In 2002, Belize's first central prison - known as "back-a-baptist" to us city folk - became a showcase for some of Belize's richest historical treasures. And now, ten years later, the Museum of Belize is still the repository for important pieces of Belize's culture and history. On Sunday, February 5th The Museum will be celebrating its 10th anniversary, and it is doing it with a bang. Not only can Belizeans now enter the museum free on Saturdays, but the celebration for this anniversary will continue for 10 days; one for each year that has passed. Each day will have its own activity, and on Wednesday the 15th of February one of Belize's most precious artifacts will be showcased: The real Jade Head will be on display for the entire day. Shari Williams spoke with us briefly about the 10th anniversary and the activities that will follow.
Shari Williams, NICH "On Monday will be our 10th anniversary. To commemorate this 10th anniversary we are going to have 10 days of activities starting on Sunday. Sunday we are inviting parents to bring out their children - we are having a fun day. We are having Ozzy the clown, games, all sorts of entertainment, free tours. So it's going to be free of cost and so we are inviting parents to drop by with their children for a day of fun activities."
"One of the things we are kicking off is; we realize that a lot of Belizeans are not visiting the museum as much as we hope they would and so for this 10th anniversary we are opening the museum on Saturdays for free. Bring your children and your family and just use that day on Saturday from 9-4 to visit the museum free of cost."
"The big day is Wednesday 15th. This is the last day of the 10 days activities. What we are doing is bringing out the Jade Head. The Jade Head has not been on exhibit in Belize since 2009. So for that one day only we are bringing it out. Bringing the Jade Head includes maximum security, a lot of detail and so for only that day we are going to have it on exhibition at the Museum of Belize."
"We are asking school to call in and book your space and of course it will be open to the general public."
Robin Schaffer "So all these activities just showcase each aspect of the Museum and Belizean culture alike?"
Shari Williams, NICH "Yes definitely, 10 years is a remarkable time, it's a time that we should celebrate our culture and history and the fantastic work that the staff at the Museum of Belize has been doing. Since opening our doors; every year we see about 15,000 visitors. The Museum of Belize has been doing an incredible job and 10 years is a milestone that we want to share with the Belizean people."
To kick off the celebrations, the Museum will host a family fun day, starting at 10am, featuring games and other activities for children and free tours of the Museum.
The Museum of Belize is observing its tenth anniversary. Home to historical pieces of the Belizean Culture and an attraction for tourists, the museum is celebrating with ten days of entertaining and educational activities. Shari Williams, Communications Officer for the National Institute of Culture and History, says the celebrations will kick off on Sunday and culminate with the highlight… the Jade Head Display.
Shari Williams, Communications Officer, NICH
“Well, this year actually, Sunday February the fifth will mark the tenth anniversary of the Museum of Belize and of course we felt that this was a milestone. The Museum of Belize since opening its doors approximately sees about fifteen thousand visitors yearly and so we felt that it was important to celebrate this tenth anniversary with the people of Belize. So we decided to do ten days of activities starting Sunday February the fifth. We are having a fun. We’re inviting parents to bring in the children; to join the staff to sing happy birthday, cut the cake, Ozzie the Clown—so it’s going to be like a children’s party but in grand fashion. Free tours for the kids. So bring the kids over. It begins at ten a.m. till five p.m. in the evening all day long—free everything. On Monday, we are going to have a storytelling session with Miss Myrna Manzanarez sharing Creole stories. On Tuesday we are bringing in former superintendent Bernard Adolphus to share what prison life was like. On Wednesday we have under the Ya’axche Tree, a book presentation by David Ruiz. Thursday, museum membership drive. We are inviting people to become a member of the museum. There is a lot of wonderful things when you become a member of the museum: behind the scene tours, invitation to members only events and stuff like that. On Friday, a walk down memory lane; we’re bringing in the seenagers from HelpAge Belize to reminisce about what life was like in Belize back in the day. On Saturday; one of the things we are launching on February fifth is every single Saturday starting February fifth, Belizeans can enter the museum for free. So we are encouraging more Belizeans. Every year, thousands of visitors come from abroad to visit the museum and our museum is right here and we are not using it as much as we should. So we are inviting people, Belizeans to come in for a tour; bring your kids, bring the family. On Monday and Tuesday we are having children’s art workshop and the big day of course is on Wednesday the fifteenth. That’s the last day of the ten days of activities and we are bringing out the Jade. The jade has not been on display since 2009. Of course when we bring out the Jade Head we have to have maximum security; a lot of details, a lot of planning. So for that one day only, we are going to have the Jade Head on exhibit.”
Schools are invited to call the Museum of Belize to schedule a time for viewing the Jade Head.
