Strictly Facts: A Guide to Caribbean History and Culture

Shaping Identity and Preserving Heritage: The Evolution of Caribbean Museums with Mr. Kevin Farmer

May 01, 2024 Alexandria Miller Episode 82
Shaping Identity and Preserving Heritage: The Evolution of Caribbean Museums with Mr. Kevin Farmer
Strictly Facts: A Guide to Caribbean History and Culture
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Strictly Facts: A Guide to Caribbean History and Culture
Shaping Identity and Preserving Heritage: The Evolution of Caribbean Museums with Mr. Kevin Farmer
May 01, 2024 Episode 82
Alexandria Miller

Send us a text message and tell us your thoughts.

Joined by Mr. Kevin Farmer of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, we explore identity, cultural preservation, and the journey of Caribbean museums from colonial-era institutions to centers that shape national consciousness and safeguard heritage. Mr. Farmer's insights illuminate the evolution of Caribbean museums, spotlighting their crucial role in giving voice to marginalized communities and confronting complex histories within their walls. We capture the essence of a collective awakening, when cultural policies and spaces like the National Art Gallery in Jamaica emerge, nurturing local talent and innovation, as well as national journeys to define identity through cultural institutions. We also tackle global resonance, the repatriation of artifacts, to discuss the wider challenges of decolonizing archaeology. From this episode, gain a richer appreciation for the power of museums in both reflecting and shaping our collective memory and identity.

Kevin Farmer is currently Deputy Director of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society (BMHS). As Deputy Director of the Barbados Museum, he has the responsibility for museum exhibition programming and capital campaign fundraising. He holds a Master’s degree in History (Heritage Studies) from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados, and has lectured in Archaeology at the Department of History at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and taught at the UWI Cave Hill in their MA Heritage Studies program.   

A member of the Barbados World Heritage Committee, he was site manager for the property Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, and is currently site manager for the Newton Enslaved Burial Ground. Mr. Farmer is co-editor of the publication entitled:  Pre-colonial and Post-Colonial Contact Archaeology in Barbados (2019); Plantation to Nation: Caribbean Museums and National Identity(2012) along with articles written on cultural resource management, historical archaeology, and the future of heritage development.

A member of the International Association of Caribbean Archaeologists and Museum Association of the Caribbean he has provided expert advice to Regional partners on the 1970 Convention, Disaster Resilience, and Museum Development. His research interests include the creation of cultural identity in post-colonial states, the role of museums in national development, the management and c

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Send us a text message and tell us your thoughts.

Joined by Mr. Kevin Farmer of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, we explore identity, cultural preservation, and the journey of Caribbean museums from colonial-era institutions to centers that shape national consciousness and safeguard heritage. Mr. Farmer's insights illuminate the evolution of Caribbean museums, spotlighting their crucial role in giving voice to marginalized communities and confronting complex histories within their walls. We capture the essence of a collective awakening, when cultural policies and spaces like the National Art Gallery in Jamaica emerge, nurturing local talent and innovation, as well as national journeys to define identity through cultural institutions. We also tackle global resonance, the repatriation of artifacts, to discuss the wider challenges of decolonizing archaeology. From this episode, gain a richer appreciation for the power of museums in both reflecting and shaping our collective memory and identity.

Kevin Farmer is currently Deputy Director of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society (BMHS). As Deputy Director of the Barbados Museum, he has the responsibility for museum exhibition programming and capital campaign fundraising. He holds a Master’s degree in History (Heritage Studies) from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados, and has lectured in Archaeology at the Department of History at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and taught at the UWI Cave Hill in their MA Heritage Studies program.   

A member of the Barbados World Heritage Committee, he was site manager for the property Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, and is currently site manager for the Newton Enslaved Burial Ground. Mr. Farmer is co-editor of the publication entitled:  Pre-colonial and Post-Colonial Contact Archaeology in Barbados (2019); Plantation to Nation: Caribbean Museums and National Identity(2012) along with articles written on cultural resource management, historical archaeology, and the future of heritage development.

A member of the International Association of Caribbean Archaeologists and Museum Association of the Caribbean he has provided expert advice to Regional partners on the 1970 Convention, Disaster Resilience, and Museum Development. His research interests include the creation of cultural identity in post-colonial states, the role of museums in national development, the management and c

Support the Show.

Connect with Strictly Facts - Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | YouTube

Looking to read more about the topics covered in this episode? Subscribe to the newsletter at www.strictlyfactspod.com to get the Strictly Facts Syllabus to your email!

Want to Support Strictly Facts?

