Many of the buildings of the UNESCO-inscribed Historic Bridgetown memorialise our colonial history.
These structures were hewn from the island???s bedrock by Barbadians whose talent, hard work and skills are immortalised in the very foundations on which the buildings stand.
These are not simply buildings carved of stone but rather, they are tangible mementos fashioned by economic development, having withstood both hard times and environmental disasters.
However, over time, many of these limestone and coral giants from yesteryear have become shadows of their former selves, running the risk of contributing to the decay of Bridgetown rather than reflecting the capital???s extraordinary history.
The task of restoring the glory of Barbados??? architectural heritage has fallen to the Preservation (Barbados) Foundation Trust. Created to raise funds for the preservation of the built heritage of Barbados, the Trust has been in operation for almost one year.
Since its creation, it has focused its efforts on the restoration of the Carnegie Library, the first of many projects to be implemented in the near future.??One of Barbados??? largest public libraries, the Carnegie Library was constructed over a century ago in 1906, with a generous gift of ??2,500 from self-made millionaire, Andrew Carnegie.
During an interview with the Barbados Government Information Service, the Trust???s Project Officer, Carole Bishop, noted that a country???s heritage was intricately connected to the identity of its people. The restoration and preservation of a nation???s physical heritage, she said, was therefore of paramount importance.
???When there was a terrible hurricane in Montserrat, it literally destroyed several landmarks, including trees. When people woke up the next day their environment was unrecognisable, and it was very traumatic. This one event demonstrates that the architectural heritage of a country impacts on its inhabitants and their day-to-day life experience,??? she pointed out.
Ms. Bishop added that not only was heritage important to the inhabitants of a country, but in reality, it has become a major attraction for tourists. ???People actually travel to capital cities to absorb the atmosphere of heritage. A capital city that is well preserved and maintained is a beacon for citizens and visitors alike, declaring the value a nation places on its historical environment,??? she noted.
The Project Officer stressed that the Carnegie Library???s importance went beyond a matter of preserving history. ???Carnegie gave the money, but he didn???t build the library. Barbadian artisans are the ones who built that building???restoring the building will aid in preserving it as a memorial to the work that our people have done,??? she pointed out.
Ms. Bishop added that the Trust had developed a video series called ???We Build Dis???, which was telecast in November 2015, to highlight the contributions by local builders and craftsmen.
As the Trust seeks to raise more funds for its projects, Ms. Bishop said that it was also important for every Barbadian to get on board with the restoration project. ???This work is for the benefit of everyone???Everyone can help and every donation is deeply appreciated, whether with a million dollars or a modest ???widow???s mite!?????? she remarked.
The Project Officer further expressed her hope of seeing the Library restored to its former glory. ???It would be a great thing indeed, if support for this work could pick up the momentum needed to allow the rebirth of the Carnegie Library as a state of the art information and cultural centre to begin in this our golden jubilee year!??? she stated.
In addition to general donations, Barbadians are encouraged to assist the Trust in raising funds for the library???s restoration by purchasing its official Independence calendar.
Enshrined in the very walls of the Carnegie Library, erected by Barbadian artisans, are the hopes and dreams of our forefathers who longed for a better Barbados. Its history and very existence bear witness to our people???s strength, thirst for knowledge and industry. As a nation, it is incumbent on us all to ensure that it is restored and preserved for future generations.