Hurricane Irma, a category 5 hurricane, was active from 30 August to 15 September, sweeping across the Caribbean, and the five islands, including Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands, known as the UK Overseas Territories (UKOT), with devastating effect. Hurricane Irma was closely followed by Jose and Maria. It is still early days in terms of knowing the full extent of the impact on museums in the UKOT.
Nigel Sadler, an ICOM UK executive committee member, former Director of the Turks and Caicos National Museum 2000-2006 and President of the Museums Association of the Caribbean (MAC) 2003-2006, has been in touch with former colleagues. ICOM UK is contributing to the information being gathered by ICOM and as a founding member of UK Blue Shield, is contributing to the committee’s response. [Meetings are taking place this week, UKBS on 26 Sept, and ICOM UK Executive Committee on 29 Sept.]
News is slowly coming out of the region. A formal news release has been issued by the Turks and Caicos National Museum. The museum consists of two buildings: an historic house which holds the exhibitions behind which is a modern purpose-built office, storage and lab space. Due to the wind direction the new building protected the historic house but unfortunately modern building suffered water damage in the labs and office area, damaging equipment and causing severe damage to the historic map collection. In recent days the Turks and Caicos National Museum has reported that the staff and their family are fine, but ‘it is anticipated that restoring water and electricity to Grand Turk could take weeks or months. Heat, high humidity, and lack of electricity means the exhibits, collections, and files remain at risk. Insurance will eventually help repair and replace some things. It will not cover the costs of damage assessment and conservation to the collections, exhibits, books, and files, or the ongoing costs for fuel to power generators’. See https://www.tcmuseum.org/
We are awaiting news from the other Islands. Unfortunately, without fresh water and electricity, and staff members struggling to cope with their own disasters at home, along with these underfunded museums not generally holding stocks of material to aid recovery, this is going to be a difficult and long road of recovery.
The Museums Association of the Caribbean (MAC) has issued a press statement. They are working with ‘the guidance of international organisations such as UNESCO, ICOM and ICOM’s Disaster Risk Management Committee, and ‘plan to co-ordinate funding from granting agencies, for one overall comprehensive assessment of the damage both to collections and facilities’. MAC has set up a Facebook page for resources and for cultural heritage sites affected to submit status reports.
MAC Facebook Page Regarding Irma and Cultural Heritage: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MuseumsIrma
MAC Website: http://www.caribbeanmuseums.com/
We will provide further information as it becomes available and as the specific requirements become clearer. If members are in contact with colleagues in the UKOT we would welcome reports.
Nigel Sadler, ICOM UK Executive Committee Member
Fiona Macalister ACR FMA, ICOM UK Executive Committee Member
25 September 2017