History was made in the quiet little village of Cherokee Sound on Easter Saturday, April 15, with the grand opening of the Bahamas’ only Shell Museum. Rev. Bateman Sands, lifetime resident of Cherokee, performed the official ribbon cutting ceremony preceded by a prayer at precisely 12 noon.
The museum which is named “Gifts from the Sea” is located in Cherokee Sound’s original telephone station dating from 1950. The small wooden building, which had not been used since BTC opened its new office in Cherokee in 1987, had fallen into a state of disrepair and has now been spruced up to look very smart both inside and out.
JoAnn Bradley, local artist, donated her time to beautify the interior with murals depicting life in the settlement of Cherokee and glass display boxes and drawers were added to house and display the hundreds of beautiful sea shells.
It was very fitting that 85-year-old Rev. Sands, who is pastor of the Assemblies of God Church in Cherokee Sound, should perform the official opening of the museum since he was the first telegraph operator in Cherokee Sound working in this little building using Morse code and in charge of the one and only telephone in the settlement until 1987 when the new BTC building was opened.
A large group of people congregated outside the building to witness the opening and to be the first to enter this unique museum. Once inside they were able to admire the many beautiful shell displays. A lot of care had gone into organizing the shells into shell families and naming them with both the Latin names and the common names.
While many shells are local and have been collected from the beaches in Cherokee and other beaches in The Bahamas, the collection also contains a large number of very interesting shells from around the world. Red dots on the labels of all the shells found in the Bahamas make it easy for visitors to identify local shells.
All of the exhibits have been artistically displayed, some in glass topped cabinets, some on open shelves and others in drawers which can easily be pulled out to view the shells. The specimens range from almost minute to very large and some are very rare and unique.
The shell collection will continue to grow as other people have already promised to donate shells.
While the building is small and has no windows, a door at each end opens to give plenty of natural light and provide an entrance and exit. This walk-through arrangement gives plenty of comfortable viewing space. There is no entry fee but a large glass jar sits on the shelf for welcome donations for the upkeep of the museum.
It is hoped that, as well as locals, people will come from far and wide to enjoy the beauteous bounty of the sea.
Mr. Hartie Albury, a Cherokee native, was also present alongside his display of a magnificent handcrafted model of an old Cherokee schooner.
Mr. Hartis Pinder gave a vote of thanks to Lee Pinder for her vision for this museum and all her extremely hard work in bringing it to fruition.
Although the museum cannot continually be left open, visitors are welcomed and encouraged and private tours can be arranged by calling 475-7868.
The opening of the ‘Gifts from the Sea’ Shell Museum was arranged to coincide with a fundraiser to help defray medical costs for the late Mr. Stanley Bethel. This event was very well supported and a large crowd of people enjoyed socializing and meeting up with old friends while supporting the event by buying steak dinners, hamburgers, hot dogs, conch fritters and all the other sweet treats Cherokee is noted for.