  • Rate the Show
  • Leave a review on your favorite podcast platform
  • Share this episode with someone who loves Caribbean history and culture
  • Send us a DM or voice note to have your thoughts featured on an upcoming episode
  • Share the episode on social media and tag us
  • Donate to help us continue empowering listeners with Caribbean history and education

Produced by Breadfruit Media

Speaker 1:

Welcome to Strictly Facts, a guide to Caribbean history and culture, hosted by me, alexandria Miller. Strictly Facts teaches the history, politics and activism of the Caribbean and connects these themes to contemporary music and popular culture. Hello, hello Wampum people, and welcome back to another episode of Strictly Facts, a guide to Caribbean history and culture. I'm your host, alexandria Miller, and we're kicking off this episode with an amazing discussion about nation building and national identity. We've had several conversations about protests, campaigns for Caribbean freedom, the processes by which many of our islands went through to approach independence, like the West Indian Federation, and you may have even thought about important attributes of nation building, like flags, national anthems, for instance. But along that trajectory, have you considered how important museums are in shaping new stories for our islands, ones disparaged by extraction, forced labor and, of course, the demeaning stories and social hierarchies created by colonial conquest?

Speaker 1:

Museums, of course, have many purposes as vessels of education, for archival access and artifact holding, for public consumption. Of course, the list could go on, but I think, particularly for the region, museums are also a way to combat centuries of injustice, as told by our history. So, joining our conversation today to share the story of Caribbean museums and nation building, particularly post the mid 20th century and, you know, to take us forward into contemporary times with the work that is being done today is Mr Kevin Farmer, deputy Director of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society. Mr Farmer, thank you so much for joining me. Why don't we begin with you sharing a bit about yourself for our Strictly Facts audience your personal connection to the Caribbean, of course, and what inspired your passions for museum history and a little bit more background in your work in archaeology?

Speaker 2:

Okay, thank you, alexandria. It's great to be here. I know we only have got a short time to discuss. So I'm a historian and historical archaeologist by training, born in Barbados, but I consider myself to be a West Indian or Caribbean person, educated at the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill and at Mona. Back to Cave Hill.

Speaker 2:

I've taught at St Augustine in Trinidad and traveled all over the region, and for me, museums are really our storytellers. It's where our tangible and intangible memories are held and it's that space that allows us almost a free reign into discussing who we are the good, the bad, the ugly. It's a space where marginalized voices get to be heard, whether there are poor white community of Barbados, east Indian communities in Barbados, as well as diving into and exploring the nuances of enslavement. For me, that's the importance of museums being the space where multiple stories can be told at any time or told together, and it's where the collective memory of a nation resides and where the importance of not only continuing the memory but learning from the past as well becomes really, really important in, in a way, expressing who we are as a people and understanding why we do certain things or why certain things might have happened in the past so that hopefully we don't repeat it. So, in a way, we are the physical manifestation of Sankofa. We look back in order that we can chart our way forward.

Speaker 1:

Indeed to go back and fetch it, as they would say right.

Speaker 2:

Yes, to go back and fetch it, and I would say that my interest in history started at a very young age. It and I would say that my interest in history started at a very young age from my mum taking me to the public library here at home and she reminded me that the first book I ever borrowed was a history book, which was kind of funny. I was about maybe five or six, so I've always been fascinated by the past but about what it can tell us about our future and our present. And I guess the family history, now that I think about it, drove me in that direction. So on my father's side, his father was born in Panama of Barbadian parents who went to build the canal and I just found that to be utterly fascinating and they sent their children back to be raised in Barbados. So I guess that early connection understanding migration and how it affects families, and the history behind why you are where you are kind of fascinated me as as a young child and that fascination just kind of kept hold during secondary school and then choosing history as a first degree, archaeology came about because those were the courses offered and it made me recognize that a simple object could have as many stories as a book and the multiple stories that can be told about a simple object could have as many stories as a book.

Speaker 2:

And the multiple stories that can be told about a simple object is what in fact drew me to that discipline. And, of course, all of that culminates in almost the open experience that is a museum. There's text, there are objects, there's song, there's moving image and there's the space in which to tell these stories and the time to really dive into them and try to understand them and then to see how people get fascinated by learning these new facts. But first, one of the hardest things to do in a museum is write text 250 words to try to get over all of this in-depth information. It really taught you how to be succinct and, in a way, how to in a way tease the audience to learn more. In my early career I found that really, really fascinating, and I still do.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much for sharing just a bit about who you are and all that is involved. I think, really in museum building that you know those on, maybe our side, my side, might not even think of, so really appreciate you sharing a bit about that. I definitely want to kick off our discussion today with taking us a little bit, even before getting to you know these post-independence created museums and really chart what was some of the you know impetus for colonially established museums if there's a way of putting it um, what purpose they served at the time before you know many of our islands became independent and the goals of those curators many of those who were, you know, obviously coming from uk, from france, netherlands the list could go on right Just to really establish a reference point for what happens later on as we'll continue on in our conversation.

