The family of the late Linton Tibbetts honors the island’s past
A new museum, which tells of the works, hobbies and lives of the people of Little Cayman, was officially opened in Blossom Village on Friday.
The family of the late Linton Tibbetts opened the museum to honor the people of Little Cayman and the legacy of Mr. Tibbetts, fondly known as “Mr. T.” His family and friends built the new gallery to display and protect his collection of artifacts and continue sharing the island’s stories with future generations.
The modern building houses an office, reception hall and six display areas. Current exhibits include Discovering Cayman; Linton N. Tibbetts, Life and Legacy; The People and Culture of Little Cayman; Little Cayman’s Place in a Big World; A Seafaring Life; and Underwater Image Gallery.
Born in Cayman Brac in 1923, Mr. Tibbetts was the founder of the original Little Cayman Museum, which opened in 1997. He established the museum to house his growing collection of photographs, artifacts, tools and family heirlooms and was planning further expansion of the museum when he passed away, aged 88, in October 2011. He also founded the Little Cayman Marine Museum on the island in 2009.
He had envisioned a larger museum that combined the two. According to a government press release, Mr. Tibbetts’s family found a sketch of what he thought the museum would look like while going through his things after his death.
“Dad always said that the museum is so important, this building ensures that those that come after us will know the history,” said Mary Brandes, Mr. Tibbetts’s daughter. “His work in the museum was never finished.”
“Mr. T could collect – like a magnet,” said his son-in-law Micheal Hooker. “Everywhere he went, he would take this or take that – whether or not he knew what it was.”
Mr. Hooker said the idea for the new island attraction came about during a walk through the old museum, which was in need of repairs and expansion, in September 2012, when he became concerned that the museum, and its irreplaceable contents, may not withstand a hurricane.
“We took projections and got family approval. We broke ground in January 2013 and finished in April 2014,” he said.
He encouraged members of the Little Cayman community to join in the preservation efforts. Describing the facility as a “working museum,” he said it accepts articles from those who have family items to donate.
During the opening ceremony on Friday, Premier Alden McLaughlin spoke of the young Linton Tibbetts who left home with just $16 in his pocket and did well overseas, but never forgot his roots. Mr. McLaughlin highlighted Mr. Tibbetts’s many achievements, including his establishment of a hotel in Cayman Brac and starting the now defunct Red Carpet Airline service with other Brackers. Mr. Tibbetts was posthumously awarded the Pioneer Award during Heroes Day in January this year.
“With Mr. T, the old axiom applied, if you build it, they will come. Mr. T believed in his heart the history of the three islands were worth preserving. One of the many visions of Mr. T., this museum pays tribute to Caymanian history and way of life,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell described Mr. Tibbetts as “the biggest ambassador Little Cayman will ever have.”
He added, “Mr. T. made you feel like the time that you had with him was so special and unique.”
The deputy premier also extended his appreciation to Mr. Tibbetts’s family for their continuous contributions to the island. “It would be remiss of me to not say to his family how special you are to this island. We appreciate what you have done,” he said.
Following the ceremony, guests were invited to tour the museum, which is curated by Julia da Silva.
Ms. da Silva was hired following a visit by Mr. Tibbetts’s grandson Michael Tibbetts to the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Boston, Massachusettes.
“We thought, we really need a great way to display all of these artifacts, so we contacted the Boston Museum and asked if they knew of anyone that was willing to travel to a small island to help put together a museum,” Michael Tibbetts told the audience at the opening ceremony. “Ms. Julia da Silva was recommended and selected to be the museum curator.”
Speaking at the event, Ms. da Silva said, “Nearly 500 years of history is contained in this building.”
The Little Cayman Museum is owned and operated by the Cayman Islands Legacy Fund (CILF), a non-profit, charitable organization.
Founding contributors include the Linton and Polly Tibbetts Foundation, the Hooker Family Foundation, the Tibbetts Family Foundation, and Captain and Mrs. Edward Ritch.