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Jun 23, 2017

Why “National Colonial Museum” is a Misnomer

Nigel Encalada

The National Cultural Heritage Bill is headed back to the House of Representatives next week Friday.  It is meant to provide a framework for the preservation of historically and culturally significant buildings, particularly in Belize City. The Bill is tied to funding from Taiwan for the Downtown Rejuvenation Project, which includes a renovation of the former Government House, now the House of Culture; the Commercial Center; and City Hall on North Front Street.  But the plans, as originally expressed to make the House of Culture a “National Colonial Museum,” have raised ire in certain sectors. Most notably, former NICH president Yasser Musa argues that the idea is retrograde and demeaning to national identity.  Well it appears that there are some changes to the plans, according to Nigel Encalada of the Institute for Social and Cultural Research. He told us that NICH screwed up by not properly communicating their ideas.


Nigel Encalada, Director, Institute of Social and Cultural Research

“That is fair criticism. We are in a process of decolonization. I think one of the early mistakes that we made – and I say we, collectively – one of the early mistakes that we made had to do with terminology; you know terminology is everything. However, I think the concept that is evolving has to do with not only telling the story of the House and downtown Belize City – because that is a story that you have to tell, you can’t run away from that – but also to tell narratives about Belize’s heroes, the peopling of Belize as a concept; those are some of the stories that we would want to tell, not only here in the House but in the downtown area through signage and so on. Belize’s history didn’t start today, it started a few hundred years ago; and so that is the challenge of putting all of that together in this shared space, so the concept has evolved. I think what happened was that people latched on to that ‘Colonial’ – because it is a colonial-era structure – so people latched on to that and ran away with it, and in a sense we are to blame because we didn’t communicate effectively how the House would be curated.”


Activity is expected to pick up steam once the Bill is formally passed.

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