It was a great week for gifts to the UWI Museum. Small gifts in some ways, but big in thoughtfulness and trust and content.
So first there was an envelope that came on Monday via registered mail from England. Ann Hay sent a selection of photos and documents relevant to the early landscape of the then University College of the West Indies (UCWI), from the files of her late father Alick Lowe who was an architect with the firm of Norman & Dawbarn, then architects to the university. The university’s first students, faculty and administrators moved into repurposed wooden barracks buildings from the World War II camp, Gibraltar Camp. Building of the modern structures started a year or so later and the Lowe family was one of those that spent years on the Mona campus site.
Then on Wednesday, Prof Helen Jacobs brought in another gift – a copy of Harold Drayton’s autobiography, An Accidental Life, just published by Hansib. Drayton, one of the early matriculants at the UCWI, was also the first to be ‘sent down’ or expelled. Cover notes state that “…his involvement in radical politics in Jamaica, in particular as the protege of Richard Hart, led to his expulsion from university.” He went on to complete his education in the UK and to build a career in health and education.
On Friday, there were two contributions. First there was the long-awaited arrival of a painting of the Mona landscape, pre-UCWI; done by an internee in the Mona Family Camp which occupied the northern end of Gibraltar Camp from 1943; temporary home to more than one hundred German and Italian civilian internees previously separated in male and female camps in Kingston. Gibraltar Camp became part of the university’s founding campus. The painting was a gift from Johnny and Lorraine Neale of Edmonton, Canada who have had it hanging in their home since the 1970. UWI alumna Cecille Depass, who is currently working on a memoir of the Mona Geography Department and who has visited the museum, suggested to the Neale’s that this would make a great home for the painting.
When Cecille heard that the painting had arrived safely, she wrote us with the list of people who had participated in the transfer from Edmonton to Calgary to Toronto and then to Kingston, Jamaica: six of them; all but two, UWI alumni happy to help! Wow!
And then, to cap the week, we had a visit from two people who grew up on the Mona Campus, moving here in 1954 when their father and mother were both employed to the UCWI and staying til the late 1960s. Karl Aiken and sister Leolyn had memories to share, not only from childhood but both did degrees at Mona and Karl would work with UWI for many years. The recollections were rich — some captured as they toured but with Karl also promising not just to return, but to share photos and to check with their father, now in his 90s, for some information we were seeking.
Last but not least, it was a week to recognise the gift of collaboration — in this instance with the Department of History & Archaeology which joined us for a ‘One on One’ chat about our cameo exhibition Ties That Bind. The Plantation History of the UWI; and with filmmaker and photographer Maria Stratford who brought her documentary, Rasta’s Journey ‘Home’ and Photographic exhibition Ethiopia: A Celebration of Diversity to the UWI Museum for the period November 8-30.