Jean-Claude Vilton (1956-2010)
Jean-Claude Vilton died on 20 August after a sudden illness.
Born in 1956 in Mirebalais, a small town in the centre of Haïti, he studied at the Alexandre Petion grammar school in Port-au-Prince. In 1984 he passed the entry examination to Haïti’s National Archives (‘ANH’), becoming one of the first cohort of archival graduates trained by the ANH. He obtained a further degree, in law, from the Faculty of Law and Business Sciences at the University of Haïti before leaving his homeland for two years to complete his studies at the University of Montréal with a Masters in Information Sciences. In 1988 he took the technical archival training course in Paris. A pillar of the profession in his country, he was a founder member of the Association des Archivistes Haïtiens (ASAH), and initiated the ANADHA LIAISON magazine. Ever anxious to support and promote archives and to share his knowledge with his colleagues, he published numerous articles on the archives situation in Haïti; he attended national and international meetings, led seminars, and trained cohorts of archivists. He was an eminent member of PIAF, the Portail international des Archives francophones (the French-speaking archives portal and resource), for which he worked untiringly. One of his last international activities was in October 2009 in Dakar, on the occasion of the Semaine internationale des Archives francophones, where he made a deep impression with his audience when speaking about the progress achieved, through courage and perseverance, in the Haïti National Archives. Just a few months later this progress was to receive a heavy setback, because of the earthquake. Yet despite this, nothing could erode Jean-Claude’s professional faith: far from slipping into resignation, when invited to France last July, although already ill, he continued to plead the cause of his institution and to win support for the rebuilding – already underway - of the service which meant so much to him.
Though he joined the Haïti National Archives somewhat by chance – as he explained to us very amusingly in Dakar – he remained at the Archives from 1984 to 2010; his was a long career in what became his second home, where he patiently climbed the professional ladder to its highest rungs to become its Technical Director. This career ended on the very day of institution’s celebration of its 150th anniversary – sadly but aptly marking the end of a life dedicated to the cause of archives.
An able, stalwart and reliable professional, Jean-Claude formed with his director, Jean-Wilfrid Bertrand, a complementary, closely collaborating tandem. Discreet and modest, his was, however, an unusual personality : all those who knew him will saw his obstinacy and courage, and above all his optimism and faith in the future which will have supported him to the end. It is people like Jean-Claude who build the respect and honour of our profession and who remain inexhaustible resources of energy and drive.
At a time when Haïti’s National Archives are embarking on a crucial phase of their history and development, the passing of Jean-Claude Vilton is a further misfortune to hit the Archives. The International Council on Archives conveys its deepest condolences to Jean-Wilfrid Bertrand, to their colleagues in the National Archives of Haïti and to the family and friends of Jean-Claude, the date of whose passing will remain inextricably linked to the institution which he served so well.
Christine Martinez and Claude de Moreau de Gerbehaye