Israel Lovell Foundation’s Irresponsible Action Destroys Millions In Irreplaceable Materials – Will the Barbados Museum Learn the Lesson?

barbados books burning

A Barbadian who is the editor of the Financial Times in London, Hal Austin, negotiated with the BBC and they offered these books to Barbados through the Israel Lovell Foundation.

“We took responsibility for setting up a library. There were thousands of volumes of research material, mainly material for academic research. We were looking to purchase some containers to set up a public library because the donors felt they could’ve been a tremendous contribution to the development of Barbados in relation to education and other forms of development,”

… Trevor Prescod, Director of the Israel Lovell Foundation comments on the fire that destroyed $2.5 million in rare books and sings the old Bajan refrain: Wuhloss! We were gonna do something later to protect this irreplaceable asset.

A Lesson For Our Barbados Museum & Historical Society

Millions of dollars of irreplaceable historical books and papers lost in a fire by the Israel Lovell Foundation. Uninsured. Un-scanned and probably not even cataloged or listed if the truth be known. All sitting in one spot and obviously not sufficiently protected from intrusion or fire.

Just sitting for two years with no action being taken to preserve, catalogue or protect this “irreplaceable” historical asset. Arson? Perhaps, but it could also have been spontaneous combustion due to damp papers oxidizing or fermenting: an event sufficiently common to warrant it being included in the course of study for professional librarians.

The old saying looks to be true… Easy come, easy go.

By all accounts the Israel Lovell Foundation received a treasure of historical documents from the BBC like manna from Heaven, and agreed to accept the materials without sufficient resources and planning to protect or effectively use them. I mean, how many more years would the books have sat deteriorating with nothing happening? Five? Ten? Twenty years until they were dust?

Sorry, but I don’t buy into the story that the foundation was “going to” do anything with them at all.

And if that sounds a bit cruel, and it is, perhaps it will inspire the Barbados Museum and the government that under-funds the museum to think about the thousands and thousands of books and historical records that are “stored” at the Museum without climate control, without a serious ongoing scanning and physical preservation programme and often without being cataloged. It is not an untrue statement to say that the Barbados Museum isn’t able to accurately list more that 60% of its books and historical documents. That comes from the same friend of mine who also expounds upon the Barbados Museum’s folly of keeping one-of-a-kind items in unlocked bookcases in the stairwells.

Public Money Makes It Everyone’s Business

Some may say that this fire was bad luck or unpreventable. I say that this disaster should cause the government and taxpayers to question the wisdom of using tax dollars to support organisations that are never audited or subjected to any tests or standards to ensure that public funds are being wisely spent. How much public money has the Israel Lovell Foundation received in the last five years, and what have they done with it? What are the priorities of the organisation, and is it being managed in a responsible manner?

Organisations can do whatever they want but the minute they accept tax dollars, their business and operations become the concern of every taxpayer in Barbados.

Mr. Prescod says that about 8,000 books and documents escaped the fire because they were stored at another location. Perhaps he can tell the public how his organisation intends to prevent another disaster with whatever remains of the “irreplaceable” historical treasures?

…submitted by BFP reader “CQ8”

Original Nation Article

Wealth of information up in smoke

Published on: 8/11/2009.

ABOUT $2.5 MILLION in books and research material donated by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

to the Israel Lovell Foundation went up in smoke just after midnight yesterday.

A pensive Trevor Prescod, director of the foundation, told the DAILY NATION there was no way of replacing the collection of books which were stored in a block near the St Giles Nursery School compound, My Lord’s Hill, St Michael. The books were not insured.

The entire block was ravaged by the fire.

Members of the Barbados Fire Service responded to the 12:58 a.m. call but had to return again in the afternoon after it reignited.

Prescod said he was not sure if the fire was a result of arson since police and fire officials were still investigating.

“It is a very painful observation. It is a real fundamental blow to the work we are doing,” he said.

The material, which included Caribbean literature, research and documentaries on leaders from the United States, Britain, Europe and Africa, was given to the foundation after the BBC changed over to an electronic system. They were donated about two or three years ago.

“They were offering the books to one of the Caribbean islands. A Barbadian who is the editor of the Financial Times in London, Hal Austin, negotiated with the BBC and they offered these books to Barbados through the Israel Lovell Foundation.

