Powell museum a jewel box of West Bay history

For Tony Powell, no item, whether outdated, unwanted or timeworn, is without value. 

Bernard “Tony” Powell is the owner of Powell’s Museum and Craft Shop, situated in the community of West Bay on Boggy Sand Road. The Cayman Compass recently got to the chance to catch up with the collector, and learn more about his fascinating hobby. 

Growing up, the young Mr. Powell was first influenced by his aunt’s salvaging of items such as coffee mills, tumblers and clocks at her home. For years, she managed to accumulate many items, including his favorite: a cow-shaped clock. 

As a boy, Mr. Powell always preferred the outdoors. 

“Daddy had a general shop. He sold all kinds of groceries, like salt beef, mackerel [and] salted bacon to varnish, paints, oils and threads. Ribbons too. Around Christmas he’d sell apples and grapes,” he said. 

“I would have to help around the shop, but I always liked being outside. I would help him with the cows. That’s how I avoided being indoors.” 

Many years later, his father’s shop, formerly known as Prentice’s Shop, was transformed into what is now a small community museum with Powell family roots. 

“I first opened the museum around 1990,” Mr. Powell said. “I place all my collectibles in there. The store itself is a family heirloom.” 

Mr. Powell first began his collection by gathering mortars used for pounding rice. 

These days, the museum, which is located next to another West Bay landmark, the Heritage Kitchen, features manifold items and artifacts. Cabooses and old-time washboards join an old-fashioned stove. Souvenirs and thatch brushes and everything else possibly Caymanian are on display. All items have been donated, found or collected by Mr. Powell and other contributors. 

Running the shop on behalf of Mr. Powell is Rose Tatum. Ms. Tatum, who has worked at the Powell gallery for more than four years, was elated to share all that she knew about the items displayed, and the history behind each. 

She noted the museum is divided into separate areas, showcasing domestic, seafaring, family tree and wooden craft items. 

“I have often heard people tell me that we hold much more items than other museums on island,” said Ms. Tatum. 

In the wooden craft section of the collection, items made from naseberry, cedar, jasmine and broadleaf woods are on display. The seafaring section features items like block and tackle sets, sextants and ship brass. The remaining sections feature the Powell family tree and portraits, and domestic items such as washboards, and mortars and pestles. 

After the passage of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the museum closed down, but in 2011 the gallery received government funding to carry out renovations and to upgrade what was left of the building. 

“I have worked in the shop ever since I left school,” said Mr. Powell, who is a retired construction worker. 

“Now I just spend most of my time up at the farm. I grow pumpkins, plantains, bananas.” 

After sharing some farming tips, Mr. Powell elaborated on his inspiration for the museum. 

”What really made me want to collect was seeing West Bay place second every year for [Pirates Week] Heritage Day. East End was always first. One day I made my way down there and witnessed how much more artifacts they had.” 

He resolved to do something about it. 

“There is nothing like this on island,” Mr. Powell concluded proudly. “The museum is a [collection of] memorabilia of Cayman back in those days.” 

Powell’s Museum is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to noon. For more information, contact 917-9120. 

Powell’s Museum and Craft Shop on Boggy Sand Road in West Bay. – Photos: Alan Markoff

Powell’s Museum and Craft Shop on Boggy Sand Road in West Bay. – Photos: Alan Markoff

Bernard

Bernard ‘Tony’ Powell

One of the artifacts in Powell’s Museum is this clock, reportedly the first used in the West Bay Town Hall.

One of the artifacts in Powell’s Museum is this clock, reportedly the first used in the West Bay Town Hall.

An old corn mill and clay pot, two of the many artifacts in Powell

An old corn mill and clay pot, two of the many artifacts in Powell’s Museum.
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