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Honour Award - Institute of Jamaica: for Arts and Culture

Published:Monday | January 19, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Preserving Jamaica's Rich Cultural History

That there is much to see and learn at the Institute of Jamaica is unquestionable. The halls are replete with well-researched and accurate information, artefacts, taxidermy of indigenous species, maps, ancient art, among other things, on Jamaica's rich natural and cultural history. In fact, the journey begins the minute you step through the doors of the East Street, Kingston compound. The Museum of Natural History alone is worth the trip.

Children in particular enjoy seeing the well-preserved animals (all looking incredibly lifelike, thanks to skilled taxidermy) as well as learning interesting facts from the attractive graphics and charts that adorn the walls. A tour of the halls of the museum allows visitors to learn fascinating, invaluable information about a wide variety of air, land and sea creatures in an enjoyable manner.

Of course, there is also the section on Jamaican music, taking it all the way back to the African continent and going through the evolution of music and instruments.

The botany department manages a collection of more than 130,000 plant species, each with an interesting story of its own.

Over by the National Library, the collection of rare books enhances the experience. There is also the National Gallery and Liberty Hall.

Experts in each department are always on hand to answer your every query.

A patron and promoter of the arts in Jamaica, The Institute of Jamaica was established in 1879 by Sir Anthony Musgrave, then governor of Jamaica, 'For the Encouragement of Literature, Science and Art in Jamaica'. It is the country's museum authority, and administers other national arts and cultural outlets, including the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica, and the Jamaica Journal The African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica /Jamaica Memory Bank, The Junior Centres (programmes coordination), and The Museums of History and Ethnography.

The Institute is in fact Jamaica's most significant cultural, artistic and scientific organisation and publishes the Jamaica Journal, originally the Journal of the Institute of Jamaica (established in 1896).

For its unyielding and invaluable contribution to Arts and Culture in 2014, staunchly preserving Jamaica's heritage, The Gleaner Company is proud to present the Institute of Jamaica with The Gleaner Honour Award.

IOJ's impact on Visitors

TRISHA M. LEE - marketing generalist

Trisha M. Lee had always wanted to visit the Institute of Jamaica as a child but only got the opportunity recently. This, she said, was a fabulous experience.

Lee, who is a marketing generalist, encouraged persons to take the time to know their history, adding that she garnered a wealth of knowledge during her visit to the museum.

"It was a great experience for me and my daughter. We saw artefacts, indigenous species, maps, ancient art and a whole historical and social lesson on Jamaica," she shared.

"I never visited as a child, but I always read about it and knew that I had to go there. What stood out for me as an artist was how the art told our story. The maps from the time of the Spanish, clay jars from the Tainos, paintings of prominent British people and plantations, were all interesting lessons that have stayed with me."

Lee also emphasised the need for young people to be knowledgeable about their history.

"It was always my desire to have my daughter visit the Institute, especially because I didn't get the opportunity to go as a child. She had a fabulous experience, and it really encouraged her to view her studies differently in those areas," she noted.

DIANE NELSON - teacher, St Andrew High School for Girls

Diane Nelson's visits to the Institute of Jamaica will always be etched in her mind. The head of the History and Sociology department at the St Andrew High School for Girls said school trips and visits to the institution are always fulfilling.

"For me, it's always a pleasure going to the institute because I have a passion for history. There are many things which stand out for me, but I fondly remember an exhibition that I attended recently, where a presentation was done on Rastafarianism. I was so impressed because I learnt a lot," Nelson recalled.

"You can always depend on them for well-researched and accurate information. The presenters are well-informed and do their best to ensure that persons are enlightened and have a deeper appreciation for their history. I truly believe that such an endeavour deserves commendation."

She also noted that the institution was doing a good job in educating youth.

"As a department, we always try to infuse national pride in our students, and the Institute does have a part to play with that. We don't want them (students) to think that history only has to do with what they read in the books, but we want the passion for country to be instilled in them and whenever we go there, they are always intrigued by their experience," Nelson declared.

"When I pay tribute to the Institute [of Jamaica], I like to think back over the years to the 20s, when there was almost nothing that stood for the encouragement of any of the arts or sciences. Only the Institute stood like a beacon in its attempt to create an atmosphere where creativity could hope to flourish. The Institute stood for integrity. It also had the strength and intelligence to survive. Let the Institute survive, beaming aloft its flame of integrity." - the late Edna Manley