The Museum of Belize will be celebrating its tenth anniversary and along with NICH have prepared a week of activities for the Belizean public.
Shari Williams – Communications Officer, NICH “On Sunday February 5, the Museum of Belize will be celebrating its 10th anniversary. 10 years ago the Museum of Belize opened its door to the Belizean people and of course visitors from far and wide. To celebrate this momentous occasion, what you have to understand that since opening its doors we see about 15,000 visitors every year this includes students, tourists, the general public and so we felt that being the tenth anniversary we needed to celebrate in grand style and we needed to celebrate with the people of Belize because this is an achievement not only for the Museum but for the entire country. We decided to put together ten days of activities. It kicks off on Sunday; the first activity is a fun day for the children mainly. We are inviting parents to drop by with your children, we are having face painting, Ozzy the Clown, they will be singing happy birthday with the staff, cutting the cake, it is like a kids party, we want to invite more and more children to visit the Museum, we are offering free tours on that day. On Monday we are bringing in Miss Myrna Manzanarez and she will be doing some Creole stories, on Tuesday we are bringing in former superintendent Bernard Adolphus, he was the last Superintendent of the prison and he will be sharing with us what it was like being at the Central Prison. On Wednesday we have a book presentation on David Ruiz, on Thursday we have Museum membership drive, on Friday a walk down memory lane, we are bringing in the seenagers from Help Age Belize to reminisce what it was like living in Belize back in the days. ON Saturday Belizeans enter free. One of the things we are launching for tenth anniversary is every Saturday starting February 5, it is free for all Belizeans, the Museum is open on Saturdays from nine to four so bring in your kids. On Monday and Tuesday we have children’s art workshop and on Wednesday we are bringing out the Jade head. The Jade Head is under lock and key, it is in Belize but we have it locked up because it is the biggest jade ever found in the Meso America Maya homeland and so we usually keep it in a safe place.”
Williams says they are inviting schools to call in and book an appointment to manage the flow of students for the viewing of the Jade Head. For further information on the week of activities you can contact the office at NICH or visit them on their website, Facebook or Twitter.
The Museum of Belize was inaugurated in 2002 and turned 10 this past Sunday, February 5. There is a full schedule of activities planned, and Belizeans can take advantage of the opportunity to tour the building, once the site of Her Majesty’s Prison from 1857 to 1993, when the current structure at Hattieville (now privatized) was established.
On Tuesday night, February 7, a small coterie of interested Belizeans, including this reporter, voluntarily walked behind the former prison walls to listen to tales of yesteryear told skillfully and spellbindingly by former Superintendent of Prisons, Bernard Adolphus.
Adolphus served as a senior policeman and officer in the Belize Defence Force before taking over the prison in the early 1980’s, a position from which he retired at its privatization in the early 2000’s. He has seen, heard, and done it all, and last night lectured on the origins, history and secrets of a building that has withstood two major hurricanes and fires in 1982 and 1993.
Her Majesty’s Prison was started in 1854 with convict labor and opened in 1857, a formal replacement for a wooden structure at the present site of First Caribbean International Bank in downtown Belize City, at Albert and Church Streets. (According to Adolphus, other holding cells were in place in the Supreme Court yard, behind Price Premier Products, formerly Macmillan Brothers, and behind the former offices and studio of Great Belize Television, Channel 5, all on Regent Street.)
It was “hard bread, hard labour [and] hard bed” for the occupants of the new jail, subjected to a strict regime from sun-up to sun-down in the forbidding structure commonly termed “Back-A-Baptist,” in reference to its location behind what is now the Queen Street Baptist Church and School. The local Baptist mission had previously owned the 1-acre property, and part of it was given over to the Public Works Department and later the Central Bank.
The 89 used cells of the 102 built in the structure (the remainder serving as offices, a library, padded cell etc.), housed the most infamous and dangerous criminals to walk the Belizean land – as well as some who Adolphus believes may not have deserved the harsh life meted out to them because of their circumstances.
Her Majesty’s Prison also witnessed as many as 18 recorded executions of persons convicted of murder. The records that Adolphus has go back to the 1930’s, stretch through the 50’s with the likes of John Aldana and Marcus O’Brien, and go up to the last person hanged in Belize, 18-year-old Kent Bowers, in 1985. The execution of the only woman to face death for murder in recorded Belizean history, Nora Parham, took place here in 1963 (but Adolphus denied that she was pregnant at the time, as other accounts have stated, as that is a condition that would ordinarily halt execution.)
Adolphus stated plainly that he did not believe that Bowers would be executed today because of “the real story” behind the killing of Robert Codd in 1984 and the need of authorities to find a scapegoat for execution because of the rising crime rate at the time, but because of the victim’s position in society and certain other factors he declined to go into great detail.
