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Edna Manley, Professor the Hon. Rex Nettleford, Dr. the Hon. Louise Bennett Coverly, Professor Graham Serjeant, Professor Stuart Hall, and Professor Errol Morison are just a few of the pre-eminent Jamaicans that have been recipients of the Institute of Jamaica’s (IoJ) Annual Musgrave Awards.
This roll call of luminaries in the areas of Literature, Science, and the Arts, is one of the main reasons why Clover Johnston, Director of Development and Public Relations at the IOJ, believes that the Musgrave Awards is a defining feature of Jamaica’s continuous pursuit of excellence.
“The Musgrave Awards was named in honour of the Colonial Governor of Jamaica, Sir Anthony Musgrave who founded the IoJ in 1879. The idea behind the Musgrave was to reward persons who had excelled in the areas of literature, science and art. Since then, it has moved to literature, science and the arts, broadening the scope and the catchment areas in which persons can be awarded,” she says in an interview with JIS News.
“The Musgrave Awards is an extremely significant award, not just because of its longevity, being one of the oldest in the western hemisphere but because the award has touched the lives of so many persons who have made significant contributions to Jamaica’s development,” she adds.
Today (Oct. 15), ten more outstanding Jamaicans have joined the pantheon of this exclusive group, which she hopes will be of great motivation to Jamaicans.
“We have singled out persons who have really excelled in their discipline and who have been trailblazers and in some cases pioneers. I would want Jamaicans to respond to this by seeking to emulate some of these people, to look at their work, to see where they started and where they have reached and to use it as a kind of motivation for themselves,” Mrs. Johnston points out.
This year, ten awards – two Gold, three Silvers, four Bronze and the Youth Musgrave, award – will be presented.
In the Gold category, veteran broadcaster and producer, Mr. Carey Robinson of Hill and Gully ride fame, will receive his medal for distinguished eminence in the Arts, while Professor Mercedes Richards will receive her medal for distinction in the field of astronomy.
The year’s Silver Musgrave awardees are a mix of the Arts and Sciences as Monica Campbell McFarlane, and Howard Moo Young have been selected for their contribution to dance and photography respectively. Environmentalist, Peter Espeut completes this category for his contribution to protecting Jamaica’s environment.
The most represented group, is the Bronze category in which four persons were selected. These are Maureen Campbell and Vincent Douglas for merit in the areas of drama and community development as well as Doreth McFarlane and Andrea Ricketts for their work in science and education.
All of these persons are selected through a careful and detailed nomination process.
“The call for nominations usually starts around January. The nominations come in with the bio-data of persons and there is a sub-committee of the Council of the IoJ that goes through these nominations,”Mrs. Johnston informs.
“Generally speaking, the awards are usually not more than 10 per year and usually no more than two in the Gold category because the idea is to really screen for exclusivity in that category in terms of being really at the pinnacle in your career in terms of where you have reached,” she further comments, while adding that “the nominations are looked at by a sub-committee of the Council who sign off on the nominations and make the number of selections for that year.”
Not to be outdone is the youth cohort, which is rewarded through the Youth Musgrave Award.
“The Youth Musgrave Awards was the brainchild of a previous Council that thought that we should begin to look at individuals who have shown outstanding scholarship, creativity and exemplary discipline in the field of Science and Technology, Literature and the Arts. This was particularly designed to motivate a particular age group, the youth category, which is basically 30 and under,” the Public Relations Director notes.
This year’s recipient is 22 year old youth empowerment and development enthusiast, Jaevion Nelson for his achievements in the field of Information Technology, and Community Development.
However the IoJ is much more than just the Musgrave Awards. According to Mrs. Johnston, it is a multifaceted cultural entity that comprises the Museums of History and Ethnography, the Natural History Division, the Programmes Coordination Division, the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica (ACIJ), the National Gallery of Jamaica, Liberty Hall – the Legacy of Marcus Garvey; and an associate relationship with the National Library of Jamaica.
“The IoJ is the Government’s cultural agency that seeks to promote the material cultural heritage of the country and that covers the areas of museology, general research on our cultural heritage, the natural environment and informal education,” she says.
Through its various divisions, the IOJ offers Jamaicans an opportunity to learn more about, understand and better appreciate the country’s history and heritage.
“We try to expand our offerings to make ourselves more current and appealing to persons who use our services. All our divisions carry out what we call education outreach programmes,” she informs.
“We go out to schools and tertiary institutions; we showcase the work, give public lectures, hold seminars in-house in terms of exhibitions, and have work shops related to the exhibitions,” she continues.
One of the more memorable exhibitions was that relating to the great 1907 earthquake, which caused severe damage to the city of Kingston. That exhibition was a collaboration between the museums division of the IoJ, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), and various geologists.
“We held a number of workshops looking at the suitability of buildings, how they would now resist an earthquake of that magnitude. So we brought in all the players who would have been affected if an earthquake was to come such as persons from the housing sector and the insurance companies to sensitise Jamaicans,” Mrs. Johnston recalls.
“This was extremely successful, and so was the exhibition, especially because of the human interest of it as many people had heard about the earthquake from their mothers and grandmothers,” she continues.
In addition to the exhibitions, schools can also visit the IoJ and its various divisions and access valuable information that can aid in exam preparations.
“The ACIJ for instance, they have a package that is tailor-made to suit the persons taking the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate exams and so they work to provide information especially for the history syllabus,” the Public Relations Director points out.
“The natural history division actually hosts in-house workshops and schools can actually call in and ask them to tailor-make programmes that are of interest to various age groups. So we are flexible in that we can provide a range of offerings in various disciplines to different school segments whether it is primary, secondary or tertiary and we respond positively to these offers,” she adds.
Another highlight of the IoJ, is its signature publication, the much acclaimed Jamaica Journal, which has been in existence since 1967.
“The Jamaica Journal has lasted I think because it has a dual appeal, both to the general reader and researchers because of the range of topics that’s covered. These include contemporary culture, our general cultural heritage, our natural environment and also current events and exhibitions at the Institute,” Mrs. Johnston states.
“Also the Jamaica Journal is a very useful resource for students and researchers because the articles are peer reviewed by an academic multidisciplinary committee, so the articles published have to be able to withstand academic rigour. Because of this, it is found in libraries internationally, especially in universities across North America and Europe,” she further comments.
Mrs. Johnston is hoping that more Jamaicans will visit the IoJ and begin to enjoy the various services and tours that it provides.
“When persons call to book tours or come in, they are usually given the full range of offerings that are offered by all the divisions and it gives them the opportunity to say if there are any other needs that we can meet and we do try to respond positively and meet our audiences half way or the full way most of the times,” she explains.