MINUTES of the Annual General Meeting of the members of the National Museum of Bermuda (the “Museum” or the “Association”) held by Zoom link at 5.00 p.m. on 16th July 2020.
Rees Fletcher (Chairman)
James A. F. Watlington (Secretary)
Dr. Deborah Atwood, Curator
Matthew Claridge (Treasurer)
Dr. Douglas DeCouto
Dr. Janet Ferguson
Isabelle Ramsay- Brackstone
Col. Sumner Waters
The Notice, which had been circulated in the Museum’s publication MariTimes and sent to members via email, was taken as read. An advertisement was also placed in the Royal Gazette on June 5, 2020.
The Minutes of the Previous Annual General Meeting for 2019, which had been published in the Museum magazine, MARITimes, were taken as read and approved without objection.
3. Report of the Auditors, Financial Statements to 31st December 2019 & Treasurer’s Report
The financial statements for the year ended 31st December 2019 having been circulated, the Treasurer gave a report which noted the following:
- The audit opinion was similar to previous years and was unqualified, except that in common with many not-for-profit organizations that accept and collect cash donations, standard audit techniques cannot test the completeness of cash collections, so audit opinions for similarly situated charities are usually qualified in the same way. Short of stopping cash collections, there is no cost-effective way of removing this qualification.
- The overall financial position had increased from approximately $6.5 million to just under $6.8 million, driven by a $419,000 increase in revenue
- Total revenue had increased from $2.1 million to $2.273 million which had been offset by the costs listed, resulting in a deficit of $204,155.
- The Operating Fund deficit had been funded from the Endowment Fund.
- The Capital Fund had decreased by $612,000 through amortization of tangible assets, the rate of which was expected to decrease.
A question followed from Mr. R. Blee regarding restricted donations. He mentioned that there were restricted donations of $229,000 and that if these were taken into account, the Association’s finances would look better.
The Chairman thanked the Treasurer and Theresa Mason for ensuring that the audited accounts had been received on time for the meeting. He also asked that the Secretary record the Association’s appreciation for Mazars’ conduct of the audit at a discounted fee.
4. Chairman’s Report: July 2019 – June 2020
The main focus of the National Museum’s activities for the past year has been implementing our 2019 Education Strategy and ensuring a stable future. This focus hasn’t changed but is stronger than ever even while we deal with the effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
During these unprecedented and challenging times, we’ve had to adjust and swiftly pivot but have been able to do so with continuity and creativity. We have remained focused, active and our work continues to be guided by our Education Strategy and 2016-26 Strategic Plan, and much of it at an accelerated pace.
It would also be remiss of me not to highlight the leadership of our Director and tireless work of her staff and consultants over the last year, but in particular over the last 4 months. Last year we were congratulating ourselves on emerging from previous hurricane disruption and this year we have had tremendous initial fundraising organization and the challenges of being closed and having no visitors… all while continuing to implement our Education strategy at a more advanced pace… thank you to you all from the Board and myself and thank you to the rest of the Board for your leadership and our friends and members for their support.
Education & Outreach
After a rigorous selection process, in September 2019 we hired Lisa Howie as our Director of Learning & Engagement to build our Education Department and lead the implementation of the Education Strategy while working closely with the NMB team.
With input from the Education Committee & Executive Director, the priorities were mapped out for the year and new pilot programmes aligned with the aspirations of our Education Strategy were devised for preschool to mature learners. Priorities were placed on serving school students, teachers and increasing our community engagement and institutional collaborations. The Education Strategy outlines clear key performance indicators and this year’s work is achieving them.
Free for February
With Lisa on board, we were able to expand our annual Free for February to all local residents to include free programming to offer opportunities to experience the Museum in new ways, learn a new skill or craft, connect with Bermuda’s past and engage with people from the community. Programming included basket weaving, book readings, yoga, family history research, and photography walking tours.
The past year the Museum has hosted two free public lectures to provide opportunities for the public to engage in Atlantic World History. The lectures examined the links and global forces throughout the Atlantic World that helped shape Bermuda as we know it.
The first was in partnership with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Bermuda College. Dr. Clarence Maxwell, Dr. Theodore Francis II, and Alexandra Mairs-Kessler (who are the authors of NMB Press’ publication Prudent Rebels: Bermudians & the First Age of Revolution). They gave a talk that highlighted the role and response of Bermudians during the Age of Revolution (1774-1849) and explored the context in which a “prudent rebel mentality” developed among Bermudians, shaping the way we participated in the British-American Revolution and the role we played in the making of America.
