Seasoned archaeologist takes museum top job

| 13/10/2011

(CNS): Dr Margaret Leshikar-Denton, who previously worked at the Cayman Islands National Museum for 16 years as an archaeologist, doing research and developing displays, has taken the museum’s top job. The anthropology doctor returned just over a week ago to take up the post in familiar surroundings. Leshikar-Denton also worked on the Cayman Islands’ shipwreck register and was instrumental in developing the maritime trail. “I have great respect and appreciation for the heritage and culture of the Cayman Islands. It is therefore a privilege to be entrusted with the leadership and vision of the National Museum,” she said.

A serving member of the Cayman Islands Visual Arts Society, Orchid Society and National Gallery, she is also life member of the Cayman Islands National Trust. The new museum director holds a doctorate in Anthropology (Nautical Archaeology) and honed her archaeological skills in many countries, including Mexico, Spain, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos and Turkey.

National Museum board chairperson Jeana Ebanks said that during her previous tenure Dr Leshikar-Denton showed a deep personal dedication to, and respect for, Caymanian culture.  “She is adept at forging partnerships to attain major programme objectives and enjoys the widespread respect of her peers and colleagues. In addition, she has earned the complete confidence of the Board of Governors to guide the museum competently,” Ebanks said as she welcomed her appointment. “My expectations is that she will provide strong leadership for our National Museum.”

The museum expert first came to the Cayman Islands in 1980 when a team from the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (based at Texas A&M University) was invited by the government to survey the islands’ waters for shipwrecks.  Six years later, she accepted a full-time position at the museum and moved permanently to the Cayman Islands.

Mark Scotland, the culture minister, said Dr Leshikar-Denton’s knowledge combined with her unique experience would ensure that the National Museum remains one of Cayman’s premiere cultural entities. “We expect that under her leadership we will see many meaningful initiatives that will support the preservation of Caymanian culture,” he added.

Dr Leshikar-Denton is a member of the Register of Professional Archaeologists, has worked as an independent researcher and has served as the senior representative for Central America and the Caribbean on the World Archaeological Congress. She was also the UNESCO representative at the Latin American and Caribbean Technical Commission on Underwater Cultural Heritage Meetings in 1998 and 1999.

In 2001, she served on the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) delegation during development of the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.  She co-edited, with Pilar Luna of Mexico, Underwater and Maritime Archaeology in Latin America and the Caribbean (2008) and contributed Caribbean Maritime Archaeology to the Oxford Handbook of Underwater Archaeology (2010).

Currently, Dr Leshikar-Denton serves as secretary for ICOMOS’ International Committee on Underwater Cultural Heritage (ICUCH), as an emeritus member of the Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology (ACUA), and director and board member for the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA).

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