Between 1916 and 1975, all the colonial archives in Suriname were brought to The Netherlands. This material included materials from 1667, when the Dutch and the English signed the Treaty of Breda, granting the Dutch Suriname and the British New York, right through to 1975, when Suriname became an independent country. This week, on 19 January 2017, the final boxes will be returned to Suriname.
As part of the project, the Dutch National Archives scanned and digitalized some 5.5 million pages, all of which can be accessed via the archives website: gahetnal.nl.
I’ve worked in both Dutch and Surinamese archives. Each has its own personality; each has its own processes, its own rhythms (which I wrote about here). The cities, too, have their own personalities. The Hague feels like a seat of government; it is a bureaucratic city organized by its political function. Paramaribo moves to a different rhythm. Still a national capital, it’s nonetheless shaped by South American heat and humidity and a Caribbean sensibility. Time is more fluid.
While the documents themselves haven’t changed as a result of their oceanic crossings, the way we read them just might.