The Belize Archives Department came into existence in late 1965 when the librarian of the National Library Service, Mr. Leo H. Bradley, Sr. was appointed Honorary Archivist. As an annex to this establishment, a ruling was made by General Orders “that all old correspondence, books, diaries, manuscript records and maps and other records become, in course of time, of increasing importance and those likely to be of value or interest should be carefully preserved. No documents or other records not covered by General Order 467 are therefore to be destroyed by a head of department without the written authority of the Colonial Secretary”.
Since 1965, the Belize Archives and Records Service (BARS) has been devoted to collecting and preserving the historical and contemporary records of Belize. The BARS Act, 2004 states, inter alia, that the mission of the Department is to “acquire, preserve and provide information of our national heritage.” Although primary documents on Belize can be found in many archives, the BARS collection of primary records on Belize is one of the most important in the world. The core of the collection consists of government created records and reference materials including Meetings of Magistrates, Incoming/Outgoing Dispatches, Court Cases, Land Title Records, Estates, Laws, Annual Reports and photographs. The oldest documents are records covering British activities on the Mosquito Shore from around the 1770s. The Department is also the custodian of several private collections of documents and photographs. In addition to caring for the primary records of Belize, the BARS provides records and information management services to Government Ministries and Departments. Finally, the Department is mandated to “promote the historical, cultural and literary value of records and archives through exhibitions, outreach services and other dissemination activities” (BARS Act 2004, Part II, Sec. 5).