The prison focused on rehabilitating prisoners by taking away their comforts. Food was mostly Spartan – bread and tea or coffee at breakfast and dinner time, while lunch was usually stewed beans, white rice and fish, with rice and beans on Sundays. Then as now, there was drug smuggling, “bora”-making and other illegal activity going on, which the dedicated prison officers did their best to stamp out.
Among the primary differences between then and now, says Adolphus, was that the prisoners were put to work, meaningfully. They would march, shackled, through the downtown on route to their assigned workstations at the Government Printer, Government House and elsewhere. One was even assigned to take care of the horse of Minister responsible for Prisons, the late David McKoy, a horseracing enthusiast, until he was relieved of his duties after stealing the horse’s ration of oats for himself on the excuse of hunger.
Satellite camps were maintained at Gracie Rock, Belize District, and at the Lynam (ANRI) campus grounds in Stann Creek, the latter for first offenders until a change of the laws in the early 1980’s. Adolphus recalled that despite their difficulties and backgrounds, many of the men in his care were talented and showed a willingness to reform their habits. For those lacking in education, special programs were instituted, often under the care of ‘trustee’ prisoners. For those who, on the other hand, refused to behave, there was the dreaded “cat-o-nine-tails” or tambran whip to keep them in line.
Adolphus regaled the audience with stories of “Passam,” the habitual escaper who had a ball and chain tied to his leg to restrict his movements; one Edgar Maradiaga, aka “Papaito,” jailed at Her Majesty’s pleasure for a gruesome assault on a priest after being found insane; the prisoner who kept escaping and getting caught looking for food, so prison officials gave him as much as he wanted on a large pigtail bucket cover; two characters who “played dead” in the morgue while on the run from prison officers and police at the old City Hospital on Eve Street, around the corner; the father and son, Clarence and Daniel Gentle, who were on death row at the same time for crimes committed separately in different parts of the country (though only Daniel was eventually executed); the big men in charge, including former technical advisor John Ross and former Superintendent and Adolphus’s mentor, Philip Campbell (deceased); among countless others.
The emphasis, Adolphus concluded, was on discipline and performance on the job, and on keeping law and order, a task at which Belize has lost ground over the years. He wanted young Belizeans who believe that the current system is “soft” and easy on them to know that they will pay the consequences for their actions in one way or another, and called on society to restore that sense of discipline that existed in olden days.
Activities at the Museum continue for the next week and a half, with various presentations culminating in the display of the Jade Head at the Museum grounds on February 15.
The Museum of Belize is celebrating its ten year anniversary since it opened its doors. One of the hallmarks of the museum is its Maya exhibit. The exhibit was bolstered today with the inclusion of the Jade Head. The priceless object had not been on display in a few years; however, the museum’s director said it was exhibited particularly for primary school students to appreciate.
Sherilyne Jones, Director, Museum of Belize
“We decided to do ten days of activities to celebrate this milestone and today is the last day of that ten days span and so we decided to bring the jade head out on a special treat for the Belizean public and the general public so that they can come out and really get a chance to see this unique rare object that’s home.”
“It’s been a while since it’s been on public display right?”
“Yes the last time it came out was in 2009 when it went on a countrywide tour, but since 2009 it has not been out.”
“I notice you have a lot of students passing through. What information about the jade head is being shared with them today?”
“Well basically we’ve explained to them the size, the importance, where it was found, the weight, when it was discovered and we try to explain to them the tomb because we do have a replica of the tomb here at the Museum of Belize.”
“So essentially this si one of our great national objects; it’s also on the money. How are the kids? Are they excited about seeing it?”
“They are so excited. It’s funny. We get all sort s of questions. One guy asked us; if that is the head, where’s the body? They want to know if it is the real one. If it has been sold? So we want to reassure the public again because it’s not something that is always on display, but we want to reassure the public that it is the authentic jade head that was discovered in Altun Ha in 1968 and today is an unique opportunity to come and see it.”
I Saw The Crown Jewel Of Belize - The Jade Head of Altun Ha
On February 15th 2012, for the 10 year anniversary of the Museum of Belize, the crown jewel of Belize was unlocked from its vault and put on display for ONE DAY ONLY. I had to take a trip to Belize City.
The Mayan site of Altun Ha is located 31 miles north of Belize City and there, in 1968, an archaeologist from Canada made an amazing discovery. The Jade Head along with forty other objects, had been placed within a large tomb that was located below the stairs in one of the temples. The elderly adult male, probably an important ruler of the site during his lifetime, was buried with this jewel around 600 AD. And remained untouched for over 1300 years.
