After decades of planning, and a huge amount of dedication from the Falkland Islands Museum and National Trust (FIMNT) and supporters, the Falkland Islands’ new Historic Dockyard Museum is nearing completion. Approximately 100 invited guests attended the launch event on Saturday 6th September, and the building will be open to the public on Friday 12th September.
Guest of honour, Sir Neil Cossons OBE, (*) declared the Historic Dockyard Museum officially open with a ringing of the Dockyard bell – the same which was once used to signal the beginning and end of the working day.
Sir Neil had first suggested developing the museum on the Dockyard site in the mid 1980s and has the honour of officially opening the site. Works starting on the site were honoured by the Duke of Kent in a plaque dedication ceremony in November 2013.
Other guests at the opening included Dick Foster and Ray McGowan, two former members of FIDS (Falkland Island Dependencies Survey) who had overwintered in the Reclus Hut on the Antarctic Peninsula in the 1950s – the Hut is the focus of the museum’s ‘Gateway to Antarctica’ gallery. They were joined by Rachel Morgan of the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust which had generously sponsored this element of the exhibition.
The project received financial backing of £1.8million from Members of the Legislative Assembly in February 2012 and since the site was vacated by its previous occupants in June 2013 the work has been continuous. A number of local companies have been very supportive in sponsoring the project – the fishing industry being particularly generous, with Consolidated Fisheries Ltd, Seafish (Falklands) Ltd, Fortuna Ltd, and Beauchene Fishing Company Ltd, all coming on board as major Founding Partners.
However, the development has drawn support from the whole community, attracting donations of finance, knowledge and time, and the Founding Partner Board features the names of 19 community-minded individuals and organisations.
There are five main exhibit strands: social history, maritime history, 1982 conflict, natural history and a pioneering exhibition on Antarctic history.
The new development also includes an exhibition space and reading room dedicated to Mrs Tim Simpson MBE, who was a dedicated influence on the museum and an FIMNT trustee.
Works on the Dockyard Site are still ongoing but Museum Manager Leona Roberts is proud to share their work: “The development is an asset to the whole of the Falklands. It showcases our history and we’ve worked hard to get the personal stories behind the objects that were on show or in storage at Britannia House (the old museum site)”.
(*) Sir Neil Cossons is Britain's leading authority on the industrial heritage and has advised on matters of conservation and management widely in the UK and overseas. He has published and broadcast extensively in this field and is a sought after speaker internationally. Among Sir Neil’s many achievements, he has held the positions of Director of the National Maritime Museum Greenwich, first Director of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust; he is a Governor of the Royal College of Art, has been Chairman of English Heritage, President of the Museums Association and one of the founders of the Association of Independent Museums. He was knighted for his services to museums and heritage in 1994.