The Barbados Mercury and Bridgetown Gazette - a newspaper printed bi-weekly in Barbados, West Indies, from 1783 to 1839 - is a resource in the recovery of the identities of enslaved people. Given the tropical climate and the rarity of the material, these materials are of both exceptional vulnerability and significance.
In the light of international attempts by historians to recover the identities of enslaved people, The Barbados Mercury Gazette (1783-1839) stands as a largely untapped resource. Of particular interest are the ads offering rewards for people who had “absconded” as they are filled with detailed accounts of who these people were, including their names, what they looked like, their clothes, accents, distinguishing features, friends, families and skills.
Stored at the Archives Department of Barbados, the issues are the only known copies in existence. However, the tropical climate and the fragility of the paper puts them at risk. Soon, it will be impossible to recover and honour the identities of the enslaved people from the period to trace patterns of resistance or to uncover histories about daily life in the slave-dependent colony.
The project digitised 2,331 issues of the Barbados Gazette. The staff of the Archive were trained in digitisation, workflow, imaging and metadata. The Archive strengthened its connections to other Barbadian, as well as international, institutions and scholars. The digital copies are now available at the Barbados Department of Archives, the British Library and at the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLoc.com).