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Heritage & Tourism: All things bright, beautiful and portable

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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

historical spectrum.

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.

4. A watercolour of the de-masted barque Ospray, Captain F. F. Trimingham, bound for Barbados in heavy weather, is an example of heritage maritime paintings in the mid-nineteenth century.
1. A brass figurine of a crouching woman served as newel post on a staircase on the Bermuda, a ship of the Furness-Bermuda Line, but is now an item of portable heritage.
2. A piece of archival heritage records the purchase out of slavery in 1832 by ?a black freeman?, Stephen Benjamin Richardson, of his wife ?called or known by the name of Violet?.
3. A heritage trophy for the third USABermuda yacht race of 1909 was saved from being melted down through the generosity of two American friends of the island.
5. The late Deryck Foster painted an outstanding series of images of Bermuda in the days of sail, but this delightful piece of art heritage is of a simple local rowboat.
6. This item of library heritage sought to engender discussion about the island and was thus titled ?Thoughts for the Thoughtful on the Future of Bermuda?.

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Published March 31, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 31, 2012 at 8:41 am)

Heritage & Tourism: All things bright, beautiful and portable

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