15 June 2010

A Part of Something Bigger

Today I left Grand Turk.

As the plane taxied out onto the runway I caught a last glimpse of the Friendship 7 capsule that guards the airport entrance. It triggered a wave of homesickness. All the things I’d learned. All the people. The places. The sights. The sounds.... I was leaving the Turks and Caicos Islands for good. It had finally sunk in.

Family obligations called me away a week early and so I didn’t have time to think of all the “lasts” I was missing. Last swim, last band night, last goodbye. It’s the people that are missed the most, as it always is.

I’ve only spent a year of my life invested in the happenings of the TCI and Grand Turk, but it was an intense year, a year in which the museum community became my community. The past few months have seen a lot of hard work and a lot of successes. We’ve averaged completing one big project per month while I was on-island. And, of course, there is the constant mentoring that happens when the kids know your name.

Grand Turk is a wonderful place, but I know it’s not a place to stay forever. Still, I wish I could roll it all into a handkerchief and take it with me. I should be satisfied that the projects we’ve completed have established the Museum as an integral part of the TCI community and set the stage for the next growth spurt. I wasn’t just part of the process, I was part of the vision.

05 June 2010

British Library Grant Awarded

One of the big projects I worked on all those months ago has born fruit: the Museum was awarded the grant from the British Library's Endangered Archives Project.

They have accepted our detailed proposal and the next archivist on board will be adding to our collections by collecting pre-1900 governmental and family records. The rest of my job on Grand Turk entails making sure that the records that do exist, and the systems I've put in place, are clear and easy to replicate. Nothing more insidious in an archive than re-inventing the wheel. The next week will be spent making sure that everything will run smoothly for the next in command (with some swimming squeezed in).

More about the Endangered Archives Project: http://www.bl.uk/about/policies/endangeredarch/homepage.html

03 June 2010

Last Visitors

My parents have been to visit the island and found that it was good.

We took them to all the usual spots:

They stayed at the Bohio,

which they really got to enjoy since I worked more than I thought I would.

We experienced the Cruise Center and Jack's Shack. We ate at the Sand Bar, the best beach bar in the Caribbean, we went to the Salt House

and Xheng's Palace with Mel (my new museum partner in crime, who arrived mid-visit)

and Joan's Deli

and enjoyed music at the Salt Raker (with Wes on sax - a real treat!).

We went to pet the sting rays at Gibbs Cay

and went to the Lighthouse

and ate at the Bohio on Thursday night with Keith and Val and Neal and Tuvol

and watched the sun set with Bion and Colleen over pretzels and beer.

There isn't an island beat that we missed. They even volunteered at the Museum.

They snorkeled every day (even when dad got really lobster red) and mom said she felt like she was in a fish bowl. We saw cow fish and trunk fish and parrot fish and baby needle fish feeding on the schools of baby minnow fish. Dad "battled" a 5 ft Barracuda all by himself, and I accidentally read Don't Stop the Carnival instead of The Carnival Never Got Started. It was a great trip for all of us.

23 May 2010

A Grand Turk Birthday

Grand Turk is a great place to have a birthday. Getting older doesn't hurt one bit when you are surrounded by clear blue waters.

On Grand Turk you too can be a tourist. All you have to do is disconnect from the work side of things - put aside your computer, your cell phone, next week's work load. Suddenly - poof! - you're a tourist.

Well this Saturday May 22nd I was a great tourist. Lazy morning, followed by a 2 hour swim, and then drinks with friends. My exact favorite day. Everything cooperated. The weather was hot. The sky was a deep deep blue. The ocean was crystal clear. The west side waters were as flat as a lake and so inviting.

I'd never swam off the Bohio before. Not like yesterday. It was hot and all the fish were lazy and slow. I followed 10 color changing squid for a long time. We went deeper into cooler waters and snorkeled over this coral head then that one, slowly heading into deeper waters. It was so calm. It was a perfect day to do crazy things without them being crazy. Like swimming really far out.

Sometimes I don't like knowing things. Ignorance is bliss. Not knowing that you are approaching a 1,000 foot drop into the dark abyss is probably a much better way to go through life. BUT it was also a goal of mine to make it out to the wall again. I only went once on my last visit and it's like seeing the edge of the world. I couldn't spend 6 months here without experiencing that again.

