September 30, 2023

New Little Cayman Museum ribbon cut

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IMG_7179GRAND CAYMAN, Cayman Islands – A lifetime of collecting and preserving the past for future generations was realised Friday morning with the opening of the newest Little Cayman Museum.

Linton N. Tibbetts, OBE, believed it was important to save the history of the Cayman Islands for future generations, so much so that he was the founder of museums on all three Islands.

“Those of us who knew Mr. T. as he was affectionately called, marvelled at his penchant for storytelling, especially revelling in those tales from his native home, Cayman Brac, and Little IMG_7187Cayman,” said Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin in remarks before the ribbon cutting officially opening the museum. “This museum is a fit and proper place to protect his collection of memorabilia and ensure that those who come after us know from whence we came.”

The original Little Cayman Museum opened in 1997 and was followed by the Marine Museum in 2009, but Mr. Tibbetts – who would have turned 91 two days before Friday’s 18 July, 2014, grand opening – envisioned a larger museum, combining the two. His family found a sketch of what he thought the museum would look like while going through his things after his death at age 88 in 2011.

The family decided to build a new, dedicated museum in the patriarch’s honour.

Mr. Tibbetts’ daughter Mary Brandes opened the ceremony with prayer and in her message alluded to the Book of Joshua, Chapter 4, when God tells Joshua to choose 12 men, one from each tribe, to take up 12 stones and put them in the middle of the Jordan River. In verse 7 we are told that the stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.

“Dad had very much that vision to preserves things that were important,” Mrs. Brandes told the crowd gathered for the opening. “He knew these two Islands had God’s blessing. This museum is important because it’s going to be there for future generations to remember the past.”

Son-in-law Dr. Michael Hooker was the one who presented the new museum idea to the family. He became concerned about the condition of the old museums in the case of a storm.

“I started thinking, what’s going to happen if we have a tropical storm or hurricane. We would lose all of the articles,” he said. An inspection of the older building done by Rob Hurlstone convinced Mr. Hooker and the family that a sturdy, weather worthy building was needed.

“I cannot be more proud for the people of Little Cayman and the tourists to Little Cayman,” Mr. Hooker said of the new museum.

Grandson Michael Tibbetts said he found curator Julia da Silva after touring a whaling museum outside of Boston.

“After spending a year immersed in the collections of a lifetime, I feel I too know Mr. T.,” she said.

“He was an absolutely marvellous person,” said Deputy Premier and Sister Islands MLA Hon. Moses Kirkconnell. “You had this feeling that the special time he gave you was unique to your relationship with him.”

Mr. Kirkconnell said he had no doubts that Mr. Tibbetts knew that his family was going to carry out his vision and his passion with this new museum.

“He was the biggest ambassador Little Cayman will ever have,” he said before thanking the family for their continued efforts at preserving the history and heritage of the Cayman Islands.

Mr. Tibbetts was born on Cayman Brac in 1923, survived the Hurricane of 1932 and became an astute businesses man in the lumber and hardware retail industry in the United States and the Cayman Islands.

“No matter how far Mr. Tibbetts rose in the world of business and commerce, he never, ever forgot his roots,” said Mr. McLaughlin.

Mr. Tibbetts built the first Brac Reef Hotel on Cayman Brac in the mid-1970s and he and like-minded Brackers formed the now defunct Red Carpet Airline, which flew into the Brac three times a week for almost 10 years. He sold the hotel and built the Brac Reef Resort in 1987, which was destroyed in Hurricane Paloma in November 2008. The resort was rebuilt to even better standards and opened in February 2010.

At the time of reopening, Mr. Tibbetts was quoted as saying, “We can’t give up on this Island and somebody’s got to do it”.

“So it goes with the Little Cayman Museum,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “Somebody had to do it. Mr. T. lived his life in the words made famous by Mikhail Gorbachev – ‘If not me who? And If not now, when?’ He lived his life selflessly. He showed us that dedication, honesty, integrity and love for your fellow man is the way to live one’s life and we as a country are better off for having had him in our presence.”

The mission statement of the Little Cayman Museum states: The Little Cayman Museum preserves and protects Little Cayman’s cultural heritage for the enrichment of the present and future generations. In support of this mission, the Museum collects, conserves and interprets artefacts, documents and published materials related to the history of Little Cayman.

The Museum, which contains more than 500 years of history, is an active one, which means it accepts articles for preservation. It is owned and operated by the Cayman Islands Legacy Fund, a non-profit, charitable organisation. For more information, contact the Fund, c/o Village Square, PO Box 15, Little Cayman KY3-2501, Cayman Islands.

IMAGE: Mrs. Polly Tibbetts cuts the ribbon officially opening the new Little Cayman Museum. With her are, from left, Michael Tibbetts, Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin, curator Julia da Silva, Deputy Premier and Sister Islands MLA Moses Kirkconnell and Michael Hooker. Photos: Tammie C. Chisholm



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