According to UNESCO, Museums are more than places where objects are exhibited and conserved. Museums can play a leading role in bolstering the creative economy locally and regionally. Museums are also increasingly present in the social sphere, acting as platforms for debate and discussion, tackling complex societal issues and encouraging public participation.
In this regard, I must at the outset pay homage to public and private institutions and individuals who have understood this premium value and sought to promote museums within the wider national community. Within this, allow me as Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport to acknowledge the lead role played by the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ), an agency of this Ministry, in the development and promotion of museums across Jamaica. The IOJ has oversight for the National Museum Jamaica (NMJ) which manages the National Museum West, and the People’s Museum of Craft and Technology. The IOJ also operates the Natural History Museum, the National Gallery of Jamaica and the Jamaica Music Museum.
I also wish to thank and acknowledge the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, who on a smaller scale has sought to create exhibitions specific to and relevant to eras and persons. The JNHT proudly operates the Seville Heritage Park with its museum tracing Jamaica’s historical development from our first Jamaicans, the Tainos, through to Spanish and English conquests and occupation; the Rio Nuevo exhibition showcases the ultimate battle that determined Jamaica being an English colony; the Bustamante Museums located in Kingston and Hanover, showcase the life of National Hero, The Rt. Excellent Sir Alexander Bustamante and Roxborough, an exhibition space featuring the life of Jamaica’s first Premier and National Hero, the Rt. Excellent Norman Washington Manley. The JNHT and this ministry promises, more exhibition spaces and museums to come. We are looking keenly at Port Royal to put in place a state of the art museum. The JNHT already recognises the entire Port Royal as a living museum; the town tour is one of the many products offered by the staff located at Fort Charles… another exhibition and museum.
We are reminded by ICOM that International Museum Day seeks to, inter alia, raise awareness of the importance of museums as a means of cultural exchange, cultural enrichment and identity consolidation, and the promotion of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples. Of great significance in all this is the growing recognition of the “lived” museum, that a museum does not always reside in a building with exhibits, but rather, that in most cases, the museum is the lived space or environment of the people. This has great significance for us as we seek to build on the experience of our people in our thrust to strengthen national cultural identities and promote prosperity through cultural and heritage industries.
In this regard, this year’s focus is particularly relevant for Jamaica, a country endowed with diverse cultural experiences. As our Ministry moves to streamline our cultural assets and services for enhanced prosperity, we are gearing toward more dynamic presentations of our culture and heritage through partnerships that will drive and enhance significantly our tourism product by leveraging community tourism, culture and heritage tourism and urban heritage tourism.
We recognize that in our Jamaican society there exists a gap in the institutionalization of our rich sport heritage. As a consequence, my Government is working assiduously to develop a National Sport Museum that will feature the evolution of sport in Jamaica, the interconnectedness with our culture, heritage and future development.
The National Sport Museum will also serve as a knowledge bank and will preserve and showcase the distinctly rich material heritage of Jamaica, the athletes and teams through a collection of artefacts, memorabilia, multimedia, works of art, interactive exhibits, lecture series and community outreach programmes.
The recent designation of Kingston as a Creative Music City and the work being led by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust for selected areas in Kingston be designated as a cultural landscape, provide the backdrop for the creation of city tours that take locals and visitors along the corridors of the city which has been the crucible of our music heritage. Tours will include studios, dancehalls and culture yards as the visitor engages the lived heritage of the people who benefit from the paid tours, as tour guides and informants of the dynamic cultural history of the space.
To mark International Museum Day, the National Museum Jamaica in collaboration with the Jamaican Military Museum, Up Park Camp, wish to invite the public to a lecture titled “The Role of Museums in the Jamaican Cultural Landscape”. There will also be displays set up by the NMJ and one hundred soldiers will be given tours of the IOJ-operated museums to build awareness.
Finally, I wish to encourage all Jamaicans, particularly our children through parents, schools, churches and social clubs and societies to visit museums on International Museum Day. These include the cultural communities where the lived heritage is manifested daily, such as in our Maroon festivals and communities, including the Blue and John Crow Mountains. Add to this, Rastafari satellite communities such as Pinnacle, Pitfour, Bull Bay and Scotts Pass, as well as Revival centres such as in Watt Town, St. Ann, and students, locals and foreigners are set to enjoy a treat of dynamic, never-to-be-forgotten experiences of lived heritage.