The entire collection of the Bailiff’s Occupation and Liberation files is now available to view online after months of work by staff at Jersey Archive.
The papers are from one of the most significant chapters in the Island’s history and have been conserved and digitised, with over 3,000 files comprising nearly 40,000 individual pages now on the Archives and Collections Online (ACO) catalogue.
The year-long project was made possible by funding from the Association of Jersey Charities (AJC) and Channel Islands Lottery, and the support of the Bailiff’s Chambers. The AJC funding has also enabled the Archive to give anyone who is not an ACO subscriber two weeks of free access to the collection at www.jerseyheritage.org/aco from today (15th) until 28 February 2021.
The Bailiff’s Occupation and Liberation files are an integral part of the Jersey Occupation Archive, which in 2011 received global recognition by being awarded UNESCO UK Memory of the World status to highlight its importance and significance as documentary heritage.
Michele Leerson, Jersey Heritage’s Online Development Manager, said: “The project has enabled us to ensure the long-term preservation of the originals of one of Jersey’s most valuable archive collections, while making the documents available online to Islanders and a worldwide audience and enhancing the story of Jersey’s unique occupation history.
“The collection had been earmarked for preservation and digitisation for some time and we were delighted to receive the funding from the Association of Jersey Charities to enable this to go ahead, particularly in 2020, which marked the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of our Island.”
Liz Le Poidevin, Deputy Chair of the Association of Jersey Charities, said: “The AJC has awarded a number of Channel Islands Lottery grants to Jersey Heritage over the years for projects large and small. This request had particular resonance with the 75th anniversary of Liberation approaching and the grants panel recognised the importance of digitising the collection in order to preserve the original documents and make them accessible both locally and internationally. It was clear that the project required a dedicated resource and we were pleased that Jersey Heritage planned to undertake the work locally, under the supervision of Archive staff. We are delighted that our funding enables the Archive to offer free access to the collection for the next fortnight and encourage anyone with an interest in local history to take advantage of that opportunity.”
The Bailiff’s files record in great detail the administration of the Island during the Occupation period and the relationship between the local authorities and the German civil authorities. The Bailiff, Sir Alexander Coutanche, was the head of the Superior Council, which was established on 24 June 1940 and acted as a buffer between the occupying army and the civil population.
Debbie Reynolds, Digitisation Officer at Jersey Heritage, said: “It has been an absolute privilege to have worked on such an important project, bringing these documents online for everyone to read. I was struck by the vast array of subjects, but mostly the personal stories of people writing to the Bailiff asking for help when other avenues had been in vain.”