The second lecture was The Early Atlantic Age (1250-1609): Why and how did we get here? also by Dr. Clarence Maxwell— the first of a four-part inquiry-based lecture series, Bermuda & the Atlantic World.
Dr. Reg Grundy Youth Photography Competition
In memory of Dr. Reg Grundy’s photographic legacy and passion for Bermuda, the Museum partnered with Joy Grundy to establish the first Dr. Reg Grundy Annual Youth Photography Competition to inspire the next generation of photographers and encourage an apprecation of Bermuda’s natural and cultural environment and a desire to protect it.
Local students aged 7–18 were asked to submit photos under three themes. There were over 600 submissions from 30 local schools. The competition was supported by Clarien Bank, The Phoenix Stores, AF Smiths and Bermuda Blue Printing.
Teacher Professional Development
To better help support local teachers, the Museum launched its year-long teacher professional development programme, Moving the Needle. This programme links local primary, middle, and high school social studies curricula with current research; makes history relevant and accessible using inquiry-based lectures and interactive workshops, and allows educators to experiment with multi-disciplinary approaches to teaching history. Teachers receive user-friendly teacher unit plans and resources created by NMB to help bring history to life in the classroom.
Due to COVID-19 the programme has moved to virtual webinars and more than doubled its participants.
During this Spring’s unanticipated school closures, Bermuda’s Department of Education and the Museum accelerated our collaboration efforts. Entirely new social studies level lesson units were created for middle and primary students with accompanying webinars on how to use them. These lesson units are available for remote learning and future classroom use.
Museum in a Box
Museum in the Box is a new learning engagement created this past year as a collaborative pilot program targeting early learners (pre-school & primary 1 students) and developed in partnership with Bermuda College and local early learner experts. The project is creating an interactive, inquiry-based curriculum for our youngest learners to engage with Bermuda’s history.
At Home with History
While COVID-19 has brought many challenges it has also brought opportunities and has fast-tracked us into becoming a more contemporary community-based museum. There has been a tremendous increase in digital content and offerings created and developed by staff working remotely.
At Home with History was created to best stay connected with our community while our doors were shuttered. It is a collection of virtual experiences and online resources to connect people to Bermuda history, including a virtual 360 tour of the Hall of History complimented with a video discussion with the mural’s artist; blog articles providing context and historical perspective to current events and challenges; on-line exhibits; and a multitude of other activities that are keeping NMB in step with the way people experience museums today and into the future.
Collections, Acquisitions & Conservation
Acquisitions this past year reflect the diversity of the Museum’s growing collection. Highlights include the rare circa 1885 Davis organ from the Cobbs Hill Methodist Church, believed to be the oldest organ extant in Bermuda; a boys tucked petticoat circa 1865; a collection of reel to reel tapes containing the dictated manuscript of the groundbreaking book Chained on the Rock by Cyril Packwood; a Queen Anne Bermuda cedar splat back chair of the kind made between 1710 and 1750 donated by Mary Saunders; a photographic portrait of Harold E. Hutchings of the Royal Canadian Air Force, killed in action in the Second World War; mid 20th century cookbooks and other material related to the teaching of domestic science in Bermuda, donated by former chairman James Hallett; and a steel nib pen from the House of Assembly;
Also of note is the loan from Corporation of Hamilton: the sculpture Family Circle, by Bermudian sculptor Bill Ming, which currently stands on display in the foyer of Commissioner’s House between the Slave Trade and Slavery in Bermuda exhibits. The sculpture has provided a launching point for discussions of the upheaval of people for the purpose of economics and trade; immigration and displacement; and the dynamics of family.
To capture this unprecedented time, NMB launched United Together: Sharing Bermuda’s COVID-19 Pandemic Stories— a community crowdsourcing project to capture electronic mementoes of people’s experiences as Bermuda grapples with the coronavirus pandemic. We have received hundreds of submissions that will be added to our digital collections and featured in an online exhibit.