“We took responsibility for setting up a library. There were thousands of volumes of research material, mainly material for academic research.

“In this collection, you will find all sorts of disciplines, some that are probably not that well researched in Barbados and the Caribbean.

“We were looking to purchase some containers to set up a public library because the donors felt they could’ve been a tremendous contribution to the development of Barbados in relation to education and other forms of development,” said Prescod.

Fortunately, not all of the books were kept at scene of the fire – 8 000 copies are still stored at the foundation. (MR)


Filed under Barbados, Consumer Issues, History

21 responses to “Israel Lovell Foundation’s Irresponsible Action Destroys Millions In Irreplaceable Materials – Will the Barbados Museum Learn the Lesson?

  1. In return for services rendered as “pro bono,” I once gave an attorney a re-bound edition of “Laws Of Barbados: 1816” I sure hope they read this and put it in a fireproof safe or something!

    I had found it thrown out one day in Hastings lying next to a dustbin, and when I saw what it was, I had it refurbished… Little realising the significance it would have further on?

  2. reality check

    With a proper proposal to many different world organizations I am certain that some universities could send a small team down to start the scanning and cataloging these priceless works of historical reference.

    At the same time they could start putting these items up on a web that actually works as well as train Barbadian students to take over the task.

    What happened to all legal documents and legal cases being posted immediately as well as daily Hansard reports from Parliament and access to all land registry documents and surveys?

    Why hasn’t this been done and who is standing in the way of modernizing the means of inspection and delivery of information?

    This is a national disgrace!

  3. Hants

    “scanning and cataloging these priceless works of historical reference.”

    Good point reality check.

    Paper will “rot” eventually.

  4. Mugaffy Allamby

    Books. History books?? Why bajans need books when they got wuck up and wine up, getton badddd and ting. Bajans got crup ova and juk fuh juk, wine yuh botsie an stabby de gard, dat is culshure.

    Bajans doan need books fuh dat.

    Juk fuh juk…….

  5. Sargeant

    The Israel Lovell Foundation was taking its lead from the B’dos Gov’ts past and present. The previous Gov’t refused to renovate/rebuild the Public Library and the present Gov’t except for a statement by the Minister saying that he will be requesting Cuban Gov’t for assistance in rebuilding has done nothing.

    Who needs books anyway? There is always the Internet

  6. passin thru

    monkeys playing with shotguns.

  7. Only me

    Excellent article and excellent point , these tresures need to be preserved for future generations and the museum should work on preserving what they have urgently ,

  8. Lady Anon

    All I can say is Shame on the ILF. They had these documents and other research material for over two years and how many Barbadians knew they had them?

    Not many I am sure.

    Furthermore to have such valuable research academic material uninsured? Shame on the ILF.

    If the ILF really wanted to share this material with Barbadians, they could have had joint agreements with the Barbados Museum, CBC, University of the West Indies, the National Archives to house the materials on loan until their facility was ready. That way all Barbadians could have benefited from the wealth of information.

    Shame on the ILF!

  9. Muriel

    A few weeks ago government cuts Israel Lovell’s funding. They protest. Now their library mysteriously burns to the ground. Coincidence? Not if there were no other incidences of victimization since January 2008. Another ominous day for Barbados. What do they say again about people who burn books?

  10. Frank NYC

    Well let’s hope nothing happens to CBC, since all our video history from the time they came in to existence will be lost, they haven’t even gotten into selling DVDs of current events (Crop Over, NIFCA, etc), far less the old stuff (1966 Independence, old Marva Manning newscast, and general historic events that occured). We are a little too slow when it comes to certain things, I see that massive CBC compound whenever I come to visit and compare it to the smaller stations outpost I see in Harrisburg, that do a far better job of news and everything else with a much smaller staff. Those books can all be replaced, I’m pretty sure the BBC didn’t give them the only copies, our video history cannot if someone else doesn’t have a copy.

  11. Jason

    Hello Frank NYC, one bad hurricane would take care of about 90% of the historical records in Barbados including film, books & videos.

    All that CBC video stuff should be copied and distributed through the internet. As with a family photo album sitting on a shelf there is no excuse anymore. Scanners are US$100 for something that was $2000 10 years ago.

