Barbados Museum & Historical Society suffers from a Hoarding Mentality
Submitted by BMHS longtime member Sinsten Merriweather (BFP editor: as contrived a name as we’ve every seen!)
The Barbados Museum’s website claims they have a collection over half a million ‘artefacts‘ (yes, that’s how they spell the word to the world online) that “tells the story of the people of Barbados and preserves our history for future generations.”
“Indeed, our history is preserved for future generations because none of the current generation can access it.”
… BFP’s Cliverton
The Museum has photos of precisely 19 of those 500,000 artifacts displayed online, with no explanation, description or provenance attached.
Do you want to know what the Barbados Museum has in inventory that might interest you? Well, don’t look for a list or a working searchable database online – you’ll have to email Mrs. Marcia Griffith and in a few days she might (or might not) get back to you with further clarifications. God forbid that the museum actually put a database online where people can search for topics, historical periods, artifacts and documents that interest them!
And half the time the existing website (as limited as it is in vision and function) doesn’t work, or maybe sometimes might perhaps work… if, sort of.
Missing: A vision of Telling the History of Barbados to the world
What is the Mission Statement of the Barbados Museum & Historical Society? Your guess is as good as mine and I’ve been a member for over ten years. If I had to guess, I’d say that the mission of the BM&HS is to do whatever the current management, staff and Board desire as their whim without reference to any written mission statement.
It is true that in the last ten, and especially the last five years, the leadership have done some wonderful things with little money. In particular some of the bus tours of the island (not many recently though) awakened a thirst for Bajan history amongst some of the young people.
… the Barbados Museum is falling down disastrously in making history accessible to the people. In this day, that means online – not just certain items displayed in a glass case to those who visit a physical building. The mission statement should be to make Barbados history available to anyone around the world, instantly, and in so doing to encourage people to take an interest in Barbados and to visit our country (and to spend their money while doing so!)
What the Barbados Museum should be
My vision for the Barbados Museum is that to start, all artifacts and documents will be databased. Then we will start the long process of scanning the documents and photographing the physical artifacts. If someone has a particular interest in a certain item in the database, they could pay to have it scanned sooner.
Our collection should be world famous, but it is currently hidden and hoarded by the keepers – who, drunk with their own little fiefdoms, decide what the people should see or not.
Put it all online! Purchase 20 scanners @ $300 each and enlist volunteers who (after training and vetting) would sign out historical documents and scan them, to be databased and posted online FOR FREE. If we can’t find 20 people willing to volunteer to scan documents to preserve Bajan history, lets just pave over the whole island right now and sell it to Sandals Resorts or the Arabs.
Welcome to the 21st Century. A pitiful 19 of 500,000 museum artifacts available online isn’t failure: it is proof that those in control of the Barbados Museum haven’t a clue.
So much we hear about ‘historical tourism’ but there is little promotion backed up by assets. The buildings are gone: all we have left are the documents and artifacts at the museum that are locked away in drawers and stuffed in boxes on shelves – never opened in 20 years or more.
Scan the diaries and documents and put them online! Let the world have them for free.
Excite those who love history. Let them come to Barbados and stomp about the remains of the signal towers. Let them visit the sites where the Cold War and World War II were fought. Let them read the journals of escaped slaves and slave owners. We have them! Why are we hoarding them?
Let us post the documents online about the Moyne Commission and Clement Payne. Let us post the 1933 diary of a 13 year old girl who fell in love with the son of a caretaker at her father’s plantation. (The diary is there at the museum. I have read parts of it and know that it is a beautiful piece of history.)
Let us free Bajan history, excite and attract the world. What a squandered resource and opportunity!
Barbados Museum & Historical Society… are you listening?