Transfer Project

a collaborative project // Janet Cook-Rutnik, Lori Lee & Edgar Endress

Photographs from original passport circa 1919

We are a group of Caribbean-based and continental U.S. scholars, artists, and researchers who share the common interests of learning more about Danish West Indies/U.S. Virgin Islands history, sharing all of the results of our work with Virgin Islanders, and using the stories that we collect to reframe Virgin Islands history from the local rather than the colonial perspective.

On the second floor of the National Archives II, in College Park, Maryland are a series of books that catalogue every item within the archive, which is organized by place. The Virgin Islands are assigned to Record Group 55. Within this group are a series of passport applications for individuals and families who desired to travel from the U.S. Virgin Islands to the continental United States in 1918. Archives serve as carefully constructed warehouses of memory. In this case, the memory is constructed from the perspective of the United States government. What is lacking is the experience of the documented events from multiple vantage points. Oral histories, in the form of narratives, are alternative repositories of personal and collective memories.

The goal of Transfer is to reframe the archive created by colonial entities by shifting people from the role of object to subject. This puts Virgin Islanders back in control of their own histories, returning these narratives where they belong, to the U.S. Virgin Islands. The end result will incorporate the histories, essays, and art, into reference materials for Virgin Islanders regarding the historical moment of transfer and the processes that it initiated from the perspective of Virgin Islanders.

The historical event of Transfer Day is a snapshot created from the continuous processes of time and memory. Through narrative and archives the event is carded, combed, and woven into the fabric of historical memory of Transfer Day in the United States Virgin Islands.