The Jamaica Archives and Records Department had its beginnings in the Island Secretary’s Office (ISO) established in 1659 as the administrative and record keeping arm of the Colonial Government. The Island Secretary’s Office was dismantled in 1879 and some of its functions transferred to the Island Records Office (IRO) in Spanish Town under the Records Law of that year. As a Government Department, the Jamaica Archives began in 1955 with the establishment of an Archives Section in the Island Records Office and the appointment of Clinton Black as government archivist, the first such appointment in the Commonwealth Caribbean. Some of the records transferred to IRO in 1879 became the holdings of the Archives Section and in 1962 were amalgamated with the historical records of the law courts to form the Jamaica Archives. During that year the records in the Archives Section was moved to the new building specifically erected to house them at the corner of King and Manchester Streets, Spanish Town.
The Jamaica Archives remained a part of the Island Records Office until 1982 when it became a Department in its own right following the passage of the Archives Act, 1982. During the latter half of the 1980s when records management responsibilities were added to the Department, the Government Records Centre was established in Kingston, and the name of the Department changed to The Jamaica Archives and Records Department (JARD).
The Department serves as the main repository in the country for the preservation of government records in paper, audiovisual and electronic formats, relating to the country's history and heritage. It collects archival materials relating to Jamaica produced by government ministries, agencies and department and persons of national importance as well as churches, charities and other organisations to ensure that primary materials of cultural value to Jamaica are preserved. It provides a research and reference service to the public and disseminates information on the collection to promote interest and knowledge of the nation's history and culture.
The Jamaica Archives and Records Department is funded by the Government of Jamaica through the Office of the Prime Minister. The Department operates from three (3) Units – the Jamaica Archives Unit, the Audiovisual Archives Unit and the Government Records Centre, where the office of the Government Archivist is located. Each Unit plays a separate role to fulfill the Mission of the Department.
The Jamaica Archives was opened in 1962 and was designed to give the best possible conditions for preservation and public access, and to be a focus for promoting awareness and understanding of the country's documentary heritage.
The Jamaica Archives hold records of:
Statutory Bodies, including Charities
Records of private individuals and families
We also have a small reference section of publications relating to Jamaica and the Caribbean.