A pilot project between the Princess Royal Union Lodge and NMB documented, inventoried, digitised, cleaned, and packaged a collection of over 300 items within the friendly society’s collection. Furthermore, contextual information, kindly provided by Dr. Michael Bradshaw, was recorded and a reconstruction of the Lodge’s hall as it would have looked in preparation for a meeting was documented.
Due to a leak, extensive repairs were carried out on the outdoor electrolysis tank used for large artifact conservation. The tank was reconditioned and sealed to ensure we can continue the electrolysis process on a collection of large historic cannons.
Research & Publications
Although no archaeology field schools took place last summer, NMB continued to facilitate and engage in research and provide expertise. NMB Curator Dr. Deborah Atwood and bio-archaeologist Dr. Thomas Crist presented at the 2020 Society for Historical Archaeology annual conference in Boston on the preliminary findings from the Watford Island Human Remains project. An article presenting the findings is in development for publication in the upcoming volume of the Bermuda Journal of Archaeology and Maritime History.
The Museum has continued with assisting the Bermuda World Heritage Site Management Committee to develop the World Heritage Site Management Plan 2020-2025 providing professional input and a review of the draft document.
The Bermuda Railway by Simon Horn is in the final stages of design as is Heritage Matters Vol 8, with launches for both publications planned for 2021. We are receiving submissions for the next volume of the Bermuda Journal of Archaeology and Maritime History. Numerous other publications on a diversity of topics are currently in the works and in various stages of development.
Volunteers & Interns
Curatorial welcomed ten interns this past year, with a record number taking part in our summer 2019 internship program. Students helped with inventory and rehousing of our land archaeology collection, Portuguese translation of labels in the Museum’s Azores exhibit and assisted with research, photography, exhibit maintenance, and collection management.
The Museum has also seen increased popularity for its virtual volunteer program, especially during the pandemic, with nine new volunteers joining the ranks of the Digital Research team, including several participants based in the UK and North America taking part. The Digital Research team is tasked with transcribing references to Bermuda’s maritime activities in the Bermuda National Library’s digital collection of newspapers. COVID-19 put a damper on our corporate volunteer programme but digital volunteer opportunities.
Facilities & Grounds
Bermuda was not spared from hurricanes in 2019, with Hurricane Humberto causing damage to the Museum— a section of the Hostel roof and its bathroom block roof came off. To safeguard against future storms and damage, the bathroom roof was reconstructed with poured concrete.
A Health & Safety audit was carried out in the Fall of 2019 and actions were taken to improve the safety of the Grounds including staff training in First Aid and CPR.
New policies for COVID-19 were established to welcome visitors and staff back to the Museum after the forced 3-month closure.
Big Gun project made significant headway in the first quarter of 2020 with the chipping of rust, sandblasting, and base coat painting of the gun components.
Fundraising, Admissions & Venue Hire
To ensure the Museum continues to have a stable future and is able to implement its Strategic Plan, the Museum engaged a consulting firm in September 2019 to assist with fundraising.
In 2019 we had another strong year of visitors and venue hires. A total of 71,150 people visited the museum—which includes paying visitors and free admissions for students and children under 16 and a total of $150,000 was brought in from venue hire—which directly supports the work of the museum and care of the facility.
Ratings & Awards
We continued to be a must-see and top-rated attraction and venue. We retained our certificate of excellence from Trip Advisor, its 4.6 star Google reviews, and the Best of Bermuda award for Wedding Reception Location. In 2020 the National Museum of Bermuda was awarded the Best of Bermuda in the category of Museum.
5. Election of Board of Trustees
A slate of twenty-two Trustees for the forthcoming year was presented and approved.
The Chairman stated that there were no other nominations and accordingly, on motion duly made and seconded it was RESOLVED:
A. That the number of Trustees be set at TWENTY-FOUR (24).
B. That the above slate of Trustees be elected.
6. Appointment of Auditors & Authorisation of Trustees to Agree on Fees.
The Chairman stated that the accounting firm of Mazars had performed the audit of the Museum’s finances at a discounted fee and had indicated that they wished to continue as auditor to the Association. He expressed the appreciation of the Museum’s Trustees and Members for the work done by Mazars, following which it was RESOLVED that the accounting firm of Mazars be reappointed as Auditors of the Association for the financial year ending 31st December 2020.
7. Any other Business
The Chairman thanked the Museum staff for their commitment to the Museum and their unwavering support through these difficult and unprecedented times. There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.
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