Local Association of Museums formed - funding now accessible

By Liz Rahaman
Stabroek News
May 23, 1999

Guyana now has an Association of Museums. This resulted from a two-day workshop on Museum Policy held recently at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.

The two-day session closely followed a Commonwealth Association of Museums (CAM) triennial meeting held in Barbados and which was attended by Co-ordinator of the Walter Roth Museum, Jenny Wishart. Wishart was elected treasurer of CAM.

Speaking with Stabroek News on Monday last after a public lecture by President of CAM, Emmanuel Arinze, Wishart said that the Guyana Association of Museums will include all libraries and the National Archives.

She disclosed that seven recommendations were made at the end of the workshop. These included the formation of the local association, a chapter of friends of the museums and training for curators. According to her, the recommendations have been forwarded to Culture Minister, Gail Teixeira, who has expressed enthusiasm at the formation of the local association.

Wishart opined that the establishment of an association is a plus for Guyana since most of the co-ordinators of the six local museums have indicated their wish to become members of CAM.

"As a body we can now approach funding bodies, we are now on the road to moving forward," she said, adding that funding for museums can be obtained from the International Council for the Restoration of Museums and Monuments (ICCROM), the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

She felt that the visit by Arinze and General Secretary of CAM, Lois Irvine, was timely since Teixeira had advocated the need for a museum policy. Wishart said that a member of the Voluntary Service Organization (VSO) is assisting in working out technical details for the association as it relates to accessing funding.

In his public lecture on 'the Role of Museums in Society', Arinze said that in today's modern society it is necessary and urgent for museums to redefine their missions, goals and functions. "They must become agents of change and development and must mirror events in society and be instruments of progress by calling attention to activities and events that will encourage development in the society."

Arinze said that museums must become institutions that can foster peace. "They must be seen as promoting the ideals of democracy and transparency in governance in their communities and must become part of the bigger communities that they serve and reach out to every group in the society," he said.

Arinze called for the introduction of educational and cultural programmes to allow for the involvement of children, adding that in a Guyanese context, one effective way of ensuring that the interests of children are given consideration in the museums, is to establish special programmes which will be operated by all the local museums.

He mooted the introduction of some "noise" into the museums. "Noise is real in our society today, it will bring warmth and excitement in our otherwise pale and dull museums. The age and time of the silent museum is gone and we should reflect on the mode of our modern society in our activities in the museum," he added.

The CAM president said that one of the fundamental objectives of the museum is to educate. "Education is central for development and any educational system that is devoid of the cultural ethos of a people in the society, is empty and incomplete," he pointed out, adding that only museums have the capacity and the ability to impart cultural education effectively as it houses the tools and materials for doing so in its collections.

Arinze said that museums possess materials and information that can and should be used in enriching and improving the school curriculum in various disciplines.

A properly articulated museum education programme, he emphasized, will become an essential component in the overall educational system of society.

A page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples