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