    The more people have copies, the safer the family photo collection is.

    BTW, I think you are probably wrong on the BBC having copies. Think of the millions and millions of pages that would have had to be scanned. They were getting rid of Caribbean research papers and books and probably kept only what they thought they needed to for their current purposes. No way they would have scanned or copied everything.

    Irreplaceable probably means exactly that.

  12. J

    Dear Ian:

    You paid your lawyer with a rebound book which you found in a dustbin?

    And the lawyer took this as payment?

    Can you please give me the name of your lawyer?

  13. dominoes

    I wonder,is it a coincidence.

  14. Analyzer


    Is the Israel Lovell Foundation still very active?
    I had to google it and here are a couple of links that popped up.

    The latter quotes about a graduation ceremony in 2001. Who is running the Israel Lovell Foundation? It sounds like they could use some volunteers. So anybody connected with this foundation, let us know if you need any volunteers, it looks like a worthy cause.

    Also, I looked up ‘people that burn books’ and this link came up:

    I wonder if someone didn’t like the content of some of the books? Let’s hope we can find out if this was a genuine mistake or someone deliberately did it (arson). VERY VERY SAD.

  15. Paul Barnes

    a case of monkey handling gun…

  16. PB

    Some people would do anything to get insurance!

  17. 2009

    Off – Da – Brink

    I thought by resorting to fire this time……I would actually get some more attention !

    No doubt when I realised that Trevor Prescod was helt bent on ridiculing a well thought out DLP Government Summer Programme…..I knew it was times to set his books up in FLAMES !

    Off – Da – Brink

  18. Livinginbarbados

    On the Foundation fire, I read that the items were not insured. But insurance would only have allowed a possible replacement of items that were no longer available for sale. What would have the insurance done to avert the fire, or is it that to get insurance certain preventative measures would have had to be put in place.

    On the library, what is the situation regarding prevention of fire? The books (and non book items) I would think are all replaceable.

  19. victor

    I can hardIy bear to see this, having worked in the museum worId for many years. It’s a tradgedy . The history of Barbados is amazing. This isIand has been so important, though tiny, in worId history for so many reasons; sIavery, sugar and the weaIth from that, what about the mystery of those who vanished between CoIumbus and the EngIish arriving? So much has happened on this isIand which incIudes the wider worId. Barbados is uniqueIy interesting in itseIf. This tiny isIand, same size as the IsIe of Wight, by the way, has a written history 200 years oIder than AustraIia and we know about George Washington’s visit etc. It’s time to redescover who Iived here before we came here and Iet go about how we arrived. We are Iucky to be here today. We may not have a perfect government but we do have the chance to vote. Government is becoming more and more corrupt. It wiII be interesting to observe, on the WorId’s stage, what happens here. Are we going to revert to African poIitics? The WorId watches.


    It is with great sadness of course that one learns of the tragedy at St. Giles Infant School and the destruction of the Israel Lovell Library. It is of a particular sadness and a personal one also as my roots are in the area and some of my relatives and friends do attend events and classes there. This horror story may well have been averted as it appears that there may have been a gross dereliction of responsibility by the ILF management. More worrisome and of some alarm is
    the notion that malicious arson may have been perpetrated by person or persons unknown.
    There is too the relationsip between the DLP/Ester Byer-Suckoo MP and Minister and her department’s innapropiate response of recent to the funding crisis at the centre and to the ex BLP/MP Trevor Prescod. It suggested spite,pettyness, small minds and political revenge. Bajan politics writ large. BLP/DLP different faces, different names but the same ugly politics. Third and fourth chancers who perceive being an MP as a fast route to become rich in a hurry. A legacy left by the previous regime
    and being followed assiduously by David Thompson and his new montrous regiment with hands outheld for some of the fatted calf.
    But when we begin to burn books, when we incinerate intellectual resourses and knowledge we begin to entertain the fascistic ideology of the Hitlers/Mussolinis and their camp followers and all the horrors that can follow in their wake.
    My Lords Hill one would like to believe and hope is not the place for this pernicious creed to take root.

  21. Pingback: David Comissiong gets it right about frivolity, entertainment and Barbados history « Barbados Free Press