CHEROKEE SHELL MUSEUM, ABACO: “GIFTS FROM THE SEA”


Cherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas / Gifts from the Sea / Cinder Pinder

CHEROKEE SHELL MUSEUM, ABACO: “GIFTS FROM THE SEA”

One of the smallest museums in the world has just opened on April 15 in the picturesque settlement of Cherokee on Abaco, Bahamas. 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…

Cherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas / Gifts from the Sea / Abaconian

Whatever the size comparisons, the new shell museum is beyond doubt the very best one in the Bahamas, not least because it is the only one. “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. The new museum provides the perfect space for displaying a selection of the wonderful shells to be found in Abaco waters.

Cherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas / Gifts from the Sea / Cinder Pinder

The whole community has got behind this project, which is the vision and creation of Curator Lee Pinder. Derek Weatherford fitted cabinets for the exhibits, and artist Jo-Ann Bradley has painted a fabulous interior Cherokee-themed mural as a fitting backdrop to the displays.

Cherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas / Gifts from the Sea / Cinder Pinder

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. It is hoped to expand the collection as people make shell donations to the museum. 

Cherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas / Gifts from the Sea / Abaconian

The building has a door at each end to give natural light and provide a ‘walk-through’ arrangement, which will make 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 that are made ‘outside the jar’ (so to speak) are very welcome too…

Museum Curator Lee PinderCherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas / Gifts from the Sea / Cinder Pinder

The opening ceremony took place on Easter Saturday, 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 points 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”.

Cherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas / Gifts from the Sea / Cinder Pinder

The shell museum is not left open all the time, but visitors are welcomed and private tours can be arranged by calling 475-7868.

Cherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas / Gifts from the Sea / Cinder Pinder

To see a selection of the many types of Abaco shells, check out my shell page HERE

Sources and Credits: Bradley Albury / Jennifer Hudson / Abaconian; Cindy James Pinder for her great photos

Sand dollar, Abaco (Rolling Harbour)

STARK’S “HISTORY OF & GUIDE TO THE BAHAMAS”


047-copy

STARK’S “HISTORY OF & GUIDE TO THE BAHAMAS”

James H. Stark appears to have been, for his time, a veritable Rough Guide for the Caribbean. In 1891 he produced an entrancing tome, the commendably grammatically correctly-titled “Stark’s History of and Guide to the Bahama Islands Containing a Description of Everything on or About the Bahama Islands of Which the Visitor or Resident May Desire Information, Including Their History, Inhabitants, Climate, Agriculture, Geology, Government and Resources”. More of his other magna opera below.

Stark's History of & Guide to the Bahamas     Stark's History of & Guide to the Bahamas

 The jaunty and classic late c19 cover depicts the landing of Columbus, lest the unwary reader should be so ill-informed as the be unaware of the location of the great explorer’s landfall. And gives the date of the event, for the sake of completeness. The title page is most informative of the contents, and manages to namecheck the author three times (or thrice, as he might have put it). The illustrations and in particular the maps are wonderful, and call for a small gallery for your enjoyment. The “Coast Chart” is compiled from “the latest… surveys.” The map of Nassau is most interesting to compare with a map of 125 years later. And the engraved map is set at an unusual angle to say the least. [I’ve tried to clip the Abaco part to check the place names, but I can’t yet get a clear enough image to read].

Stark's History of & Guide to the Bahamas - Bahamas Map

Stark's History of & Guide to the Bahamas - Nassau map

Stark's History of & Guide to the Bahamas - Bahama Islands Map

An historic map from 100 years earlier: note the place names, eg ‘Alabaster’ (Eleuthera)129

The ‘History of & Guide to’ has detailed sections on all the islands. I have lifted the relevant pages – only a few – concerning Abaco. See what a difference 125 years makes…

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I enjoyed reading the ‘opinions of the press’. How unlike our own dear Amazon reviews…Stark's History of & Guide to the Bahamas    Stark's History of & Guide to the Bahamas

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RAISING A CONTROVERSY…

This is a topic I have touched on before. It concerns the authentic location of the ‘Glass Window’ of Winslow Homer’s famous painting. Is it Eleuthera (as claimed) or Abaco (as contended). The argument is lodged with the Brooklyn Museum, custodian of the Homer painting. In Stark’s book of 1891 is a fine photograph of a – or the? – ‘glass window’, assigned to Eleuthera. Below is an earlier engraving entitled ‘On Abaco Island’. It is the work of Homer, named by him, and seemingly a preliminary study for the painting. The same view? Or different? The jury is still listening to the arguments… 

136aHole-in-the-Wall Picture

Winslow Homer G W Original Brooklyn

Other books by James H. Stark that you may enjoy:

Stark’s History and Guide to Barbados and the Caribee Islands, Containing a Description of Everything on or About These Islands of Which the Visitor or Resident May Desire Information – Including Their History, Inhabitants, Climate, Agriculture, Geology (1893)

A ditto for Trinidad.

A ditto for ‘Boston and its Suburbs’

A ditto to the County of Ohio

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HOLE-IN-THE-WALL for more about Hole-in-the-Wall, Abaco and Winslow Homer

Credits: my primary source is the University of Florida Digital Collection, to which thanks. However there are plenty of mainstream online sites that offer this book to view; and you can download it or even get your own POD (‘print on demand’).