By Lindsey Turnbull
If you want to appreciate a slice of Caymanian life as it was before the hustle and bustle of the modern world took over, then you will enjoy a new exhibition currently on display at the Cayman Islands National Museum, entitled ‘Alvin McLaughlin: Steeped in Tradition, A Cultural Guardian’s Story and Objects’. The exhibition features an interesting display of artifacts owned by Mr McLaughlin, successfully telling the story of everyday life in Cayman during the latter part of the 20th century.
The exhibition focusses on the collection and life of East Ender Alvin McLaughlin, who was born in 1949, a former merchant marine who returned to Cayman to become a welder in 1980. It was around the time of his return to Cayman that the islands began putting a great deal of effort into building Cayman’s tourism industry. Mr McLaughlin, who was an early cultural heritage pioneer, recognised the need to collect and preserve items of everyday use that would soon become things of the past due to the advent of progress. The exhibition noted that not only did he have a strong desire to maintain Cayman’s heritage, but he also very much wanted to share that with as many people as possible.
Cultural heritage a tourism draw
The Pirate’s Week festival evolved at that time as a means for attracting visitors during Cayman’s traditional slow tourist season and Mr McLaughlin became the chairman of the East End Heritage Committee, which in turn was an arm of the Pirates Week’s Heritage Day Celebrations. Mr McLaughlin chaired that position for the following 32 years. As a result, he has been dubbed the Godfather of Caymanian Heritage, for his efforts to protect and preserve Caymanian history and also his hard work in ensuring that as many people as possible enjoyed and appreciated the islands’ heritage.
“I collected these things because I really enjoy talking to the children and showing them what life was like in times past,” he is quoted as saying.
In 2012 Mr McLaughlin received the Heritage Gold Cross Award by the Cayman National Cultural Foundation for his work and he was also awarded a Hero’s Day Certificate in 2016 for long service to Agriculture, having sat on the Agricultural Board and also the Planning Board. He also has a reputation as a great cook, in particular his Christmas beef is highly regarded.
Visitors at the exhibition can learn more about this remarkable Caymanian’s life, his work and his collection and enjoy viewing many artifacts that have been family heirlooms which may be unfamiliar to younger viewers, such as copper kettles, a gramophone and records, a steam iron, old style furniture, jewellery, cutlery, bowls and many other items that would otherwise have been lost to history books.
The exhibition runs until November.