Toward a Decolonial Archival Praxis

Digitizing the Lloyd Best Archive in Trinidad and Tobago

  • Christina Bleyer Trinity College
  • Amanda Matava Trinity College
Keywords: Archives, Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean, Coloniality, Decoloniality, Praxis


This article explores the implementation of a decolonial archival praxis through the digitization of the Lloyd Best Archive in Trinidad and Tobago. Traditional archival practices, rooted in colonial attitudes, have historically marginalized indigenous knowledge systems and narratives. Through a post-custodial approach, this project challenges the colonial structure inherent in archival practices by prioritizing collaboration with local communities and empowering them to maintain control over their own stories.

Drawing on concepts of epistemic sovereignty and coloniality, the article examines the limitations of traditional archival theory and practice, which often exclude marginalized voices and perpetuate dominant narratives. By shifting towards a post-custodial model, which involves partnering with local organizations and communities, the project aims to decolonize the archive and reclaim agency for those whose stories have been historically marginalized.

The partnership between Trinity College and the Lloyd Best Institute of the Caribbean exemplifies a new approach to archival digitization, one that prioritizes cultural context and community involvement. By providing resources, training, and support, Trinity College enables the local team to digitize and describe their own materials, ensuring that the archive remains rooted in its cultural origins.

Utilizing platforms like JSTOR Forum facilitates the preservation and accessibility of digitized materials while also offering opportunities for collaboration and feedback. The integration of culturally relevant metadata, such as the term "Trinbagonian," underscores a commitment to representing diverse perspectives within the archive.

Overall, the digitization of the Lloyd Best Archive serves as a model for decolonial archival praxis, enriching our understanding of Caribbean history and culture while advancing equitable and inclusive archival practices worldwide. By centering marginalized voices, initiatives like this work towards a future where epistemic sovereignty is recognized and respected, and where archives serve as instruments of empowerment and social justice.

Author Biographies

Christina Bleyer, Trinity College

Christina Bleyer, PhD, is the College Librarian, Associate Vice President for Libraries & Digital Learning and Director of Special Collections and Archives at the Watkinson Library at Trinity College.

Amanda Matava, Trinity College

As Digital Archivist and the Head of Digital Asset Management, Amanda’s responsibilities include overseeing the creation, ingest, appraisal, description, and stewardship of born-digital or digitized library, archival, and special collections materials. She has worked in the DAM department since joining Trinity in 2017.