New exhibits at St Helena Museum
Filled with fascinating island history, the St Helena Museum holds historical artefacts from the 1600s to today, uniting the past and present of St Helena. There are two notable new additions to the Museum’s collection that shouldn’t be missed, one showcasing Boer relics and the other portraying the old RMS St Helena and the part she played in the 1982 Falklands Campaign.
Expanded Boer exhibit
With South African company, Basil Read, assigned the task of building the Airport, St Helena witnessed an influx of South African residents. This led to an increased interest in the Island’s Boer history and connections with the African continent.
The Museum’s Boer exhibit has been developed to cater for this interest, and has been expanded to include handmade tools and wooden objects crafted by the Boers.
Explaining the newly displayed objects, Museum Director, Adam Sizeland, said “when the Boers came to St Helena they were prisoners and made their tools themselves; and from those tools they made boxes, carvings and picture frames all from island wood, some with intricate patterns. Things made from beef bones include cutlery, rings and pipes for smoking. They were very creative, inventive and resourceful people.”
RMS St Helena and the Falklands Conflict
The second new permanent exhibit is inspired by the old RMS St Helena and the part that the ship and her crew played in the 1982 Falklands Conflict.
When the RMS St Helena made her historical voyage to the UK in June this year a collection of war memorabilia was presented to St Helena Line, and Captain Rodney Young decided it should be donated to the Museum.
The new exhibit includes a model of the old RMS St Helena with the helicopter pad, along with old RMS photos taken by Radio Officer Bob Wilson.
Another piece on show is a replica of the campaign medal presented to all participants in the Falklands war. This was controversially only presented to the Saints two years ago, their efforts having originally been overlooked due to arriving after the battle had ceased. However, the contribution to the clear-up operation, with the RMS acting as a support vessel to mine hunters clearing Argentinian mine fields, eventually earned them their medal.
Archaeological dig on Main Street
Another recent project undertaken by the Museum was an archaeological dig on Main Street to assist St Helena Hotel Development. The developers approached the Museum to undertake a Heritage Impact Assessment to ensure no damage came to any historical artefacts and human remains that might be present beneath the development, documented as a possible site of the Portuguese chapel and graveyard.
After digging by hand for fifteen days no sign of a grave site was discovered. However Museum representatives did find ceramics, pottery, animal bones, iron and metal that show signs of continuous habitation.
One particularly significant find was a large circular water feature, a basin eight foot in diameter built of stone masonry pointed with hard lime. The discovery suggests this was the site for the public fresh drinking water supply from a channel up stream. Another pit revealed a curved wall and from this it is assumed the basin overflowed into a larger one where locals bathed next to the church. It is now assumed that this was once the social centre of Jamestown, and the site was probably the most continuously inhabited place on St Helena. There appears to be no mention of this on the maps as they predate the buildings in the development zone, helping the Museum to write a new piece of history.