Speaker 2:

No problem. So I'll start that first with a shameless plug. So a couple of years ago I was quite privileged. My director at the museum, alessandra Cummings, is very well known in in the museum world, not only in the region but outside of it. We got together with another colleague, rosalind Russell from Australia, and came up with the idea for a Caribbean museums book, because so often when you're looking for research on Caribbean museums it's not written by people in the Caribbean, or we might be asked to write a small article in a larger anthology made up of persons from around the world in museology, but it was never one that was specifically focused on the Caribbean.

Speaker 2:

So we brainstormed and recognized that we need to tell the full story of the development of museums in this region, and the title for me was Moss App From Plantation to Nation, because it's coming out of that enlightenment era of trying to order the world around it that we get into categorization by Linnaeus, who people will remember for his classification of people into racial hierarchies. But before that he was really the one who came up with how do we categorize the world, that we see what's the taxonomy and the nomenclature, and he did all of that work. And so from very early on. We can almost start to say that as persons encountered this new world, they began to collect and try to, in their limited way, bring some order to it, of course telling their particular story. So very much, very early on those colonial collections were really about telling the story of the space that they found through their particular lens, not necessarily listening or even fully understanding what the Indigenous knowledge was was. So I guess the classic example for me would be the core collection that started the British Museum has its origins in the Caribbean, so Sir Hans Sloane's collection, which was purchased by the British Parliament that went on to be the British Museum's founding collection. A lot of that collection is based on what he found, kept, took up, borrowed, stole, maybe in some instances of the space that he'd now come into as a young physician, whether in Jamaica or Barbados, or his travels, because he was in the retinue of the governor at the time. His travels because he was in the in the retinue of the governor at the time and that formed his understanding of this new world that he was finding.

Speaker 2:

And it's about understanding that new world, almost in juxtaposition to the world you already knew, is really the nucleus of what early museums or early cabinets of curiosities would have been in this region. So we go back to the development of the Institute of Jamaica and what was called the Victorian Institute in the 19th century. Those are really the first early museums set up as museums in the English-speaking Caribbean at the time. But the outlook was colonial in that how do we better understand the space that we're in relative to where we've come from? So the collections and the stories always offered the indigenous or the enslaved or the indentured. It was never our story. So even the setup of the museum where I work at the Barbados Museum created in 1933, is very much as a colonial museum. It's really how the elite saw themselves and saw the history of the island around them in juxtaposition to the UK, to the mother country. And one great example of this when you look through some of the early documents at the museum, when you look through some of the early documents at the museum, they outlined oh, we want to look at archaeology and understand the native past. We want to understand architecture and how we I mean we meaning Europeans got here and the ability to trace that.

Speaker 2:

But one of the early founding members said but we don't want to talk about enslavement, we don't want to remind the local population of where they came from, because that might incite them to rebellion. And it's only when you dive into the history and you recognize that a lot of our history as enslaved people is very much foundationally about our resistance to that enslavement. You don't understand why that was said, because how do you want to control the people and then still acknowledge the fact that, well, they fought against this control from the get-go? But in the post-colonial where we are now, it's important to tell those stories. Where we are now, it's important to tell those stories because we need to understand that we are the descendants of persons who resisted. We are descendants of those who survived. We are not victims and that's an extremely important narrative to tell, coming out of the independence movement of the 60s, recognizing that there's still some English-speaking islands that are still not independent. They're still colonies of the United Kingdom, even though they'll try to find some really fancy, wonderful word to dress it up, like the French do in saying department de l'autonomie. Yeah, still a colony, you still don't have control over your own internal or foreign policy, you don't.

