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Envisioning an inspirational museum for Bonaire

Column Xp Bonaire by Terramar Museum Director Jude Finies

The museum definition

On August 24th, 2022, the new international museum definition, prepared by the International Council of Museums (ICOM), reads as follows: “A museum is a not-for-profit, permanent institution in the service of society that researches, collects, conserves, interprets and exhibits tangible and intangible heritage. Open to the public, accessible and inclusive, museums foster diversity and sustainability. They operate and communicate ethically, professionally and with the participation of communities, offering varied experiences for education, enjoyment, reflection and knowledge sharing.”

Our basis and developments

Our team was totally excited to read the news about the new definition of museums by the ICOM. Since last year, when we were accredited for the basic criteria, it has been really hard to meet all the ICOM’s requirements for many different reasons, but slowly and surely, we are getting there! Next month we will finish the accreditation process based on our new developments. In 2016, when the museum first opened its doors, the Director at the time set a great foundation for the operation of the museum. However, much work needed to be done to establish a fully operating system that met all the criteria of a public institution. For the first three years, we’ve been focusing more on attracting tourists and visitors while creating archeological programs for youth and children. Since then, we have been creating programs for culture makers with focus on local artists, writers and (young) curators. In 2020, just like many other institutions, we had to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. This was also the opportunity to critically revise our collection, management methods and public affairs.

The new method

Our main goal was to change the permanent collection because we wanted to make it accessible to everyone. We also had to update the contracts and research. Through the new collection, the Terramar Museum can create a direct link between history and the present life and world of its visitors. What we want to do is attract an even broader, more diverse public, especially the local community, with actual topics from the museum's collection, but that also have a direct relationship with the past. So far, this has been an intense work. Our in-house curator, Elena Baker, started last year designing of the outline of the new collection, then followed up by collecting all the information that we could find to shape the story. This was done based on the pillars that the institution is built upon and in collaboration with FuHiKuBo.

What will be also visible in the new collection are the studies that are being done on what makes Bonaire what it is today. Think about cultural ecology, heritage and anthropology. What we want to display is the relationship between history and present events. We are curious to understand and to share where we are coming from. We aim to be inspired by what would be the next logical and smart step to take in order to make the museum sector visible and accessible to everyone.

Engaging with the community

Lately, we have started connecting more with the local community by organizing informational events where we share our work with the public. Working in a museum has a special feeling. Up until now, the museum sector on Bonaire hasn’t had a serious representation in our local institutions. Sometimes it feels like you are just a volunteer doing a good job for the great cause and other times you feel the pressure of having to be accurate when making decisions about how you and your team will undertake the necessary procedures. This is because since 2010, the NGO-culture field is no longer only addressed on our local government agenda, but is also being represented by UNESCO and international cultural laws. This is exactly what makes it interesting to follow the developments at the Terramar Museum as it re-positions itself while

helping the field coordinate a healthy museum sector for Bonaire.

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