Telling the rich history of Bermuda
Fostering a sense of identity
The aspirations of the NMB Education Strategy are to:
• Engage Bermuda’s diverse community through history and cultural heritage in ways that foster a sense of place and identity
• Promote recognition and appreciation of the significant role Bermuda and Bermudians played in the development of the Atlantic World
•Play a collaborative role in the development and application of academic research and its inclusion in well-designed nationwide educational practices
• Advocate for and demonstrate a commitment to equitable and inclusive practices in relation to facilitating and promoting access to history
• Use multiple teaching and learning practices and a demonstrated commitment to lifelong learning to encourage critical and creative thinking
The full scope of Bermuda’s history and heritage is to be highlighted as part of a new education strategy drawn up by the National Museum of Bermuda.
Elena Strong, the executive director of the museum and a member of the committee that prepared the blueprint, said she had worked on the new direction for more than a year and a half.
Ms Strong added: “This is our formal response to the call from our community in Bermuda and our stakeholders for multiple perspectives of history that reflect the diversity of Bermuda’s cultural heritage.
“Exhibits will be reflecting this new approach in that multiple perspectives will be included — parts of Bermuda history that may have been marginalised or ignored will be tackled.
“The call was for the strategy to be accessible to our diverse audience and to recognise Bermuda history as an all-encompassing, multifaceted story involving multiple groups and their experiences.
“We are creating a museum that is more reflective of the local community which we serve.”
The plan was drawn up after consultation with members of the public, the museum’s major backers and from the findings of a ten-strong Education Advisory Committee.
The museum is working with the Department of Education to promote the new approach to teachers, who also contributed to discussions on the change of focus, and to work out how it can be integrated into the history curriculum in schools.
Ms Strong said that, instead of a concentration on isolated historical events, Bermuda’s history in the larger context of the Atlantic World would be emphasised.
Prudent Rebels: Bermudians and the First Age of Revolution, written by historian Clarence Maxwell and published in a joint effort by the museum and the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, is one of the first publications under the new approach.
The book explores the role of Bermudians during the 1774-1849 Age of Revolution — when ideas of liberty and equality started to transform politics across the Atlantic World.
Major events included the foundation of the United States of America, the Haitian Revolution and the abolition of slavery in Bermuda.
Ms Strong said: “The project is reflective of that commitment to the strategy and we have programming around it.
“It contextualises previously ignored narratives within the development of the wider Atlantic World, examining the ways in which different groups of Bermudian mariners and merchants, enslaved and freed, black and white, used the events taking place to further their own prospects, whether purchasing their freedom or increasing their social status through financial gain and land ownership.
“As Dr Maxwell said at our event highlighting the strategy recently, ‘Historical memory gives a nation its power’.”
Janet Ferguson, chairwoman of the museum’s sub-committee for education, added: “Bermuda has played a pivotal role in the history of the Atlantic during the Age of Revolution or during the period of the British presence in the Americas.
“A lot of that data is still in the archives. It has not been researched, collated and re-presented. A lot of it would not only be about the big figures and events but the ordinary stories that don’t make it into the grand narrative.”
The museum has advertised for a learning engagement officer and is also working with international institutions on the project.
Ms Strong said: “We are in the conception phase of establishing an Atlantic Research Institute, which will be a consortium of universities from the Americas, UK, Europe and Africa brought together to do academic research on Atlantic World history.”
Ms Strong added that she expected history courses to be available for teachers and members of the public by next summer.