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Jul 30, 2004

Exhibition highlights history of Belmopan

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At only thirty-four years of age you?d think that the City of Belmopan would not have much of a history. Perhaps, but what it lacks in length, it makes up for in enthusiasm. Patrick Jones reports from the nation?s capital.

Patrick Jones, Reporting

To most people the black and white photographs on the wall may not mean much, but for residents of Belmopan they are an important documentation of the development of the capital. Curator Elsie Alpuche says the exhibition being staged at the George Price Centre, is part of Belmopan Day celebration activities.

Elsie Alpuche, Curator, George Price Centre

?The exhibit includes, actually two parts; one is archival information on the past of Belmopan, how the idea was born and how Belmopan was built and how it developed over the years and up to 2004. And the other part of the exhibit contains paintings and art work that was done by the youths from Belmopan in an art workshop which the George Price Centre organized last week.?

Historians note that the bustling city that is today Belmopan, was literally carved out of the Belizean jungle. And as residents and Belizeans all prepare to celebrate the thirty-fourth anniversary of the relocation of the seat of government, this exhibition offers a glimpse at the development of Belmopan.

Elsie Alpuche

?Anybody should come and see the exhibit because there is a lot of interesting in documentation that we found in the collection that we got from Mr. Price, which we just finalized cataloguing, also in collaboration with the archives department. So there are some interesting documents that we found on the support that Mr. Price sought from the U.K. government at the time to build the city, old pictures of the building of Belmopan which at that time wasn?t really that evident here in which we stand the jungle.?

Elsie, explaining about letter

?This is a letter from Mr. Price which was written to the Rt. Honourable Duncan Sandys an M.P. from the U.K., in which Mr. Price expressed the commitment from his government to create this new capital and he was looking for support. He is talking about the money that is available–they didn?t have enough money available to go through with the whole project at once. So they were talking about doing it in phases.?

The exhibition includes hundreds of photographs and other documents, including personal correspondence between former Prime Minster George Price and government officials and early managers of Belmopan. With the growth in the number of people living in Belmopan, it?s easy for the history of area to get lost in the shuffle. Chief Archivist Charles Gibson says the exhibition is not just for entertainment.

Charles Gibson, Chief Archivist

?No, it?s not. What the archives department and the George Price Centre for peace and development are trying to do is to take the information of Belmopan to the people, rather than to have the information sort of locked away, stored away in the archives department and in the George Price Centre. What we are trying to do is take the information to people so people can see what Belmopan looked like then, and what it looks like now. In fact from the very title of the exhibition, ?The Blooming Garden City?, then and now, is basically to show what Belmopan looks like in the early days and what Belmopan is today.?

But this is just a small portion of the material on Belmopan. Gibson says that for the whole story of Belmopan to be told would take a much bigger display. And although he wasn?t among the first inhabitants, Gibson says life in Belmopan on a whole has changed over the years.

Charles Gibson

?I gather that a lot of friends and family met together. In those days there were very little social activities from the records what we have see. Today there has been much change as I said before Belmopan has grown considerably, there are a number of other activities going on and so life has been very, very different. I think, in my own view as I said I wasn?t here when it first started in 1970, but from what the records are showing, is that things were very quiet; it was very dormant.?

The history of Belmopan is as vibrant as the people who call this place home and the thousands who pass through every day. And while this exhibition tells a small part of the Belmopan story, those interested in the picture will find more history and intrigue at the Archives Department. Patrick Jones, for News Five.

The Exhibition will be open to the public until August twenty-eighth between the hours of two in the afternoon and six in the evening. Alpuche says morning tours are available by appointment.

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