Speaker 2:

So museums become the spaces that get to tell those stories, but we've got to recognize where we came from. We came, in the most part, from an institution that sought to say, well, yes, you're a colony and this is how you should behave relative to the mother country, as opposed to really telling the truth about who we are and how we got here and the nuances that developed. And I think that's our responsibility today is to not only speak truth to power, but to uncover that truth wherever it is and to give voice to it. Gotten into looking at how we can have greater collaboration with the community in terms of how do we bring these exhibits or public programming together. So, anywhere from what initially I discussed in Plantation Nation to Old Talk or what a colleague of mine, natalie McGuire-Batson, has just developed in terms of community engagement I've not forgot what her term is. I'll come back to me during the course of this discussion, but she has she's formulated a really good foundation of what that could be and allowing our museums to speak to multi-vocality as well, because we live in a region where we're all mixed um, persons are white, persons are plot persons are in between an indian and chinese, and african and javanese, depending on where you go, and indigenous, depending on where you go in the region, so that our museums then need to be reflective of those histories and those stories.

Speaker 2:

And I think that's critically important, especially when we look at the world that we're in, that people are divided along not only ethnic but religious lines. How do we combat that in the space in which we live? How do we give voice to it? I think that's critically important. And how do we tell some in the space in which we live? How do we give voice to it? I think that's critically important. And how do we tell some of those untold stories? So that's part of the ongoing research and recognizing that the curator is not, as he or she was seen 50 years ago, as the person who's controlling the door at the entrance. You know, you're not the gatekeeper, you're simply the facilitator and the guardian to ensure that these stories are passed on from generation to generation, and I think that's how Caribbean museums and galleries are evolving.

Speaker 1:

I think that was beautifully said and even takes me to my next question.

Speaker 1:

Right, we have obviously, as you pointed, a set of museums that were founded prior to our nationalist movements and how they've evolved. But really, in your scope, how have you seen those that you know came up post-independence, highlight reshaping our national identity? I know places like National Gallery of Jamaica was the first art gallery National Art Gallery of the Anglophone Caribbean being founded in, I think, 1974. But really, what was the scope of those museums coming to be and what ideas did they have in mind, especially as the nations are forming, especially, as you know their new ways of us talking? There is also, at the time, you know, scholars really having either been educated abroad in you know the quote unquote former mother country, depending on you know the years here, you know the quote-unquote former mother country, depending on you know the years here but coming back and really wanting to be like, okay, this is the history of Jamaica or Barbados as told through our eyes. How did those two you know dynamics really work together to shape the future of museums post-colonially?

Speaker 2:

um, when you take a look at those post-independent museums, galleries, heritage sites in the post-independence period, it's a radical rethink of who we are, who are being trained at University College of the West Indies, which is established in 1948, first at Mona, and how they in turn respond to the creation of this young nation. We've moved through federation, purpose, unsimple, lamented, oh, it didn't work out in 62, but there's this agitation. We need to be independent. Look at what's happened in India. Look at what's happening in Africa. No-transcript, the history was changing. So the social history that is being taught and being researched in the late 60s and 70s that privileges us, built on Williams' thesis of capitalism and slavery. Walter Rodney's, how Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Capitalism and slavery. Walter Rodney's, how Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Elsa Kavaya, woodrow Marshall, sidney Mintz all of that is building up to the point where. Who are we? What are we? What have we done? How do we showcase this? How do we channel all of this energy into this independent movement? So you've got the development of the National Art Gallery in Jamaica, but I will say, alongside that, for Jamaica, that I find most interesting is the development of what was a craft museum in Spanish Town at the same time, which really to me said, we're privileging our ability to innovate at a local level, and so craft is not just craft. Craft is about how we have found solutions to local problems in a given space. And so the two of them together. So art at one end which is seen up there and craft which is seen down there, and they both have their independent spaces. To tell the story of Jamaica, and, of course, the development of the Edna Manley School. That also said academics are great, but there must be equal footing for the artists, whether the person is a visual artist or a dancer or singer, or or poet or playwright, they must be equal footing.

Speaker 2:

And the 70s then becomes pivotal for a whole number of reasons the Black Power movement, the acknowledgment even though we haven't fully acknowledged it how Black West Indian students and Black West Indian intellectuals are in fact foundational to the civil rights movement in the States in the 60s and 70s we don't pay enough attention to that and all of them coming together in the region to begin to have the question about who we are and recognize that 74 period. We're getting into the first Carifesta, which is about us celebrating us. So here we are, these regional governments coming together, and for the audience who don't remember Carifesta or Carifta and may only see Carifta as an athletics competition, carifta is really the precursor to CARICOM, or should we say it is the stepchild of federation, where there's a recognition that there is some good to be had by bringing us together in a regional market system economically. But then Persson said said well, economics is one thing, but what about the social and cultural? And that breeds carifesta? And and for that almost decade there's series of policy workshops and meetings and gatherings about how do we advance our respective cultures. So Kamau Braffet writes what is almost the pillar of what our cultural policy is in the 70s. The same thing happens in Jamaica, it happens in Trinidad and these are still our guiding documents to today, coming out of that radical phase. We're still in that radical phase because we continue to evolve and refine those policy documents and bring them to life. In some cases what happens on the street overtakes the policy.

