Sun | Sep 24, 2023

WARE Living Museum takes shape

Published:Sunday | May 28, 2023 | 12:11 AM
Partially reconstructed Spanish  wall and thatch roofed 100-year-old Vassel House.
Partially reconstructed Spanish wall and thatch roofed 100-year-old Vassel House.
The WARE Collective apprentices at work during the reconstruction process.
The WARE Collective apprentices at work during the reconstruction process.

The development of Jamaica’s first ‘living museum’, the WARE Living Museum of Built Heritage and Traditional Crafts, located in southern Elizabeth is well advanced. This open-air/living museum concept is on track to be a unique Caribbean, heritage-focused, community-based, experiential tourism innovation. To date, the museum’s first restored historic building, the Vassel House, is 70 per cent complete and a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign has been launched to complete the project.

Advocates of the innovative living museum concept, The Wattle & Red Earth (WARE) Collective, said the non-profit organisation was set up by a group of heritage and art enthusiasts. The group’s members aim to educate and preserve traditional arts, crafts, and building techniques in southern St Elizabeth, and eventually, other parts of Jamaica. “These ways of living and the building techniques are being lost and undervalued, so we need to teach the next generation how to preserve them,” said Carol Campbell, artist and board director of WARE Collective.

In January 2021, WARE deconstructed a Spanish wall dwelling set for demolition and relocated the building to the Living Museum site in Malvern Chase. Spanish wall structures were built by enslaved Africans and their descendants using earth, stone, white lime, and lumber.

Over the past two years, WARE has recruited a motivated group of five apprentices from the local community to work under the direction of Guy ‘Maas Guy’ Parchment, 81-year-old master builder, to restore the first structure in the living museum series.

Guy has been training Marsha, Bally, O’Neil, Vincent, and Blade to reconstruct the Vassel House from the ground up to the ridge. “As part of the training, the local apprentices have learned valuable techniques and have been applying them to wood selection as well as the building and firing of a traditional lime kiln. They also now understand how to select red earth for mortar, lay limestone, thatch, and to carry out basic lime rendering,” said Ann Hodges, architect and WARE Collective board director.

According to her, funds were depleted at the end of March this year and brought the project to a standstill. The WARE Collective now seeks to raise US$6,500 to purchase materials and pay and train the apprentices for up to five more weeks for project completion.

“So far, we have raised US $2,540, but we are optimistic that we will receive even more favourable responses in the coming weeks as Jamaica stands to again lead a regional movement towards preserving our heritage and offering visitors and locals an alternative visitor attraction,” Hodges said.

She said the GoFundMe proceeds would go towards completing the thatching on the Vassel House; building a fourth lime kiln; completing the Spanish wall infill; rendering the walls inside and outside with lime plaster; whitewashing the interior and exterior walls; installing joists and flooring; repairing and restoring the existing doors and windows; repairing internal walls; installing light and power, and preparing the exterior for water run-off and wheelchair access.

Jamaica-based donors who would like to support can make direct deposits to:

Bank: JMMB Bank (Haughton Terrace, Kingston)

Account Holder: The Ware Collective Limited

JMD Smart Business

SME Chequing Account 006000177833