April 22, 2011
A few steps into the Wyannie Malone Historical Museum is enough to give you an eerie feeling that you have gone back in time.
Since Hope Town is not the busiest city centre, chances are you might be the only visitor when you go. Apart from the sound of your footsteps on the wooden floors the museum is near silent. That’s good because the quiet leaves plenty of room for your imagination.
The museum itself is modeled after one of Hope Town’s oldest houses. There’s wood everywhere and occasionally the ceiling interrupts your travels reminding you of the shape of the building.
One of the first areas that really captured my attention was the above bathroom scene that includes a facebowl, shaving leather and a special chair. Immediately you get an dea of what life was like without running water. The poem posted on the wall deserves a few minutes of reading time.
Click here to see a full-sized imaged of the poem in a new tab. It's a large photo so give it a minute.
A wood-burning stove with thick metal doors and a set of heavy cast-iron pots make it clear that you would not have wanted to get whacked by anyone that used it regularly.
A mechanical sewing machine is neatly arranged as if its owner plans to return and begin work at any moment. Reading the description you’ll discover it was the second sewing machine on the island. William Norman bought it for his wife Bea Emily Russell in the early 1900s proving that men have been buying home appliances instead of jewelry for at least 100 years.
Before steel wool there was turbot skin. Dried in the sun it was used with fine sand to scrub wooden floors.
Power tools. Human-powered tools.
Glass and bottles of yesteryear.
The music video before MTV.
In 1926 only two places in The Bahamas had a telegraph station; Nassau and Hope Town.
Abaco’s iconic lighthouse guides you through the museum. This sort of unobtrusive help is a common feature of the museum; exhibits are designed needing little explanations the explanations that are provided are concise and interesting.
What people did before TV and the Internet.
You only think ironing is tough now.
Bedroom scene one.
Bedroom scene two.
You can also read through the most complete Bahamian genealogical information outside of the National Archives in Nassau. Check out the video about the museum as well. It starts a little slow but it’s certainly not boring. If you wonder what the song is playing in the background its Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Mandolins.
As the world moves forward at the pace of Moore’s Law it’s difficult to remember life before cell phones, the world-wide-web and television. The Wyannie Malone Historical Museum makes the trip easy, dropping you into island life of decades past.
If you can, visit. If you can’t visit, donate. The museum is planning lots of great stuff, including an archaeological dig, a re-printing of the Wyannie Malone Geneology and a large event tent.
I can tell you that when Ronnie and I visited, we had only planned to stop for a few minutes. Once we started looking around though it was difficult to stop taking photographs. We still only covered about a third of the museum.
A picture tour of Hope Town, Abaco
Story by Dominic Duncombe.
Click here to see more photos from Hope Town.