MUSEUM ? There is no MUSEUM ! There are signs in and around the Esplanade Mall directing visitors to the Grenada National MUSEUM. There is a sign near the mouth of Sendall Tunnel directing persons to the National MUSEUM. There is a sign on the Antilles Building, on the corner of Young Street and Monckton Street which says that it is THE GRENADA NATIONAL MUSEUM.
There is a letter from the Ministry of Culture to the Administrators of the Grenada National MUSEUM, asking them to submit an inventory of the artifacts in their possession! But; there is no MUSEUM ! Not according to the wording of the above Bill! Not according to the failure to intimate, consult or discuss the proposed Bill with the people who have been collecting and caring for the heritage of the Nation for the past forty one (41) years.
The Act purports itself to be “for the purpose of ESTABLISHING The Grenada National Museum.” Is there not an established Museum? According to the persons responsible for drawing up the Act, there is no established Museum and consequently, there was no need to inform, or request an opinion from the persons who were taking care of the artifacts stated above.
The Grenada National Museum, as it now stands, was formed in 1976, on the request of the then Prime Minister Sir E.M Gairy. He established the committee that was to be responsible for the formation of the establishment
Due to the political troubles of the late 1970’s, it became necessary to locate Government Ministries in the building and the collected artifacts were, then, located on the ground floor. After the new Ministerial Building was constructed in the Botanical Gardens, the building was vacated by the Ministry. Dr James Pitt wrote to the Prime Minister requesting his support to have the Antilles Building and the Drill Yard, ceded to; the Museum, the National Trust and the Arts Council for the development and protection of the Nation’s heritage.
In an open ceremony, some time later. The Minister of Culture, verbally, ceded the area of the Antilles Building, left empty by the departure of the Ministry of Education. No formal document, nor funding was ever provided.
The structure of the building had been neglected, there was termite infestation and the floor was unsafe. There had been a large sum of money donated to the Library and the Museum by an American-based Grenadian called Mr Parnell Jones. Dr Pitt had preserved the funds given to the museum for the development of the premises and some of it was used for the necessary repairs.
To publicise the new situation and the Art Course that I had initiated at TAMCC, it was agreed that I should hold an exhibition of my artworks there and that was done from the end of 2003 to well into 2004. Further efforts were being put in place to develop the establishment when the Nation was struck by Hurricane Ivan. The roof was severely damaged, the collection was in danger from the elements and there was the possibility of a fire, due to water affecting the electricity.
The remaining money from the Parnell Jones donation was then used (in excess of $275,000.00) to repair the roof. It was due to that action that the Antilles Building is now functional, while the other Government Buildings: York House; Government House and the Library that have not been repaired, are now in ruins.
There was no funding provided by the Government but there was considerable support from a small group of mostly senior citizens for the repairs and cleaning up, as well as, from PBC Scouts, GBSS Scouts, TAMCC and SGU student volunteers, US Peace Corps, FLOW, GRENLEC, Courts Grenada Ltd, Republic Bank and many others.
To date, no member of the Board of Trustees, present Management or staff have been invited to discuss the formation of the policy, as presented in the above mentioned Bill, but the GNM has received hostile correspondence from Officials at the Ministry of Culture seeking information on the additional usage of the building .
(The Government has never funded the Museum so the Museum Committee had entered into rent contracts with groups and individuals, for the use of areas of the premises in order to raise necessary funds. Some Ministry Officials have recently encouraged tenants to withhold their rent). They have also made request for an inventory of the museum’s collection. – it is questionable as to whether they have any legal right to do so – and as the Bill which they must had contributed to drawing up suggest.
The museum does not exist. Were they requesting an inventory of an organisation that did not exist? Other areas of their correspondence have attempted to distort facts regarding prior meetings or encounters.
While many of us who are involved with the present running of the museum welcome the fact the Government is finally prepared to take an interest in its functioning, it is our feeling that the Act as it now stands will allow a few Civil Servants, along with former employees who have already exhibited their desire to use the museum for their own ends – it was the reason that one of them had been dismissed – to effect a ‘take- over’ of the establishment.
We are therefore convinced that the matter should be publicly discussed and examined before it becomes Law.
G.V. de la Mothe
On behalf of the Management Committee
Grenada National Museum.