The National Museum of Bermuda (NMB) was strongly represented at the 2023 Annual Conference of the Museum Association of the Caribbean (MAC) in Nassau, Bahamas, with Executive Director Elena Strong leading the way as the newly elected Co-President of MAC. Along with NMB Education Consultant Lisa Howie and NMB Trustee and founder of Olive Branch Consulting Dr. Crystal Clay, the representatives were inspired and motivated by the conference’s theme of “The Power of Museums: Relevancy, Advocacy, Transformation,” which brought together 150 delegates from the cultural and museum sector.
Over four days, attendees heard from over 40 presenters from the Dutch, French, Spanish, and English-speaking Caribbean, as well as the Caribbean diaspora from the US, Canada, and Europe. Conference sessions were hosted by the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, the University of the Bahamas, and the Central Bank of the Bahamas, and provided opportunities to share the changes the museum sector has witnessed since the onset of the pandemic and how the sector has responded.
The keynote speaker, Vice President of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) Terry Nyambe, and Co-President of MAC and Curator at the University of the West Indies Museum Dr. Shani Roper, discussed ICOM’s new museum definition, repatriation, and restitution of cultural heritage, and how calls for decolonisation are impacting the global museum sector.
As part of her role as MAC Co-President, Elena Strong organised a listening session at the conference with museum leaders and ICOM representatives, facilitated by Dr. Crystal Clay. The aim of the session was to gain clarity on the current strengths, needs, and challenges of the Caribbean museum sector and to explore pathways to foster greater collaboration and stronger relationships across the region and with ICOM.
Ms. Strong shared that even though Bermuda is not geographically located in the Caribbean, they share many familial, cultural, and historical ties and a colonial experience. She encourages everyone in the Bermuda museum and heritage sector to join MAC and attend the annual conference, where they can gain access to a wide network of peers and best practices to carry out their work, as well as strengthen relationships with colleagues across the Caribbean region, US Canada, and Europe, building a stronger cultural heritage sector worldwide.
Overall, the conference showcased the vital role that Caribbean museums, including Bermuda museums, are playing in their local community and globally. Caribbean museums are critical in shaping identity, undertaking research, sharing multiple perspectives and the lived experiences of people, challenging the dominant narrative, restitution of colonial collections, advancing the global definition of a museum, preserving heritage, fostering well-being, and making communities stronger. The findings of the listening session will be published and made available to constituents, cultural and government bodies, and funding organisations, guiding future work and services to the Caribbean museum sector.
Established in 1987, MAC works to strengthen links among Caribbean museums, their staff and associates, and to foster and promote an appreciation and understanding of their common heritage through education and the development of professional standards of practices. For almost 40 years, MAC has played an important support role for the Caribbean museum sector, serving as a forum to share information and ideas, network, develop policies, act as an advisory board for governments and institutions regarding museum development and to develop relationships with each other, and with international and other regional museum-related organizations.
To join MAC visit: https://caribbeanmuseums.com/membership/become-a-mac-member/
About the National Museum of Bermuda
With over 80,000 artefacts in its collection, NMB’s exhibits cover a diverse range of topics, including Bermuda’s cultural connections with the West Indies and Azores, trans-Atlantic and Bermuda’s own history of slavery, the island’s defence heritage, shipwrecks, early settlement, and the construction of Dockyard, among others. Visitors to the museum’s 16-acre property can enjoy stunning views, impressive cannon displays, local watercraft, a breathtaking mural, and a children’s playground.
The museum’s newest exhibition, Homestead by Meredith Andrews, features large-format, vibrant photographs of 10 multi-generational Bermudian families in front of their homes. These photos are part of NMB’s free, award-winning community education programme, Tracing Our/Roots/Routes (TORR), and are an artistic response to the museum’s Bermuda Family Scrapbook project, showcasing the resilience of family life in Bermuda.