This one day exhibition and opening of the second floor of the museum was well worth travelling to Belize City for...
The museum is located in one of the colonial sections of the city in the old Belize City prison. School kids were out in droves to see the jade piece.
Entrance to the museum was free for the day for Belizeans and photography permitted as long as you had your flash off. We went up to the second floor (always closed on my previous trips since that is where the most valuable jade and pottery is kept - there is just not enough security).
THE JADE HEAD! Weighing almost 10lbs and about the size of a baby's noggin, the head of Altun Ha remains the single largest carved jade object ever discovered in the Mayan area.
One of my favorite parts was the display showing how the jade head was found in the tomb. The body was surrounded by tools, jewelry, art and the jade head tucked under his arm.
The head of Altun Ha wasn't the only amazing artifact on display, there were masks and jewels from as early as 300 BC. Things found all over Belize at the various sites.
Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos on San Pedro Scoop
Belize Jade Head - The Maya Sun God - Kinich Ahau displayed for one day only at the Musuem of Belize
On February 15th, 2011, for one day only, The Museum of Belize (NICH) offered the general public a rare glimpse into the past by showcasing a magnificent and unique Maya Artifact that is near and dear to the nation of Belize and its people, the Jade Head of the Sun God, Kinich Ahau.
Unedited for purpose of realism of color and tones
Photos by: Will Moreno
The Belize Maya Jade Head of the Maya Sun God (Kinich Ahau) was removed from the vault and its casing from an undisclosed location to see the light of day once again in Belize. Many proud Belizeans including school children, as well as, cruise tour visitors lined up at the Museum of Belize to share a rare glimpse of this beautiful Maya Jade Head and Jewel of Belize.
It was a truly inspiring and amazing experience to work alongside the Museum of Belize (NICH) as the Jade Head of Kinich Ahau was unveiled to the public. Capturing images of visitors and the beautiful Maya artifact is an experience I will hold near and dear to my heart. Standing there capturing the images had me wondering what if this silent, yet so beautiful Maya Jade Head of Belize could speak. I can just imagine the wonderful stories of the life of the Maya that it would tell!
The famous Maya Jade head was discovered in 1968 by Dr. David Pendergast of the Royal Ontario Museum of Canada and several of his Belizean workers that were working at the Maya site of Altun Ha in Belize. The Maya Ruin of Altun Ha is conveniently located 31 miles north of Belize City off the old northern highway.
The Jade Head along with forty other objects were found in a large tomb that was located located just below the stair block on the Temple of The Masonry Altars (Structure B4). The roof of the tomb had already collapsed from the growth of the roots of trees growing at the site and penetrating the tomb. The tomb contained the remains of a elderly adult male, who was likely an important ruler of the famous Maya site during his time. Although the exact date the Jade Head was carved is unknown the analysis of the cultural remains found in the tomb dates back to somewhere around 600 and 650 A.D. It is believed that the Maya took months maybe even years to create such a significant jade masterpiece using the primitive carving tools of their time. The Maya Ruler may have commissioned an artist to to produce the Jade Head to commemorate the important events of his life and his time as ruler of the site. The Jade Head may have also been passed down from generation to generation finally ending up in this Maya ruler's tomb due to his importance.
This, not only beautiful, but also remarkable piece of Maya artwork, is significant because its the only one ever found in the Mundo Maya. It was carved from one solid piece of jade which was the most precious of stones to the Maya. According to the studies done on the Jade Head, it is believed that the large piece of jade that was used to carve this Maya masterpiece came from the Motagua River Valley area in Guatemala.
Weighing only 9.75 pounds and measuring 5.86 inches high, the magnificent Maya Jade Head of Kinich Ahau, The Maya Sun God has a marbled effect and resembles that beautiful green hue of the Caribbean Sea that caresses the shores of Belize. This is truly a Jewel of the Mayas and a Jewel of Belize. It is a sight to behold!
National Treasure of Belize: Maya Jade Head in Exhibit The Museum of Belize was officially inaugurated 10 years ago on February 5th, 2002. The building itself was once used as “Her Majesty’s Prison”, and contained a total of 102 cells. In 1998, the Government handed the old prison to NICH and for the next two years the building was refurbished and converted into the Museum.
In celebration of its 10th anniversary, the Museum hosted a 10-day celebration. Activities included special guest lectures, book presentations, art workshops and special exhibition featuring the Jade Head. The priceless object which had not been on display for quite a few years was particularly displayed for primary school students.
According to Sheryline Jones, Director of the Museum of Belize, the last time the exhibit was out for public display was in 2009. She continued by stating that students were given basic information about the Jade Head like its size, weight, where and when it was found among other important details.
Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the Ambergris Today