Museum targets August re-opening

The National Museum on Grand Cayman may re-open for public viewing in August. That’s the target set by Acting Director Doss Solomon and the dedicated museum board, led by Chairman Harris McCoy.

The government-owned facility on Harbour Drive has been closed since Hurricane Ivan did heavy damage to the building and its contents in September 2004.

Mr. Solomon, who was appointed following the retirement of Anita Ebanks, did not see the almost-five years as an inordinate amount of time to get the facility up and running again.

He pointed to the enormous amount of work that had to be done in salvaging artefacts, cleaning out debris, drawing up plans and restoring structural integrity before any exhibits could be installed. That part of the process took three years.

After that ‘we had to rebrand, create, and compress into two years what originally took 14 years to evolve as a museum,’ Mr. Solomon said.

Visitors can look forward to seeing more than 30 exhibits, involving hundreds of components and state-of-the-art media, all in the final phases of development.

The re-opening will be the result of collaboration from among some 20 local agencies and individuals and some 14 overseas agencies, all under the coordination of US specialist exhibit development company Wilderness Graphics.

Mr. Solomon paid tribute to Wilderness, the in-house team and all the numerous partners for their achievement. ‘A great deal of time, patience and thoroughness has been dedicated to ensuring that the museum we return to the country will be an accurate interpretation of our history and culture and presented to residents and visitors in a way which encourages them visit us time and time again,’ he said.

Marvin Cook, CEO of Wilderness Graphics, said, ‘The exhibits are the visible tip of the project, with an enormous amount of time and energy invested behind the scenes to make it all come together.

The natural history and the cultural history galleries will be launched this summer, along with the premiere of the audio-visual theatre. Three more features should open by year’s end: the changing (revolving) gallery, the children gallery and the old school room (Triple C’s original home as the islands’ first secondary school).

The involvement of Wilderness Graphics began more than two years ago when Mr. Cook and other company representatives flew in to meet with museum principals led by Harris McCoy, a release from the museum stated.

That meeting triggered a collaboration commencing with concept design and refinement; content development; asset collection; production and fabrication; and, finally, installation later this summer.

This process involved some 24 Wilderness employees drawn from many disciplines, including research, writing, design, graphic art, mural art, model making, taxidermy, exhibit fabrication, media production, through to installation.

Wilderness relied on local collaboration, requiring numerous on-site visits for discussion, review, research and resource collection. It consulted the National Archive, and the Departments of Environment, Tourism, and Lands and Survey, among others.

An unusual project requiring local collaboration involved taxidermy and model making. Taxidermy had to be done in Cayman as US regulations pre-empted the import of some natural specimens, and this time Wilderness worked with the Cayman Islands Department of Environment.

Another example of local collaboration was prompted by the imperative to preserve the historic integrity of the museum building itself. Wilderness worked closely with Caribbean consultant to the Museum, Historical Preservation Architect Patricia Green, and local contractors for the building restoration, Unit Construction.

Mr. Cook said he enjoyed learning about Cayman’s culture and history, ‘and discovering the enormous changes that have occurred in just the past 50 years’.

On a larger scale, he was ‘excited to have developed what we are certain is going to be the finest museum in the Caribbean Basin and second to none of its size anywhere’.

That excitement and engagement has translated into Wilderness itself becoming a donor, contributing cases and equipment to displays.

Indeed, it has been a two-way dynamic for Wilderness. Among benefits from the Cayman project, Wilderness has strengthened some important international partnerships: For geologic information, the company turned to the University of Alberta, Canada. For historic images, the Florida State Archive and the UK’s Public Records Office were key resources.

Among many other international agencies, the following contributed as well: the UK Ministry of Defence Hydrographic Office, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US Department of Commerce, and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.