“GIFTS FROM THE SEA”: THE CHEROKEE SHELL MUSEUM
In the shadow of a tall pylon in the secluded settlement of Cherokee stands Abaco’s smallest museum. Make that one of the world’s smallest museums. As I mentioned after it opened last year, other contenders for the title include the MmuseumM in New York, housed in an elevator shaft (look through glass window + audio guide); a converted red telephone kiosk in Warley, Yorkshire UK dedicated to local history (one visitor at a time); and a tiny shed of 134 sq ft in Arizona featuring what might broadly be called ‘ephemera’, including a Beatles poster…
This tiny museum is dedicated to the shells of Abaco. It is almost certainly the smallest shell museum anywhere in the world (except maybe the one you kept in a small box under your bed when you were 10).
“Gifts from the Sea” is housed in the former 1950s telegraph office that ceased to operate in 1987 and had fallen into disrepair. Leased from BTC for a nominal rent, the little building was restored, and given a smart new roof and a complete makeover. It’s the perfect space for displaying a selection of the wonderful shells and corals to be found in Abaco waters.
This community project is the vision and creation of Curator Lee Pinder. Derek Weatherford fitted cabinets for the exhibits, and artist Jo-Ann Bradley painted a interior Cherokee-themed mural as a fitting backdrop to the displays.
The exhibition shows more than 200 shells, each catalogued with its Latin and common name, and clearly labelled in the display. Most were found locally; a few are from further afield. Some specimens are very rare. The collection will expand as people make shell donations to the museum.
The building has a door at each end to give natural light and provide a ‘walk-through’ arrangement, which makes viewing in the confined space easier. Entry is free but there’s a glass jar for donations towards the upkeep of the museum. I’m guessing here, but I reckon donations made ‘outside the jar’ (so to speak) are very welcome too…
The opening ceremony took place on Easter Saturday 2017, when Cherokee resident Rev. Bateman Sands performed the official ribbon cutting ceremony preceded by a prayer at precisely 12 noon. As Jennifer Hudson in an Abaconian article pointed out, he was the ideal person for the task, having been “the first telegraph operator in Cherokee Sound, working in the little building using Morse code and in charge of the one and only telephone in the settlement until 1987 when the new BTC building was opened”.
The shell museum is not left open all the time, but visitors are welcomed on weekend afternoons, and private tours can be arranged by calling either number shown below on the notice attached to the door.
To see a selection of the many types of Abaco shells, check out my shell page HERE
Sources and Photo Credits: Bradley Albury / Jennifer Hudson / Abaconian; Cindy James Pinder (shells, interior 2017); Keith Salvesen (exterior, 2018)