Coleccion Aruba: Intersectoral Collaboration


A collaborative approach for preservation and access of collections in small island states.

Authors: drs. R. R. Hernandez (Aruba) and drs. J. P. Scholing (Aruba)

The plan to make Aruba’s historical and cultural materials available digitally began before the COVID pandemic and long before the discussion about commemorating the abolition of slavery in the Dutch West Indian colonies, which happened 160 years ago in 1863.

The institutions responsible for preserving Aruba’s historical documents, the Biblioteca Nacional Aruba (BNA) and the National Archive of Aruba (ANA), had been scanning and digitizing their materials for more than ten years before the “Coleccion Aruba” project even started.

The Biblioteca Nacional Aruba (BNA) has been sharing its materials with the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC) for more than ten years. In March 2019, they started their own digital collection called the “BNA Coleccion Digital.” They built it using the Internet Archive, technology. This was done to make their large collection of digital and born-digital materials more organized and easier to handle. It also helped them become less reliant on outside groups to manage their digital materials daily.

One might wonder why it took a while, especially when you compare it to bigger organizations. Well, like many small institutions, both BNA and ANA faced challenges. They had limitations when it came to resources, budgets, and staff.

Digitization and digital access require specific equipment and specialized staff, which are not always available in (single/individual) institutions. Digital access traditionally depends on a big budget and usually involves acquiring a license from a commercial digital (archival or documentary) platform provider, a large server budget for the hosting of highquality/resolution digital heritage materials, and in case of increasing popularity, a budget for covering the costs associated with bandwidth and internet traffic. None of these elements were available at either BNA or ANA. Close collaboration, resource sharing, and continuous knowledge exchange solved the staff and equipment aspect. The technical (online) aspect was solved by partnering with the Internet Archive in 2018-2019, which made hosting and serving all these materials a nearly zero-cost endeavor.

But its timing was, in hindsight, exactly right: broad digital access was realized in 2019, just before the global COVID-19 pandemic hit.

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