Every February, the university’s Mona campus in Kingston, Jamaica, welcomes hundreds of secondary students on each of two Research Days. This year, for the first time, a tour of the UWI Museum was on offer. Students from western Jamaica were among those touring the UWI Museum last week, leaving with a better idea of how the University of the West Indies (UWI) came about.
The students, crisply dressed in their school uniforms, listened to an orientation by the Curator, and then spread out to read, look at, listen to or watch the various artifacts, texts and audio-visual displays. They had questions of all sorts. Some were based on assignments that teachers had set for their field trip up to the UWI. Munro College students mainly wanted to know about the UWI as an organization – ‘institutions’ being a topic they are preparing for external exams. Munro is a boys’ school located in the hills of south-western Jamaica, that dates back to 1856.
Students from Belmont Academy in the western parish of Westmoreland had a broader assignment: to write about their trip, and their questions ranged from the relevance of various pictures… to the way in which artifacts are secured and cared for… to the meaning and pronunciation of Latin words. They wanted, for instance, to know about the aspects of care of the collection implied in the word ‘curator’. The word originates from a Latin word, ‘curare’, meaning ‘to take care’. Some wanted to know about the challenges of the curator’s job. One wanted to borrow artifacts for a school project (No, she couldn’t in this instance, but she got some suggestions for alternative sources closer to home).
All in all, the students seemed to have a positive view of their visit. As one wrote in the Visitor’s Book: “Loving this great experience. Was very interested learning about the history of the UWI.”
Hopefully they will ace their projects. And some may live up to their promises to return – perhaps in a couple of years, as undergraduates and not just as visitors.