Speaker 2:

We just have to look at the growth and development of ska and mental into reggae and independent producers and singers. There's an early Barbadian singer, but he's one of the early reggae singers in Jamaica. In fact Bob Marley and the Wailers were his backup at one point and there's a wonderful story where Bob mentions him. The name will come back to me at some time and we need to tell the stories because, even though we see music as national, music at that time was very Caribbean. Musicians moved wherever there was work, didn't stay static, and that needs also to be acknowledged and recognized. But all of this is coalescing and part of the manifestation of that is actually the development of some of those early institutions. So Jackie Opel was the singer in Barbados who made it big in Jamaica singing ska and reggae and then moved back to Barbados to invent a new music called spooge. But he died quite young but pivotal in the development of reggae and bringing to light Tosh and Marley and the Wailers. So we also need to understand the interconnectedness of our stories as well.

Speaker 2:

But here you have for the first time 74, as a precursor to Carifesta, where you actually get to see your own art, and not just your own art utilizing the European canon, but your own intuitive artists presenting what they see of themselves to you. So you almost have that reflective mirror. Here's how we see ourselves. Let's really have a talk about this. And that goes on to spawn a whole set of national galleries throughout the region or the creation of national collections, sands, galleries. And at the same time you'll find that most of the post-co-institutions, oddly enough, are galleries. They're not necessarily museums, they're all about the visual.

Speaker 2:

That might have been a deliberate policy We've got to go back and really take a critical look at what those policy documents were saying. But it's about acknowledging that we can create and that we can innovate. And I still think that we are somewhat in that particular sphere as well where we are recognizing and acknowledging that we are creators and not just consumers. And the interesting thing for me to note is that National Gallery Jamaica in 74 happens after the first Cari Festa, which is 1972 in Guyana. So you know what is the impetus from Cari Festa? That from Carifesta that leads to the development of national galleries in the 1970s and early 80s in the region. But it's about recognizing. For me it's about recognizing that we are creative and acknowledging that. And then, of course, at the end of the day, the artist is always the original critique of their society, whether in music, dance, song or moving visuals.

Speaker 1:

So yeah, that brings me to a point you made earlier, really thinking about the diversity of the region, right, diversity of the region, right, you know, in terms of our identity and national makeup, or ethnic makeup, right, and racial makeup. We have people of asian descent, people of african descent, etc. Etc. Um, I've, you know, we've had episodes on jewish identity in the caribbean, and, um, all of that to say, our national movements were really, in a sense, to uphold our Black populations, right, ones that were plagued by centuries of enslavement, and wanting to reshape the memory of what was, you know, determined by the colonial bodies. How successful do you think these museums springing up post the 60s? How successful were they in doing that? And then, you know, as an add on what were maybe some of the challenges or what has evolved since then, to also uphold the legacies of, you know, say, indian indentured servitude or, you know, many of the other ethnic bodies we have servitude or you know many of the other um ethnic bodies we have.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, um, critically, we were. They weren't very good at telling the story of everyone. Um, simply because they were so focused on dealing with the binary. How do you deal with telling the story of an island or country that has come out of this colonial oppression and the major colonial oppression was about enslavement and being a colony how do you position your people, the majority of whom are of African descent for the most part, in building them up and making them realize that they could achieve everything? So that early post-independent development of museums and art galleries and heritage institutions was very much about confronting that colonial past and, in some doing, pushing smaller groups marginalized in terms of I'm dealing with size, not necessarily economic clout to the periphery.

Speaker 2:

And it's only in the last 20 years, 30 years because we've got now remember we're in 2024. Wow, this is amazing for some of us. So 24 years ago it was 2000. 10 years before that we're at 1990. So in the last 34 years, because we have, in a way, successfully planted what it is to be an independent nation state that we can begin to say, okay, what are the other stories that we've not been telling and in fact, when you look in those spaces, the mere fact that you've got museums or galleries dedicated to the Jewish past Asian and Asian meaning South Asian as well so indentured and or China and or Java Also says that that initial movement failed them. And we've got to acknowledge that, even in terms of how those national museums told the story of women. In most cases they didn't. They told the stories of elite women for the most part, but not of everyday women. So part of the redress I'll say in the last 20 years is about bringing the marginal voices from the periphery to the core and giving them the space, and I think we're right now in that particular period.

