory for present and future generations.

Sharon Tomlin speaking to the group

Later in the day, participants gathered on stage to tell their stories through music, dance and poetry – the conference rooms of The National Archives were transformed into a Caribbean party – something they’d probably never seen before!

Some of the participants performing their pieces

Amongst all this and many other excellent speakers and performances, there was still time to view some of the original photographs in the ‘Through a lens’ series from our CO 1069 and INF 10 collections.

Looking at early photographs from Guyana

Examining photographs from Jamaica

Participants pored over photographs of the Caribbean Islands, telling stories of school days, favourite places, how to prepare a calabash and exactly how many different uses there are for Angostura Bitters! The exchange of information was very valuable all round!

Memories of childhood sugarcane and how to eat it were shared by participants. INF 10/149 Jamaica 1960

The Caribbean through a lens project page has recently been launched online. You can view the images in the collection (via a link to Flickr) and find out about the different projects that have been happening around the UK to open up the collections to wider audiences. We would still love to hear from anyone who has any information about the images in the ‘Through a lens’ project – please leave comments on Flickr if there is anything you can add!

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