Walter Roth Museum being moved without consultation – former Culture Ministers

first_imgFormer Cultural Minister Frank AnthonyTwo former Culture Ministers have come out with a petition to stop the eviction of the Walter Roth Museum from its home at Main Street, Georgetown, to the Guyana National Museum, criticising the government for not holding any consultations.The relocation of the museum – which is the oldest museum of anthropology in the English-speaking Caribbean, is ill conceived and wrong. This is according to former Culture Ministers Gail Teixeira and Dr Frank Anthony, who stated that the decision by Government was made without any consultation with the Amerindian peoples and anthropological and archaeological experts.“Removing the Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology to the crowded National Museum is a grievous act and the greatest insult in modern times to all Amerindian people. The reason for the removal to allow for its usage by the Ministry of the Presidency is even more appalling and outrageous,” the petition stated, while pleadingwith the public to sign against the relocation of the museum and its staffs.President David Granger on Monday justified the Government’s decision for the removal of the Walter Roth Museum. He insisted that the move was not “whimsical” but was made on the basis of organisational changes in the Administration.He assured that there will be no damage to the artefacts or documents that are housed in the building. “It is an administrative decision which was made because of organisational changes in Government,” he said, adding that the establishment of the Ministry of Presidency’s Department of Environment has brought on the need forFormer Minister Gail Teixeiramore space.He stated that there is no need for worry since the new housing arrangement will be up to international standards. “It is not tumbling out. It is an improvement… if it could have been avoided we would have avoided it but we need to deploy staff from the Ministry of the Presidency,” he noted, explaining that the merge of the two museums would improve access to the exhibits.Nevertheless, the petition argued that the removal is in violation of article 149 G under “The Protection of Fundamental Rights” in the Guyana Constitution which provides that “indigenous peoples shall have the right to the protection, preservation and promulgation of their languages, cultural heritage and way of life”.It noted that it is also a violation of the UNESCO Conventions on Cultural Diversity and Intangible Heritage which Guyana has signed on to, adding that it will disrupt the archaeological and anthropological research that the institution currently conducts, displace the Denis Williams Field School, disrupt the Junior Archaeology programme, disband the library and research facilities housed there and disrupt and dilute the current efforts to sustain indigenous languages.“Removing the Walter Roth Museum is an affront to the memory and the work of those dedicated to the maintenance and elevation of our cultural heritage and poses a great threat to the integrity and safety of priceless and delicate archaeological samples which are thousands of years old,” the petition stated.Meanwhile, Anthony argued that the relocation of the museum to a section of an already crowded National Museum will compromise the safe storage and access to the artefacts and dissipate the programmes offered to the public and researchers.He stated that it the dismantling of the museum is a clear example that it was not discussed properly. He stated that the correct step would have been to budget for the construction of a new building, erect it and then remove the artefacts. “This is backward,” he posited.However, President Granger assured that there will be no damage to the pieces in the museum but it will be moved to the other building which will meet international standards.The Walter Roth Museum was established in 1974 but did not open to the public until 1982. It is located on Main Street, Georgetown. It is famous for its journals in some of the leading universities of the world.It was founded with the collections of Guyanese Archaeologist, Dr Denis Williams and in 1980, the ethnographic collections of Dr Walter Roth, JJ Quelch and Sir Everard im Thurn were transferred to the museum from the National Museum. The museum’s collections also include subterranean artefacts from all 10 administrative regions.Calls for government to reconsider the move was also made by Jennifer Wishart, who was one of the co-founders of the museum along with Dr Williams.She noted that the collections stored and displayed apart from being very fragile would be destroyed if moved.Wishart in a letter said that “we do not as yet have the expertise required for the removal of such delicate and very ancient artifacts dating back to some 7,200 years ago…I therefore appeal to the authorities concerned to please reconsider this move. I have learnt over the years that in order to change something we need to build something. Let us preserve what we have and build on it.”last_img

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