So the good news is that one of the stops on President Barack Obama’s brief and highly buffered stop in Jamaica, April 8/9, was a museum – Bob Marley’s house at Hope Road in Kingston. The President noted that he had been a fan of the reggae king from his teen years.
The UWI Museum might have seemed like a natural next, from simple geography, since the US-CARICOM Summit was held at our home base, the UWI Regional Headquarters at Mona, Jamaica. Indeed several of our friends messaged to ask! But nearer can be farther. The business of the day was the summit and all extraneous offerings were just that. So we sadly locked up and went home like everyone else, contributing to an undistracted space for targeted discussions between the leaders of the Caribbean Community and of our most important neighbour to the north.
Of course we also have to acknowledge that our offering falls outside of the arena of popular culture exemplified by icons like Bob Marley and we – and many of our nation’s museums – have a way to go in attracting attention as Number 1 places to visit. Many of our valued visitors come from a smaller demographic. But there was a silver lining: the insistence of the American president on hearing from young leaders of the UWI and other institutions, and his brief last stop at the Cenotaph in National Heroes Park might be read as a bow to both future and past. Like many of our colleagues, the UWI Museum sees its mandate as holding up important elements of our past, so that the necessary leaps forward can be guided and informed by the people and things that have preceded them.
We keep on doing and we invite you to stay the course! Our exhibition on UWI’s Origins is on-going, and our cameo exhibition of Sir Arthur Lewis, Nobel Laureate in development economics, trans-Atlantic scholar and UWI’s first Vice Chancellor, ends April 20th.