Museum project completed

| 22/08/2008

(CNS): Almost four years after Hurricane Ivan hit the Cayman Islands in September 2004 when the National Museum became one its many victims, the conservation and renovation work is now finished. Although the museum will not officially open until January of next year, the Minister of Culture, Alden McLaughlin, paid a visit to the new museum this week to congratulate those involved in the project.

 

“The continued strengthening of the cultural identity of the Caymanian people has received a major shot in the arm with the completion of the Museum restoration works. The building adds a modern facility to the Islands’ cultural amenities while at the same time preserving the foremost example of Caymanian architecture that the buildings represent,” said McLaughlin.

The renovation has been the largest restoration project in the history of the Cayman Islands and the facilities have been strengthened to create greater resiliency against any future threats to the integrity of the building. 

The Ministry’s Facilities Manager Tommy Ebanks had overall responsibility for the project and he explained that maintaining the authenticity of the original construction was important. “As in former days, they burned the substance formed in termite nests, generating a powder that was mixed with linseed oil.  This was applied to the “iron wood” in the building,” he said.

The work was completed by Unit Construction and Gordon McLaughlin, who Ebanks said showed enormous attention to detail and workmanship.  “I remember his producing samples of every joint and cut he intended to do. This ensured authentic replication of the original,” he said.

A number of consultants were employed to ensure historic accuracy including the Museum Director Anita Ebanks, now Acting Director Debra Barnes-Tabora, Deputy Director Doss Solomon, and Cuban conservationists, whose contribution was considerably supported by the professional expertise of Historical Preservation Architect Patricia Green of Jamaica. However, modern technology has also been utilized with an IT system that will provide virtual tours at the finger tips of visitors. The building also has a fire protection system, and a new mechanical system that incorporates a dehumidifier to deter any potential mould and termite infestation.  

Chair Harris McCoy said he was grateful to everyone involved who understood the importance of a strong cultural heritage to the continued well-being of the Cayman Islands. 

“The level of support and what we have been able to achieve is a demonstration of what a Museum has to be – a cultural beacon that serves to ground people and to bring them together.  Things Caymanian should be respected and conserved, and those who have made this landmark achievement possible show their understanding and commitment to that goal,” McCoy said.

 “The outcome did not come without challenges and we had our private moments of doubts, but we are all immensely proud of the outcome: It is now a beautiful, solid building, balancing that critical tension between preservation of an icon and the modernization needed to serve contemporary Cayman.” 

“It was a pleasure to work with such a cohesive group,” particularly the Museum team “who brought their encyclopaedic knowledge to the project,” Ebanks said.

Having worked in the building straight out of school at age 16, in the Lands and Survey Department, housed in the building in pre-Museum days Ebanks said he was proud tohave .  been involved with restoring the building 26 years later.

 “It’s a landmark,” not only for the Islands, but in his life, he said.

Following the handing over of the keys, Barnes-Tabora said it was an amazing feeling to see a 200-year-old, authentic two-storey structure completely and accurately restored and ready to embrace another century. 

“To have witnessed its transition from a state of disrepair to one of pure regal beauty, is truly incredible, to say the least,” she said, adding that the islands now have a museum rich in character, utilizing ‘go green’ efforts, and filled with the latest technology.

 

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