Speaker 2:

So at the Barbados Museum, if you were to go to our website, we speak to some of how we've engaged with those communities. We're in the middle midst of doing an online digital exhibition on East Indian migration to Barbados, which didn't happen during the period of indentureship. In fact, it's an early 1910, 1920 migration directly from India to Barbados, persons looking for economic opportunity, but not indentured. So it's different in what happens in Jamaica, guyana, Trinidad, suriname, for instance, but we recognize that there's a need to tell that story and just recently I did a program where I spoke about the poor white community in Barbados, which we refer to as red legs. I can't remember what the Jamaican term is in the French islands it is petit biquet, small white but we need to recognize and give voice to those communities, because they're still here with us and to understand how they see themselves in relation to the nation state is extremely important.

Speaker 2:

And then, of course, how do we deal with women One? How do we deal with ever-marginalized groups, whether they are hearing or sight-impaired? How do we allow our exhibitions to be accessible to them? So these are still some of the things that we're grappling with now, but I think we've come a long way, but there's so much further that we need to go to give voice.

Speaker 2:

I remember a couple of years ago going to National Museums Jamaica, the Social History Museum and they had a really fantastic exhibition on the early development of scan mental, something that you might not have seen 30 years before development of ska and mento, something that you might not have seen 30 years before.

Speaker 2:

So there's a reason to then dive into sub-genres and sub-cultures, to understand and bring them out to the fore and allow those stories to be told. I think that is where we need to go. So now the intersection between film and how film and documentaries can help museums reach new audiences and tell those stories becomes an important tool in how we develop our interaction and activity. And programming and accessibility becomes critically, critically important. And the other aspect in there is and we're still trying to figure this out how best do we engage the community to find out what they really want to see at a museum? We've got to do that as well. We can never make the assumption that we know best. We do not. So that's why co-creation is so fundamental as a tool of engagement, where the communities become co-curators with you in whatever you're doing.

Speaker 1:

As you were talking, I also thought of Trinidad's Indian Caribbean Museum sprang up during 2006. So you know very much in line with this.

Speaker 2:

Very much in line. Yeah, very much in line. And then, of course, there are those things that happened in this century that we've not even delved into properly. There's no trade museum per se. There isn't a museum of migration. So we better understand what migration to Cuba, panama, colombia, internal well, when I say internal, internal Caribbean migration, well, when I say internal, internal Caribbean migration Barbadians to Trinidad in the 1890s and the early part of the 20th century migrations to Jamaica following United Fruit Company around the turn of the century. How does that alter populations as well? So there's so much more to be told and there's so many different stories that we have yet to explore. Is that we've got to start the work now? Because unfortunately we've, we're missing out on almost the first-hand accounts of the people who are directly involved in that.

Speaker 2:

It almost makes me think that, as a region, we need to have a wider program, similar to what happened in the States after the depression. Where was it working? Was it working? People's association went into different spaces and simply recorded the lived experience of people, recognizing that it was important enough to record it. Maybe they didn't quite know what to do with it when they mere factly archived that material.

Speaker 2:

It meant that 20, 30, 40 years later, someone can go back to it and have an understanding of what all of that meant and write books, have documentaries, create exhibits. We need to be doing that now in terms of labour movements, migration, the progress of women, how do we deal with marginalized groups? You need to capture that information now or else it's going to be lost to us, and I think that's one of the key things that museums can do. Recognizing, of course, then it means that, as one of the institutions, we need to be placed firmly within the developmental agenda of our government, which, for the most part, only remembers culture once or twice a year, whether it's carnival or some larger national event that they then decide oh dear. Yes, we need a cultural component. Cultural component has always been here.

Speaker 1:

You just need to pay a bit more attention to it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

I couldn't have you on this episode without talking about, you know, more recent conversations around museums. I think this, more so, has contended with museums in the quote movie. You know when the curator is like, oh, this is from you know, and then you know, rightfully so, she gets clapped back on in a sense and is like actually, this, this artifact that you know you've held in your museum for however long, was stolen, right, and so I. That's something that I necessarily haven't thought about, in terms of what artifacts and things that we hold, or if there have been attempts to get artifacts back from the UK, from France, and even just how things have been moved or repatriated back for our region.

