Letters to the Editor

Action needed from fora like these

Monday, December 17, 2012    

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Dear Editor,

On November 28, 2012, while attending the Research Symposium hosted by the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ), to my horror I had to contend with the fact that the institute, after two years of trying to open a state-of-the-art Natural History Museum, is yet to finalise the project due to lack of funding.

The revelation became even more painful as the fascinating animal and plant specimens on display in the adjacent room seemed underutilised and could benefit from a more effective marketing strategy involving a wider audience, that could perhaps see the Institute of Jamaica having selected outposts in the form of donated space. This could be provided by the Ministry of Tourism at the Norman Manley and Donald Sangster International airports as well as from other stakeholders at respective strategic locations such as major business districts in an effort to showcase these endangered, endemic and indigenous collections, in order to provide more opportunities to raise the required funds for the Natural History Museum.

Even while the Institute waits for the rekindling of City Kingston, there is a lot more which could be done in the short term to showcase the thousands of biological and botanical collections, most of which remain "underground" due to resource constraints.

Another recent forum was the Department of History and Archaeology History at Fifty Conference in commemoration of Jamaica 50 held November 8 - 10, 2012, at the University of the West Indies, Mona. The conference was in the usual academic setting - in the form of scheduled presentations which, although highly valuable for presenters and enthusiasts, ended up largely being a conversation of the historical community with itself. What could have enhanced this milestone event was a more technologically driven environment in a central location in which those involved in the business of history and heritage showcased their requisite products and services, such as museum equipment, preservation and conservation techniques, and state-of-the-art information technology applications.

Another factor to be considered, from the IOJ Symposium and the History at Fifty Conference is the issue of sustainability. It is hoped that these fora do not just end with the "votes of thanks", but are translated into conference and symposium proceedings in the form of summaries of the overall recommendations and conclusions. These could then be routed to the requisite agencies for incorporation in policy documents so that going forward they can be implemented, that is, converted into action that can result in the requisite change needed for the next 50 years.

Joan Francis





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