“Mr. T,” as he was known to many in the Cayman Islands and Florida, where his lumber businesses flourished, died in October 2011 at the age of 88. However, his family has continued their patriarch’s legacy of generosity and love for his country.
Mr. Tibbetts surely would have been pleased, and proud, to have been in attendance this past Friday for the official opening of the new Little Cayman Museum (occurring, incidentally, just two days after what would have been Mr. Tibbetts’s 91st birthday).
It’s far from the first museum opening associated with the Tibbetts family.
Mr. Tibbetts chaired the committee that established the country’s first museum, the Cayman Brac Museum, in December 1983. Later, he and his wife Miss Polly would found the original Little Cayman Museum in November 1997.
That museum opening nearly coincided with the 65th anniversary of “The Great Storm of ’32,” a Category 5 hurricane that killed 109 Cayman Brac residents and destroyed nearly every house on Little Cayman.
The son of a master shipbuilder, Mr. Tibbetts was nine years old and living on the Brac when the Great Storm hit. Among the dead were Mr. Tibbetts’s grandmother, 19-year-old sister and 10-month-old brother. He and the rest of his family, along with other Brackers spared from the storm, then faced the monumental physical and emotional labors of rebuilding their homes and piecing their lives back together.
But rebuild they did, and Mr. Tibbetts and his family thrived.
In 2008, Mr. Tibbetts purchased the old Little Cayman Baptist Church building, and his children and grandchildren led efforts culminating in the opening of the Little Cayman Marine Museum in June 2009, on the same grounds as the Little Cayman Museum.
The newly constructed Little Cayman Museum building contains an office, reception hall and six areas to display artifacts, many collected by Mr. Tibbetts himself over the years. 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.
Don’t confuse Mr. Tibbetts’s devotion to local history and culture for an attitude of clinging stubbornly to “times gone by.” Rather, Mr. Tibbetts’s healthy respect for the past informed his entrepreneurial propensities and forward-looking mindset.
Put another way, Mr. Tibbetts possessed an acute awareness of place and time – Not only did he embrace his origins, but he applied those lessons in order to project his influence at home and abroad, and, it appears, through the generations that follow him.
The Compass extends our congratulations to Mr. Tibbetts’s family and others who worked to make the new Little Cayman Museum a reality. It is a positive addition to the island’s tourism offerings and an important new piece of the islands’ cultural fabric.
The opening of the new museum refreshes the living memory of Mr. Tibbetts, and exemplifies the spirit in which he gave back to Cayman by helping to preserve its history. Quoting the motto of the Brac Museum committee, Mr. Tibbetts said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in 1983: “Not for you, not for me, but for the generations to come.”