National Trust of Guyana

Volume 3. Issue 3. December 2004

Table of Contents

Reading Progress

A Message from the Chairman

It is the season of Xmas once again when we take time off to celebrate the birth of the Holy Child and wish all our many friends and well wishers the joy and happiness of a merry Xmas season.

It is our sincere hope that you will be able to set aside the many problems that bedeviled us through the year and reach out across all barriers, of race, class, religion, politics and personal preoccupation to secure a season of peaceful fulfilment and merry making.

As the year dawns, I would also like to wish you all, staff, board members, friends and stakeholders a bright and prosperous new year. It is my profound hope that in the new-year we together embark on concerted efforts to reduce our weakness, address our limitations and accentuate our strengths to be of better service to our mission and our nation.

Our trials are many and severe but together we sill survive them. Let us together triumph as a group.

Framed: a Celebration of Guyana’s Heritage in Photos

On Monday 27 September 2004 the National Trust of Guyana launched Heritage Week 2004. In declaring the exhibition open Honourable Ms. GailTeixeira, Minister of Culture Youth & Sport stressed the need for the conservation of the nation’s patrimony.

The exhibition featured historic prints of the Lamaha Canal during construction, the old Railway Station, Parliament Buildings on the eve of Emancipation and several water colour paintings, on loan from the Caribbean Research Library, University of Guyana. In addition there were several photographs of the Tadjah Festival and an intricate glimpse of the lifestyle of the Guyanese people during the early 20th century.

Ms. Indira Anandjit, delivered a Guest lecture on the importance of the preservation of the nation’s cultural heritage at Jenman’s Education Centre, the Botanical Gardens on Wednesday, 29 September 2004. The following is an excerpt from her lecture..

A unique, yet growing market in tourism is that of Culture and Heritage Tourism. Guyana has one of the most rich and varied heritage in the region. Beginning with the arrival of the Amerindians and developed and consolidated with the arrival of the Europeans: Dutch, French, English and even the Spanish along with the Chinese, Indians, Africans and Maderians.

The legacy became increasingly polyglot as each group brought to Guyana their cultural traditions and made its imprint on the Guyanese cultural landscape. The variety of these contributions provided us with the plural tapestry of which we are so very proud.

Perhaps more than any other city in the English speaking Caribbean, Georgetown evolved with a distinctive architectural style that combined elegance with practicality. These historic wooden structures are mainly from the 19th century, a period characterized by a profusion of architectural styles in Britain and Europe.

There is a pressing need for these chapters of our history to be preserved before they are erased in the quest for development. These buildings represent an asset which if well maintained could provide higher economic returns through job opportunities and more importantly an excellent opportunity to transfer Guyana’s warm hospitality to the world via the tourism industry.

In an effort to enjoy a tourism experience it is necessary to leave something about the history and current affairs of a country to help one to understand the attitude and idiosyncrasies of its people and help to prevent misunderstandings and frustrations.

So at every opportunity we should encourage high quality tourism experiences, which bring satisfaction and enrichment to visitors and a greater appreciation for our natural and cultural heritage.

On Friday 1 October 2004, Mr. Rawle Edinboro, the Town Planner of the Central Housing & Planning Authority delivered the second guest lecture as part of the Trust’s activities for Heritage Week 2004. The following is an excerpt of his lecture at the National Trust.

“Certainly, Georgetown with its remarkable collection of historic properties stand to gain in its development as a city once effective urban heritage preservation is practiced. The properties include public open spaces, urban landscapes and streetscapes, engineering structures such as bridges and canals, buildings and trees.

Through architectural preservation, historic buildings in the city, as assets, can be used to bring cash benefits through tourism for example, in the process, the development of the tourism sector would be stimulated. Certain historic buildings can be put to economic use while still maintaining their historic character. This principle of adaptive re-use can help in the generation of much needed funds to restore historic buildings. Jobs for local skilled craftsmen can be generated with the implementation of building restoration programmes, thus contributing to economic well-being of people. The general aim should be to use heritage to fight poverty and better the social and economic state of the city.In seeking to seize opportunities to better the economy our city and people’s lives through heritage preservation, the many challenges of conservation must be tackled in appropriate

ways. Firstly, our society needs to recognize more than there is an urgent need in maintaining and preserving what remains of our rich urban heritage, particularly the wooden ensembles of our city. In this regard the work of the concerned agencies must be supported by a strong public awareness/education programme and a framework for energizing all the stakeholders and engendering workable solutions.

Well defined public sector preservation strategies are also of importance. For example, government facilities such as schools and public institutions should be encouraged to rehabilitate and upgrade historic properties. It is also important to address infrastructure needs while preserving the urban fabric. Thus, rehabilitation and on-going maintenance of historic streetscapes and canals as major elements of the historic character of Georgetown should be top priority for city government.

Public agencies involved in dealing with the management of the city must have the requisite institutional capacity to effectively and professionally deal with urban preservation issues. Since 1951, the then Georgetown Town Planning Scheme recognized that in order to establish architectural control within the area of Greater Georgetown there was need for a city Architect “who shall advise on all matters pertaining to the condition of buildings, public gardens, grass verges, planting and maintenance of trees on public ways, siting and character of posters, hoarding advertisement and other objects on public display, and other amenities”. Fifty-three years later our city is still without a City Architect! It is failures, such as this, to built institutional capacity that constitutes a serious threat to well-meaning preservation efforts.

It is also essential that our legal framework be fine-tuned to allow the agencies to deal more effectively with urban preservation issues. Community involvement in the conservation process is also of importance in the work of the public agencies.

In the case of the private sector, strategies aimed at promoting the preservation of the city’s urban fabric should deal with the following issues: –

§ Having clear design guidelines and regulations to guide development in the historic districts of Georgetown (management tools).

§ Providing incentives (perhaps tax-based) for rehabilitation.

§ Showing public recognition and appreciation of noteworthy restoration or maintenance works.

§ Strengthening partnerships between the private and public sector in the execution of preservation programmes.

§ Developing good effective hazard mitigation measures in the event of fire (also of relevance to strategies for public sector preservation).

In facing up to the challenges of dealing with the preservation of Georgetown’s urban fabric, we have to deal with certain key planning issues, such as:

1) The clarity of the urban environment the need to safeguard losing important views, open spaces etc.

2) Bringing order to our chaotic urban core the core of the historic district.

3) Utilising good planning and management tools to protect and enhance the quality of the built-environment.