Socially harmonic museums

 It’s International Museum Day and this year the theme is social harmony.
   Each year on or around 18 May, museums will be putting on activities to coincide.
   As centres for social harmony museums are unique spaces, according to the International Council of Museums.
   Museums are civic spaces in which all sectors of the community can come together to preserve the artefacts of the past whilst placing them in a contemporary context and a space to which all can have access.
   The National Museum in Cayman is a good example; the now-fully refurbished space contains audio-visual exhibits that engage with the visitor, such as the introductory movie on entry or the catboat exhibit.
   “It’s a day where all museums take one day of to celebrate their role in society,” explains Doss Solomon, Director of the Cayman Islands National Museum.
   “This years International Museums Day Theme of Social Awareness is a theme that can guide many countries that  are considered to be social melting pots such as the Cayman Islands.”
   He says that tourists and locals alike are always very appreciative of the way that the museum has used a relatively small space.
   “We’ve had comments from a young lady, a museum goer, who went to a maritime museum in the Black Sea and she said that our museum and that museum were the best ones she’d ever been to, in terms of the quality of the exhibits.
   “Generally-speaking our visitors are very pleased with what we’ve done here,” he said.
    There’s also the very popular submarine ride, where kids (of all ages) can sit in the sub and view treasures of the Caymanian deep on the screen in front of them.
   “It’s the most popular part of the museum; the kids love it. Right now we’re looking at ways to enhance the submarine to give a more realistic effect when you sit in it, such as adding some compressed air and some sound. It’s great that kids like it because that is exactly one of our targets we want to hit, get them excited about the museum,” said the director.
   He explained that in order to pique the youngsters’ interest, the museum also made a point putting temporary exhibits in place, such as fossils or dinosaur-related items.
   The museum is based in George Town’s historic Old Courts Building on Harbour Drive and over the past 20 years has dedicated itself to the preservation, research and display of Cayman’s history as well as the natural wonders of the islands.
   It also organises educational and cultural programmes, such as partnering with the Ministry of Education in the Cultural Caravan scheme in which new teachers are given a tour of the island as an induction into the culture so that once working in the schools they will be better able to relate to the children.
   “We’re also gearing it toward companies that hire in fleet or in groups. We’re looking to partner with them.
   “These teachers bring with them their own culture and beliefs which may differ from Caymanian Culture. So by offering these teachers a chance to immerse themselves in local culture for one day , ranging  from the Northwest tip to the eastern edge of the island and communities in between, the teachers not only get a taste of Cayman, but talk to seniors and young people who give them insight into our vibrant history.
   “On the educational front we have a cultural exchange programme where individuals can sign up; the initial module is the gourmet exchange where people can come and receive recipes at a cooking class for local dishes,” explains Solomon.
   The recent custard-topped cornbread evening was particularly popular, he said. There’s also the cultural apprenticeship where people can learn such traditional skills as thatch roof making, how to make wattle and daub and so on.
   “As a country and as a people we must be able to see, touch, document and express our history first and foremost for the benefit of our people and just as importantly for the benefit of the rest of the world by recording our human and cultural achievements, which in hindsight will be recognized as our contribution to humanity,” concludes Solomon.