As we moseyed our way out, Neal noticed how far we'd gone. He kindly announced that we were nearly at a dive site. Well, once you hit that buoy you are maybe 15 ft to the wall. I freaked out. Then sucked it up and announced back that we were going for it. Then I freaked out again. But we saw it. That and the squid were good enough. Happy Birthday Jessica from Grand Turk.

wall image from: http://www.diving.tc/images/turks-wall-edge.jpg

16 May 2010

New Puppy

Neal rescued a puppy that got stuck in the cow grate entrance to the neighborhood. He's really little, but he's eating soggy adult dog food so maybe that's a good sign. I don't know anything about pets. I do know, after some research, that he'll have a bad immune system if he doesn't get mother's milk. So, I informed him (or her) that he doesn't get a name until he lives old enough to earn one. He still has to meet the neighborhood dogs. Reading the Troost book will remind you that island dogs live out the mantra "dog eat dog world". We'll see how it goes. Until then, I'm calling him (or her) Little Bear.

Museum at Work!

My pile of papers keeps getting bigger. This is distressing since time is growing shorter.

The list goes something like this:
  • Write final report for After School Program
  • Finalize archives survey and write report
  • Develop temporary installation highlighting all the cool stuff we've accessioned this year.
  • Send report of why the Stubbs family papers fit into our collection to the National Library of Jamaica.
  • Write article on this summer's Children Club events
  • Write next Article for Astrolab
  • Organize and catalog artifacts in fire proof cabinet
  • Clean library after tarp, employed for protection after a air conditioner leak in the roof dripped into the office, left bits of blue plastic every where
  • Write preliminary notes on pros and cons of applying for a UNESCO Heritage Site designation for Salt cay
  • other _____________________________ (TBD, but certainly forth coming)
New projects pop up at every turn. Sometimes because I'm working for an E (entrepreneur = idea person) and sometimes because projects just pop up. A couple weeks ago a member came to inquire about the maps he'd loaned a number of years ago.

Did we know where they were? Yes, we did, but they were in the flat file under that last pile in the office I hadn't gotten to yet. So then all plans changed to sort through that last pile. Which put the archives survey on hold, which led to my pile of papers not decreasing. We did, by organizing the flat files, show the member how his maps fit into our collections. One of his maps is the oldest in the collection: 1690. Without a word of encouragement, he gift them to the Museum right there.

I really enjoyed this project because those 1700 maps were truly works of art. Look at this one of the "Isles Turques" (Turkish Islands). Can you see the bright turquoise around the islands? On a clear day, with visibility to 100 feet, our islands really do look that brilliant. Turquoise Islands indeed.

What else are we working on? See here: A Day at the National Museum

Rights to map images held by the Turks and Caicos National Museum.

11 May 2010

Snorkeling and a Cook-out

This weekend we had a Children Club program at the museum. There aren't many organized events on the island so the kids get really excited when we do things - especially swimming things. We were expecting 15 kids or so, and we got 30. Invigorating chaos ensued.

Swimming sprinkled with maritime history was a lot of fun. Keeping the kids in check was a bit of a challenge, but they were so infectiously excited it turned out to be one of my best days here.

I spent a lot of time having young girls hanging off of me pretending to learn how to swim. Mostly they were just enjoying the attention. I managed to squeeze in a few swimming tips, but there were 15 of them. The diving staff, once they had finished their portion of the day (during which they preformed wonderfully), just laughed and encouraged the mayhem. I guess it was kind of comical - 2 kids hanging off each arm and 3 others swimming - which looked a lot like walking and arm splashing - in circles around me shouting "I'm doing it! I'm doing it!"

Next year there needs to be more than one of these trips. One for beginners and one for more advanced swimmers. As this weekend indicated, the beginner/advanced line is almost neatly a gender line. I spent a lot of time explaining to the girls that some of the boys were putting their masks on crooked too. Some of the boys were nervous too. Some of the boys weren't good swimmers either. etc. etc. At a glance, it seemed like the boys were better at everything and like they were getting more attention. It was just a product of the strains on the program. 30 kids, not enough equipment, and not enough time. The girls had the second chance with the equipment so when time ran short they were still trying to get their masks on straight. Thankfully the girls didn't notice this. They were having too much fun enjoying being in the water. I, however, was on my soap box for the rest of the day. Poor Neal had to listen as I railed against the automatic assumption that the girls couldn't swim - some of the boys weren't doing so well either. Why was it the girls had the second turn? Doesn't everyone know that we've quantified the results of teaching a young girl?! Teach a woman, teach a community....

... and on and on it went.

But the truth of the day is that it was excellent. The Red Cross was still hosting their car wash when we finished, which was brilliant! At home a car wash is cute: "Aw, look at the high school students scrubbing cars." Here it's not only a fruitful character building activity for the junior high cricket team, but it's a chore you don't have to do!