Speaker 2:

We're slowly in that beginning process of repatriation, but there's a step before that. We actually have to have the engagement where we understand well what's in your collection that speaks about us, speaks about us. In some instances a lot of the museums in the former metropoles don't know what they have. I've been part of a group recently, or invited onto a group recently, museums in Scotland who are trying to understand what's in their collection in the Caribbean and Africa, because in some instances their curators aren't trained in those areas so they don't know or they haven't really done the deep dive into their catalogs to understand the provenance of what they have. And then beginning to have conversations with us in the region, not only about what the object is but what does it say. And then the larger conversation about okay, great, you have it, we don't. How do we look at repatriation? What does that look like? And it might be an easier discussion in Scotland, who have begun to repatriate over the last almost two decades material, as opposed to in England where they're so resistant, because of course, if they start to go down one line, we all know that the Greeks will remind them that elegant marbles don't belong to you. There are spoils of war. There's a need for some, you know, reversal and reciprocity, yes, but we're getting there. So I know later on this year there's going to be a repatriation of a natural history object from Scotland to Jamaica, which is going to be amazing. So I look forward to when they release that information. I just mentioned it here to to peak interest and to tease um, but shani roper at uwy mona, who's a curator, there is the person to talk to about that.

Speaker 2:

But repatriation is beginning. Those conversations are happening, perhaps not as fast as we would like but they're happening. And even in the areas of archaeology we began to have discussions about well, what does archaeology look like when we've got outside researchers coming in? There's need to talk about a decolonization around that as well, because all of our institutions, for the most part, and our disciplines, especially archaeology, are created out of colonial context and, in fact, created because of colonization.

Speaker 2:

How do they, at the foundational levels, begin to redress how they were created for the future, how do they address the imbalances and what does decolonization look like, not only global north to global south, but global south to global south? And there are going to be some difficult discussions, but necessary discussions, which we have to have if we want to be honest in the telling of that story. Yeah, and I think that's where we're going. We also recognize that there's being pushback, whether it's being termed as being anti-woke, whatever that is, but for me it's about the telling of the truth. It's about no longer hiding historical facts, but being open and transparent about them and seeing how they can lead to healing on the one side, closing of trauma at the other, but it's necessary.

Speaker 1:

That brings me to you know one of my favorite questions of all. As our listeners will know, I ask this question at every episode. I think, and as you rightly pointed to, in terms of our music, our festivals, carnival, et cetera, there is a way that our popular culture holds our history that, you know, people might not always put the two and two together, and so my aim through this question is always to weed that out a little bit and, you know, maybe get our listeners to read a novel or, you know, listen to a song that references a particular moment in our history. So is there something like that for you that is really reflective of museums and national identity coming up during this period that is highlighted in popular culture?

Speaker 2:

Oh, wow, yes, and what I'm going to bring to mind will reference both jamaica, but it has resonance. So we have a small african gallery here at the museum um that we created about a decade ago. It was a temporary exhibition that stood up for 17 years because people were so interested, and then around 2000 we said, okay, we need to make this a permanent gallery, and so we expanded the gallery from 200 square feet to 800 square feet and sought to tell in very broad brushstrokes about the history of the continent, going back from the development of early hominids into Homo sapiens all the way up to what Africa looks today. And there is one exhibition where we take people through. We remind them of Bob Marley's song War, because it's an Ethiopian scroll and most persons don't recognize that that song was actually Haile Selassie's speech to the League of Nations and in fact it's because of the invasion that we have Rastafari. So I mean we use that to show how global events continue to shape us and how we in turn continue to shape the world around us and to remind people that, though we might see ourselves as small, our impact on the world is so much greater than that and this is for me a very important message that anyone coming through a museum in the region should leave knowing our impact on the wider world. So War, for me, becomes one of those songs. And then the ending text panel in that gallery is an image of 1980s. I think it's Zimbabwe, and we have Marley's song Zimbabwe and reminding people of the invitation at the time.

Speaker 2:

So to recognize connections but also recognize resonance. For me, the ever more important object I'll point to in our museum is we have a small agate bead excavated from the enslaved borough grown at Newton, which is a plantation here Now. This agate bead, I remind people, is globalization. It's an agate bead that comes from India, made its way across the Atlantic, was buried in the coffin of an enslaved man who was brought to an island in the mid-Atlantic to grow an Asian grass called sugarcane for process and export to Europe. And this is the 18th century. So globalization starts here. Understand why we are where we are and the outsized role that we have played in the world and will continue to play. To ground us as to who we are, to recognize that our story doesn't begin and end with enslavement but is a much larger story as well as a people.

