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Feb 3, 2017

A Quinceañera for Museum of Belize

Fifteen years ago, the Museum of Belize was established from the remains of Her Majesty’s Prison, one of Belize’s longest standing colonial buildings. As former president of the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH), Yasser Musa, related in a note for the official program; “It was a circus of the mind to think that we could transform a space of restriction to one of liberation.” But he and others did, and the results fifteen years later resonate both locally and internationally. In the tradition of the Latin girl’s quinceañera celebration, her presentation to the outside world, the Museum hosted past and present contributors for their Belizean-style party today, a mix of forward thinking and past remembrance. News Five’s Aaron Humes had an invite and has the following story.


Aaron Humes, Reporting

With the launch of a new exhibit on the history of Afro-Mexican cimarrones, or maroons, there was plenty of reflection on the past at today’s celebration of the fifteenth anniversary of the Museum of Belize’s founding. But you may forgive its Director, Alexis Salazar, for a timely reminder about the role of this national treasure.


Alexis Salazar

Alexis Salazar, Director, Museum of Belize and Houses of Culture

“Like culture, the Museum of Belize should be dynamic, ever-changing, and constantly offering something new to the community and to the stakeholders. I believe the only thing static about this Museum should be the building itself. In the fifteen years of the Museum’s existence, it has seen many changes.”


In honor of its past, the Museum took time out to honor its founders and leaders – from Right Honorable Said Musa, former Prime Minister whose division hosts the property on which the institution sits – to past directors such as Lita Krohn and Sherilyne Jones, to administrators such as Yasser Musa and Diane Haylock. It also put away for safekeeping a reminder of past glories – fifteen items in a time capsule, one for each year of existence, for a future generation.


Alexis Salazar

“Even if you look at our culture, we do celebrate quinceañera. The staff and I looked at it and we saw the significance culturally of what fifteen years is, so they wanted to go all out and they wanted to do something that people will talk about that creates a buzz, and the Mexican embassy came in with this collaboration perfectly as part of our celebration for the fifteen years. So again, we looked at it as an important year; our theme is fifteen and growing, so the plan is, in the next fifteen years, to see where we are as an institution.  What we did find is that some of our staff members have been here since the inception of the Museum, and some have been working with other institutions which have been merged into N.I.C.H. before the creation of the Museum; so we saw it fit to honor our staff members who were working [here].”


One of those staff members is the manager of the Museum’s gift shop, Bernadine Menzies, who has been there for more than thirteen of the Museum’s fifteen-year existence. She says that as a Belizean it is her honor and privilege to present the best of Belize to the Museum’s many visitors.


Bernadine Menzies

Bernadine Menzies, Gift Shop Manager, Museum of Belize

“I see children come from all over the country; I see people come from other countries that we may never get a chance to visit; I see older folks who come in – they are the main ones who have the story to tell us, much more than we know it ourselves. It is very enjoyable to be here and to be able to get stories and tell stories.”


Salazar reminds that it costs nothing to learn your history – if only in some cases not to repeat it.


Alexis Salazar

“We have education and research officers and a lot of staff that went out and are calling schools and they are asking schools to come in. For students it is free; for the general public it is free on Saturdays, so come in – we need to invest in our community partners and our stakeholders here at the Museum, and offer an open invitation to anyone who wants to come in to the Museum to come and have a look at their cultural heritage.”


Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.


A week of celebration begins on Monday with visits from schoolchildren. The Cimarron exhibition runs until April.

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