The West Indies and Special Collections, UWI Mona Library

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by Mrs. Bernadette Worrell-Johnson

Librarian, West Indies and Special Collections (WISC), The UWI Mona Library

The UWI Mona Library’s mission is to be a global gateway to Caribbean content, advancing learning, knowledge creation and innovation at The University. The West Indies and Special Collections (WISC), is the Mona Library’s premier collection with the largest concentration of English-speaking Caribbean content at The UWI Mona. Several unique collections within the WISC support teaching and facilitate research. The collection includes 4000 rare books, 440 manuscripts, 70 personal papers and special collections; 6000 microfilm/microfiche and approximately 200 maps.

Tab 102 showing flora featured in Sir Hans Sloane’s A Voyage to the islands Madera, Barbados … Jamaica published in 1707. Available in the WISC of The UWI Mona Library.

The WISC holds a myriad of irreplaceable gems including letters, documents relating to indenture and estates from the late 18th century; rare books such as the collection of flora and fauna featured in Sir Hans Sloane’s A Voyage to the islands Madera, Barbados … Jamaica; manuscripts  such as the short stories and plays from Jamaican novelist, journalist, poet and playwright Roger Mais and ethnological research on the Maroons of Accompong in Jamaica by doctoral student Archibald Cooper. A number of the collections within the WISC are considered hidden, as they are not reflected within the catalogue or accessible from any web-based inventories (Salmon, Kerr-Campbell and Kerr, 2016). Toward resolving this, the librarians and staff in the WISC carry out collection processing with the end product being published finding aids that are developed to guide users to specific resources. The Mona Library has compiled and published several finding aids with some available via the library website such as the John Hearne Collection and Vic Reid Collection. The need for greater accessibility has also led the WISC to explore robust collection management technology such as ArchivesSpace which will allow the content of finding aids and digital objects to be shared. These will soon be launched.

Digitization in action using the Microfilm Scanner/Reader in the WISC

Digitization was identified as the most immediate solution to improve visibility and increase access to the hidden WISC collections. Digitization is recognized as a tool to stimulate usage within special collections. As such, the WISC is a critical partner working with the Mona Library Digitization Project, leading the selection of West Indian content for digitization. This is in support of the Mona Library’s intent to make its resources available anywhere, anytime.

Postcard from the Cousins Hereward Collection

Through the UWI Mona Library Digital Collections, researchers have access to a wide range of resources, including the collections of eminent scholar Prof. Elsa Goveia, the papers of Caribbean leaders The Most Hon. Edward Seaga and The Most Hon. Percival J. Patterson, and some items from the Caribbean Children’s Literature Collection amassed by Dr. Cherrell Shelley-Robinson. The introduction of the ST Viewscan III Microfilm Scanner/Reader in the WISC is further improving access to old newspaper titles and manuscripts only available on Microfilm. Donated by the CHASE Fund, this device has improved the legibility of the content and allows for the creation of digital copies as researchers can download content. The WISC has also embarked on the digitization of these titles on microfilm and microfiche.

For more information on accessing the resources available through the West Indies and Special Collections (WISC), please contact us via email at


Salmon, F. M. Kerr-Campbell and P. Kerr. (2016). Managing a digital archiving project at the University of the West Indies: A case study. Libellarium IX(2), 95-107.

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