The Ministry of Education and Technical and Vocational Training marks with sadness the passing of Dr. Gail Saunders, the first Bahamian trained as an Archivist, as a pioneer of modern Bahamian culture and education. In addition to the scores of Bahamians she trained and inspired, her incredible legacy includes her efforts leading to the establishment of the Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corporation and The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas and her service as a board member for both organisations.
Dr. Saunders was the premier Bahamian Historian. Through her research she brought many new aspects of Bahamian History to light. Her footprints can be seen all through the Bahamian History taught in our schools. She edited the Bahamian History Text Book for both Primary and Junior Schools, wrote “The Bahamas a History of Islands”, “The Slave Population” (Her MPhil Thesis), “The Social History of The Bahamas” (her PhD. Thesis) and co-authored, with Dr. Michael Craton, “Islanders in the Streams”, volumes I & II, and, with Patrice M. Williams the present Director of Archives, “Conflict, Controversy and Control”.
Dr. Saunders began her journey in serving The Bahamas in a room at the Ministry of Education, where she worked along with Edward Carson, Archivist and Librarian of Her Majesty Customs and Excise, London who served as Archivist from October 1970 to September, 1971. She succeeded him as the Government’s Archivist in 1971 when he demitted office. She became Director of Archives in 1981 and Director General of Heritage in July, 2004.
Her exploits as an archivist include the introduction of the historical exhibition when, in February, 1973, the Archives Section hosted the first one entitled “Aspects of Slavery.” These exhibitions continued annually until 2003.
Dr. Saunders also served as President of The Caribbean Archives Association, President of the Association of Caribbean Historians and The Bahamas Historical Society. She served as a member of the Executive Council on Archives in the International Council on Archives (ICA) between 1978 and 1982. Additionally, she assisted the governments of Dominica and the British Virgin Islands in the establishment of their National Archives.
As a leader, Dr. Saunders trained a cadre of young officers in the appraisal, acquisition, and arrangement and description of records. She encouraged staff to qualify themselves and to make the Archives their profession.
Additionally, she tried to sensitize government officials in the wider service about the proper care and handling of records. Dr. Gail Saunders studied Archives Administration and Records Management at University College, London, and has created a body of work that sets an extraordinary standard and example for scholars and nation-builders across the region. The Ministry offers sincere condolences to her family on her passing, and offers the thanks of a grateful nation to God and her family for the gift of her life. She was a great Bahamian. May she rest in peace.