Heritage & Tourism: All things bright, beautiful and portable
Archaeologists might like to think that the opening line of the favourite Anglican hymn ‘All Things Bright
and Beautiful’ pays homage to all objects of heritage recovered by their special brand of science from the
earth and under the sea, while the pagan treasure hunter is only interested in the brightness and beauty of all
that glitters in a golden or silver format.
Be that as it may, for many all that glitters is not gold, but is the
items of portable heritage that all human societies surround themselves with. Nowadays (and only for some
700 years), we have specialised buildings for the storage, preservation and display of all things bright and
beautiful, as well as the dull but fascinating, such as old documents.
Such a bank of good things from the Past is called a museum, which word derives from a Greek one that
denoted a temple or home for the Muses, the divinities who took care of the ‘arts’ in mythology.
The two oldest museums in the world are in the venerable city of Rome, while the oldest in Britain is in the Tower
of London which opened to the public in 1660, the year Charles II returned from exile, following the
personal death of Oliver Cromwell and politically the ‘English Commonwealth’.
For those into the not so
bright, into the macabre, it appears that his father’s head is not therein preserved, sorry. The oldest
museums in Bermuda are probably those of the St George’s Historical Society in the town of that name,
and the Bermuda Historical Society in the City of Hamilton.
All that is to lead you into the mainstream, the Amazon of heritage, if you will, into which many tributaries
flow to produce the wealth of portable objects from the Past, a process that began many thousands of years
ago when humans deviated from other animals and started to make tools and eventually other practical
things, some of beauty, and ultimately the brightness of ‘art’.
Bermuda is 141 years younger than the oldest
museum at Rome, so we have had but 400 years to flood the river of Time with things bright and beautiful
of this island or held within.
But the bright and beautiful we do have, and have in some abundance. In recent columns, captioned to
imply that ‘Heritage Matters’ and matters immensely to our tourism economy, we ranged over the types of
fixed heritage that ‘The Lord God made them all’, as the hymn goes, and as far as the natural environment
The extraordinary architectural heritage was outlined in the form of homes, places of work,
fortifications and conglomerations of such fixed legacies as the World Heritage town of St George’s and
the magnificent Royal Naval Dockyard. We also looked at the wonderful heritage of shipwrecks, which is
now partly fixed inheritance, glued to the reefs of their disastrous end.
Ships exemplify portable heritage,
for that is what they carried and that is what they were; warships, for example, being but floating castles,
bringing the engines of war from one’s doorstep to the enemy’s, be it on the high seas or in shallow
harbours. Much of our portable heritage came on such transporters, or later on the transient ‘clippers’ of the
So very briefly, this last article in the series on ‘Heritage and Tourism’ is about all those non-government
institutions that we now have in Bermuda that acquire, preserve and display portable heritage, much of
which is of great interest to the upscale visitor.
These are places and things that may be viewed by the
discerning visitor year-round and could be of particular value to the tourism economy in the winter season,
would that they be given due credit, attention, and yes, a little funding, in a national tourism plan.
In the eastern portion of Bermuda, the Friends of St Peter’s, Bermuda Heritage Museum, St George’s
Historical Society, St George’s Foundation and St David’s Historical Society hold and care for portable
heritage of various types, as does the Bermuda National Trust in that district.
Centrally, the Bermuda
Historical Society, Bermuda National Gallery, Masterworks, Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute
and the National Trust have artwork and other portable heritage, while in the western part of Bermuda is
the National Museum, the largest such institution in the archipelago, which has holdings across the
When combined, the holdings of portable heritage of these non-government bodies probably exceeds
150,000 objects, which are variously displayed to the Public and range in date from the later 1500s into
present times, when artwork like Graham Foster’s great mural at Dockyard is taken into the picture.
portable heritage, combined with Bermuda Government holdings of such material and all the fixed heritage
of the Island amount to a staggering collection of items of interest to the discerning visitor, yet it has not
factored for much in the grand schemes of the vital visitor industry.
Yet, without paying visitors, most of
the non-government heritage institutions and their employment opportunities and economic engines would
go under, modern Bermuda shipwrecks in a sea of plenty that is one of the richest countries in the world.
Part of Bermuda has already been claimed as ‘World Heritage’, no less, by UNESCO, so it is time, if ever
there was a moment, for all of the island’s multifaceted heritage, fixed and portable, to be placed on the
highest pedestal of the agenda for tourism in this place. So, you are encouraged to come to Bermuda,
‘Cultural Capital of the Western Atlantic’, and yes, we’re British, so no sex please!
Edward Cecil Harris, MBE, JP, PHD, FSA is Executive Director of the National Museum at Dockyard.
Comments may be made to director[AT]bmm.bm or 704-5480.
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