Museum board chairman steps down

After completing 10 years as chairman, Harris A McCoy III has passed on the chairmanship of the Cayman Islands National Museum Board of Directors. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull interviews McCoy to appreciate just how far the Museum has come over the years.
I have had a wonderful opportunity to contribute to what is the most important social and cultural institution in Cayman,” Harris McCoy III says, adding that the Museum had reached a point in its development that allowed him to step away to allow others the opportunity.
During this time McCoy also created the McCoy Prize as well as the McCoy Collection – which was the first and remains the only private sponsored collection of Caymanian art in the Cayman Islands, forming part of the national collection which the Museum holds in Trust for the Caymanian people.
The National Museum has developed into an incredible showcase for Cayman’s cultural and natural history, reaching many huge goals over the last five years of its ongoing development. According to McCoy, one of the most significant achievements was the historically authentic and comprehensive restoration of the Old Courts Building which houses the Museum.  That large-scale restoration work took place following the devastating impact of 2004’s Hurricane Ivan.
“Restoration work of this type had never been done on such a scale in Cayman before. As with any old structure there was so much that could have gone wrong,” he says, reflecting on the courage that it had demanded.
“We had very limited funds, and the unprecedented nature of the work was such that it required a delicate balancing of many times competing objectives, and sometimes agendas, as the process evolved.”
An incredible achievement
McCoy says it was a long process, but considering what was accomplished and the limitations, the wait was well worth it.
He paid tribute to “the many dedicated people who put their talents to work to giving back to the Cayman public its oldest public-access building,” adding: “I am proud of the cohesion we achieved in that respect and others.”
It was an accomplishment, he said, that has sent a message that the Islands’ historical natural and built environment can be conserved within the context of the realities of modern Cayman. “We have shown that buildings that are a part of our heritage can continue to contribute to our development, and in unique ways,” he confirms.
Commenting on the confluence of circumstances that brought him to such a personal and professional valuing of Cayman’s cultural heritage, McCoy related it to the community involvement of his mother, the late Mrs. Virginia McCoy.  “One day my mother got a call about helping at the Museum and sent me instead,” he says.
McCoy says he has learnt much from the experience: “A great museum is a careful mixture of reality and illusion; an artifact on a shelf can evoke strong emotions and memory with one person, while for another it may just be a rusty bucket on a white shelf. So a museum needs to strive to touch all the senses and tell a wonderful story.”
Heritage worth preserving
And that, he hopes, will be the heritage that this Museum passes on to future generations – an engaging, emotive tale of old and contemporary Cayman.
“It keeps our past as part of our future, and provides the context and explanation for a lot we know about ourselves as a people,” he comments, adding:
“We have sought to achieve a total experience, and many of our existing surveys confirm our perception – that our visitors leave with a feeling of tranquility, pride and wonderment about the Caymanian people, their cultural heritage and their past.”
Taking ownership
The departing chairman remained optimistic about the Museum’s future and calls for continued public support. “Our National Museum needs community support and involvement. It’s about our people, our shared heritage and our past. Become a member, go with our children or take your parents on a Saturday. Own our Caymanian heritage.”
Towards that goal, he urges everyone to sign up for membership, and to join the Museum’s Facebook page. “I would like to see it become fully daily, with regard to both visitors and local residents.”
Encouraging wider public participation overall, Chairman McCoy said that his favourite experience in the National Museum is the Object Theatre’s video presentation. 
“The Museum creative team did an amazing job to capture so much of who we are. Go have look – it will be the most rewarding ten minutes you will ever spend in a theatre.”