Liberian Presidential Documents
Rescuing Liberian History: Preserving the Personal Papers of Liberia President William V. S. Tubman
CAMP and the Title VI National Resource Centers for Africa are supporting the efforts of Indiana University to restore and preserve the archives of William V. S. Tubman, Liberia’s longest-serving president.
Approximately 30,000 documents of Tubman’s personal papers were retrieved from the library of his unoccupied mansion in Liberia and preserved in a 16-month grant project awarded by the British Library Endangered Archives Programme. The materials demonstrate the nearly complete integration between Tubman’s personal and political lives during his presidency from 1944 until his death in 1971. The bulk of the collection clusters at the beginning (1944–50) and end (1961–71) of his administration.
The papers were found in deteriorating condition and in need of immediate preservation efforts. Much of the collection requires conservation; in 2003, rebel soldiers rummaged through the file cabinets in search of valuables, tossing folders and papers onto the floor, leaving them limp and damp in Liberia’s tropical climate (for a more detailed assessment, see “Assessment of Liberian Document Repositories: 2004”).
The project, with £48,810 in funding from Endangered Archives and additional conservation funding from CAMP/Title VI, followed a six-stage process to retrieve, restore, and microfilm the collection before returning it to Liberia. Containers of the damaged papers were sent to the E. Lingle Craig Preservation Laboratory at Indiana University for freeze-drying and conservation. Professional archivists sorted and created finding aids to the collection (Encoded Archival Description). Finally, the collection was microfilmed for preservation (and potential future digitization).
To give Liberians local access to the Tubman papers’ content, microfilm copies will be deposited with the University of Liberia, Cuttington University College, Center for National Documents and Records/National Archives, and the Tubman family. International access to the papers’ content will be available via microfilms deposited at the Liberian Collections Project–Indiana University, the British Library, and with the Center for Research Libraries. The complete physical collection of the President W. V. S. Tubman Papers will be shipped back to Liberia. The collection will reside at a location in Liberia that is acceptable to the Tubman family and meets the Endangered Archives Programme’s conditions.
Verlon L. Stone, Indiana University (Project Coordinator)
D. Elwood Dunn, Sewanee: The University of the South
Daniel Reed, Indiana University
G. Narrison Toulee, Center for National Documents and Records/ National Archives, Liberia
Jacob Nadal, Indiana University
Philip Bantin, Indiana University
For more information and updates, see Indiana University’s page W.V.S. Tubman Papers Collection.
See also IU's “Cooperative Projects (African Studies)” page.