C o m m o n w e a l t h
A s s o c i a t i o n o f
M u s e u m s
CAM Bulletin Number 6 - Feb. 2000
Guyana Report: Workshop on Museum Policy
Council member Jennifer Wishart, supported by the Department of Culture Youth and Sports, extended an invitation to the President and the Secretary General to visit Guyana after the Triennial in Barbados. The purpose of the visit was to see the museums in Guyana, to meet our Guyanese colleagues and extend such support and encouragement as we could, and to prepare and present a brief 2-day workshop on the development of museum and cultural policy at the broad national level and museum operational level.
The museums in Georgetown were visited, the Guyana Museum, the Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology, Castellani House: the home of the National Gallery of Art, the Museum of African Art and Ethnology, the Military Museum and the John Campbell Police Museum. Plans originally included a visit to one of two outlying museums in the country, the Rupununi Weavers Society Museum at Lethem, but it proved not to be possible. We were also able to spend some time at the National Archives.
These tours enabled us to gain a very basic knowledge of museum operations in Guyana and whet our appetitie to see more of the country. Most of the museums are operated by the government with several falling under the Department of Culture, Youth and Sports and the energetic present Minister, the Honourable Gail Teixeira. As with many nations, the particular ministries responsible for museums are various and may change with the ever present government re-organizations.
The workshop itself covered general discussions about the formation and content of national policy through a process of wide public consultation, and about legislation that is the concrete expression of that policy and the means of realizing the national goals of preserving and interpreting the cultural and natural heritage of the nation. Once the intent and infrastructure are established through these two aspects, then the professional operation is built with the adoption of museum operational policies. An overview of the characteristics of these policies was provided along with a description of the international context and sources of assistance which could be available to Guyana for their museum development.
There were 16 participants in the workshop included the National Archives and the National Library and the University Library. They actively discussed their current situation and possible future directions. They were also given the task of beginning work on the operational policies, not to produce a finished policy but to explore the kinds of statements and scope that are covered in such documents. It was strongly emphasized that policies are only established after sound research into the elements to be included, comparison with similar policies from other countries and institutions, and careful consideration of their applicability to the Guyana situation. Policies must be developed by Guyanese for Guyana.
The workshop was very successful and Emmanuel Arinze, CAM President, also gave a public lecture on "The Role of the Museum in Society". He and the Secretary General had the opportunity to meet with the Minister and welcomed the plans being made for significant and immediate development of a national museum policy.
A final and full report was prepared from the workshop. The Guyana Association of Museums was established at the workshop and it is hoped that it will be able to continue its operation despite the small size of the museum community and lack of resources.
In keeping with the department's plans, the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports has established a Task Force on Museum Development which held its first meeting in December. The Members are Dr. James Rose, Chairman of the National Trust, Ritchlyn Softleigh, the Guyana Museum, Jennifer Wishart, the Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology, Allyson Kelly, Technical Advisor on Museum Development to the Minister (Coordinator), Gary Sarrao, The Guyanese Heritage Museum (a private museum and the other one outside of Georgetown), Dr Ramdass, Board Member of the Guyana Museum, and Mr. Parvatan, businessman.
The Terms of the Task Force are:
- To examine the current organizational and operational structure of Museums, Galleries, Monuments and Historic Sites, and make recommendations for restructuring.
- To develop draft legislation that will govern the restructured system including: a preamble with a Mission Statement and Vision, definitions, the structure and governance of the system, the powers of the system and governing body, the functions of the system and governing body.
- To examine other relevant pieces of legislation and make recommendations on where they should be incorporated.
- To review the drafts and make specific recommendations on priority policy documents for the day-to-day operations of the museum including: a Collections Policy that will cover acquisitions, loans, excavations, deaccessions, documentation and records management; a Conservation Policy for the long-term care of artifacts; a Staff Training Policy that will identify specific needs and the opportunities available to meet those needs.
CAM will continue to support the development of museums in Guyana. The encouragement of museum development and protection of national heritage is viewed as an important aspect of holding programmes in different parts of the Commonwealth.
Presentations and Honours
It will be CAM's practice whenever possible to present Cowrie Circle pins and officially recognize distinguished members of the Cowrie Circle in person. Because of our presence in Guyana and the opportunity provided by the workshop, Emmanuel Arinze, our President was able to honour the late Denis Williams, one of the inaugural group of the Cowrie Circle, at the opening of the workshop on May 15, 1999. CAM was pleased to present the Cowrie Circle pin to Jennifer Wishart, his long-time colleague and companion, to keep in trust. Denis Williams was a giant in the ongoing crusade on behalf of museums and cultural organizations in Guyana and the Caribbean in addition to his distinguished accomplishments as an artist, writer and ethnographer. (See In Memoriam in Issue no. 5 of the CAM Bulletin for a longer biography). The attached photo shows the presentation to Ms. Wishart by President Arinze in the presence of the Honourable Gail Teixeira, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports. The Permanent Secretary for the Department, Col. Lt. Keith Booker, workshop participants and the media were also in attendance.
On the same occasion, CAM was extremely pleased to be able to present the Certificate for successful completion of the CAM Distance Learning Programme to Michael McKenzie of the Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology. While it is usually not possible to do this in person, we have been fortunate to be able to do so on occasion and publicly recognize the hard work of our programme participants.