Speaker 1:

I will definitely add those to our Strictly Facts syllabus, as well as your co-edited book From Plantation to Nation, which I think walks us through beautifully. Some of you know not only the history of those founding museums during our colonial period, but also the history of museums like the National Gallery in Jamaica, like the Junkanoo Museum in Bahamas, that are really, you know, doing the work that we've been talking about today, showcasing the histories of not just, you know, those who were colonized but also those smaller subset groups who, have, you know, didn't necessarily get the early recognition in our immediate post-colonial period. So definitely wanted to highlight that as well and I'll add it to our Sturley Fact Syllabus and in the show notes, I'll add it to our Sturley Pack syllabus and in the show notes. And so for my final question for our conversation today, we've talked about some of the ways that museums have been evolving, some of the work that needs to be done. We are now in a period where several islands have even, you know, moved to Republic status or, as you very well know, course right, um, or you know, have been talking about moving to republic status as well. How do you think museums will reflect the last 50 ish, you know, depending on which island, of course, but the last few decades of us being independent for the future, and you know just what ways you see them either shaping the future, using things like technology to connect across even the region and the diaspora.

Speaker 2:

Let me take it first, starting with the movement towards Republican status. For me, the movement towards Republican status is the continuation of a continuum. From the time we were brought, forcibly brought here, we resisted the various ways in which we have resisted and manifested that resistance lies both in physical rebellion moves through to the establishment of trade unions that want to have workers and people's rights, to the independence movement in the 1960s, through to republicanism. So for me it's a continuum. It's the last four or 500 years continuum towards self-government and self-rule, but in that recognizing that we're not the only people in this space. But how do we bring along our Indigenous communities in the spaces in which they're still found? How do we bring along our marginalized communities in the spaces where they are? And utilizing technology not only to capture memory, but utilizing technology to create content that allows us to tell the interconnectedness of those stories across our entire region. Our Caribbean Sea is not a block. Our Caribbean Sea is conduit to each other and the various stories that we've told over time. The fact that a national hero of Barbados is born in Trinidad, barbadian parents, the fact that one of the major labor leaders in Trinidad comes from a smaller island called Grenada we need to tell the interconnectedness of those stories. So technology allows us to capture but also then allows us to build up content. Look forward to the day where we ourselves, together, create a document we call the Caribbean and not have to watch one on the BBC that really doesn't reflect us. Likewise, with podcasts like yours, we go to that online portal and download those multiple stories about us.

Speaker 2:

I think that's where technology is pushing us and I think that's where we need, where we need to go. So podcasts like yours and others being the Coursera or the West Indiana of who we are becomes necessary going forward. And it's in the small and in the big things, whether it's about the complexities of the rums that we create and drink, or it's about how we take that basic product called carnel and turn it into so many different things, whether it's dukkuna or pime or congee or kenke, turn cornmeal or cuckoo or palento, you know it's. It's about creating that and having access to it and understanding the connectedness between them. I think is where we're going, and technology will and should allow us to do that. It should make our stories accessible and our shared paths accessible as well, and I think that's where museums need to go.

Speaker 2:

We need to see ourselves as content creators across multiple platforms, utilizing all media. That is what we are In fact. That makes us stand out in terms of the heritage sphere in the region. We are content creators in terms of the heritage sphere in the region. We are content creators because we house both two-dimensional and three-dimensional, tangible and intangible objects of our past that can speak to a future, and I think that's where our strength lies and it's how we need to build on and build out the telling of our story.

Speaker 1:

I have no final words after that. I think that was impeccably said. Thank you for the work that you're doing for all of the museum curators. You know really helping to shape not only the education and awareness that we have for the region, the movements that we've made across the world, really in our impact on the world, that we've made across the world really in our impact on the world, and really, just, you know, changing the landscape of how we define ourselves away from, you know, what was colonially imposed. So thank you so much, mr Farmer, of course, for joining me for this episode To our Strictly Facts family. I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about museums, the history of them and how they're moving forward, and I will, of course, add all of the you know, many things we talked about whether it's the resources, the books, the songs and links, of course, to the Barbados Museum and Historical Society to our syllabus and show notes for you all to check out yourself. So again, thank you so much for listening. Thank you, mr Farmer, and little more everyone.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, thank you very much, I enjoyed it.

Speaker 1:

Thanks for tuning in to Strictly Facts. Visit strictlyfactspodcastcom for more information from each episode. Follow us at Strictly Facts Pod on Instagram and Facebook and at Strictly Facts PD on Twitter.

Caribbean Museums and Nation Building
Telling Caribbean History Through Art
Challenges and Progress in Museum Repatriation
Exploring Museums With Mr. Farmer

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