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The National Gallery of Jamaica is the beneficiary of a $1.62 million (US$24,800) grant from the United States (US) government, which will be used to improve climate control systems at the facility to preserve valuable works of art.
The grant was made under the US Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation, which was created by Congress in 2001, to assist developing countries in preserving museum collections, ancient and historical sites, and traditional forms of expression.
US Ambassador to Jamaica, Brenda LaGrange Johnson, who made the presentation today (Aug.30) at the National Gallery’s Ocean Boulevard location, noted that “many of the works [at the Gallery] are of considerable antiquity” and “preservation of these works is therefore a constant concern”.
She noted that the grant, which was funded by the US State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, would assist the National Gallery to maintain its collection in proper condition and preserve Jamaica’s artistic and cultural heritage.
Ambassador LaGrange Johnson pointed out that many of the approximately 1,700 pieces of art at the Gallery, were “composed of either wood, mostly sere and mahogany, oil on canvas, or works on paper,” and they required special care.
Artwork of this composition are especially and prone to deteriorate under conditions or less than optimum temperature and air quality, and specific climate control measures are mandatory for their preservation.
Executive Director of the National Gallery of Jamaica, Jonathan Greenland, in accepting the award, noted that funds from the grant would be used to provide training for the staff and support a programme to raise awareness of cultural conservation.
According to Mr. Greenland, “conservation does not have a strong profile in Jamaica, even though the cultural heritage is in danger of being lost,” noting that the programme would “raise awareness of conservation issues among many different audiences, including school children, teachers and adults”.
He indicated that other organizations, such as Jamaica National Heritage Trust and the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts should enjoy the “spill over” benefits of the award and the improvement to the Gallery.
Director of Museums of History and Ethnography at the Institute of Jamaica, Wayne Modest, in his remarks, said that, “through this fund, we can start awareness in Jamaica about how to prevent not only natural disasters, but raise awareness about how climatological conditions affect paintings, as well as preserve Jamaica’s material culture”.
He added that award would serve to open up bi-lateral dialogue between Jamaica and the US as it related to Jamaica’s heritage conservation.