Confusion Reigns Over Museum for St. John

St. John historical artifacts are being stored here at the first floor of the Battery, which might be infested with termites.

Historical artifacts intended to be displayed in the St. John museum have been stored in boxes at the first floor of Battery, which is infested with termites, for more than a year and a half. In the meantime, a new museum may — or may not — be in the works.

The museum, which was originally at the Battery, eventually moved to the Elaine I. Sprauve Library, where St. Johnian Andro Childs was curator. The library’s needs grew and the museum was displaced in August 2006.

All of the artifacts, many of which were donated by the St. John Historical Society, were boxed up and stored at the first floor of the Battery, which is now reportedly infested with termites. Renovations at the Battery postponed the opening of the museum there, but when renovations halted, residents wondered if St. John would ever have a museum again.

“There was a renovation project at the Battery, and at first when work halted there, we thought it was because resources were going to Fort Christian (on St. Thomas),” said St. John Historical Society President Eleanor Gibney. “We found out they do not have plans to complete the museum there. It’s obviously something St. John needs very much at this point.”

Homeland Security Issues
Historical Society members were pleased to hear the museum would be returning to the Battery, explained society vice president Margie Labrenz.

“Several years ago, we encouraged the move back to the Battery and hoped we could get it back into a voluntary position, but the next thing we knew, they were doing work over there,” said Labrenz. “Then we changed administrations, and it was reported by somebody there were termites getting into things. We didn’t know what the status of it was.”

Historical Society members have been told the museum can no longer be at the Battery, which is the governor’s residence on St. John, due to Homeland Security regulations.

Maintaining Tradition
“We will be maintaining the tradition of the Battery serving as the office of the governor,” said Government House spokesperson Jean Greaux.

A Department of Planning and Natural Resources Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums representative, who asked to remain anonymous, said there are plans to reopen the museum at the library.

“Once we redo the library we’ll put it back there,” said the DLAM representative. “We are searching for some alternative.”
The library is scheduled to undergo a four-month renovation process beginning in January.

Historical Society member Jane Bowry fondly recalled the museum’s time at the Elaine I. Sprauve Library.

Historical Society Seeking Museum Home
“It functioned very well, and the library was a great place to have it,” said Bowry. “When Andro retired, we tried to staff it with volunteers but it just didn’t work out. It’s a shame; it’s too bad to have it go.”

The Historical Society is not resting on its laurels waiting for the government to figure out the museum issue, however — they are trying to find a home for the museum on their own.

“The Historical Society is pursuing our own situation,” said Gibney. “We’re not quite ready to talk about it yet, but we do have hopes. We’re in negotiations and talks, and it’s something we’re quite happy about.”

Unfortunate Museum Not Ending Up at Historic Battery
It’s unfortunate the museum may not end up in one of the few historical buildings remaining in Cruz Bay, explained Labrenz.
“It’s a shame,” she said. “We basically have two historically significant buildings in Cruz Bay — one is the Battery and one is the library. We certainly do understand the library has outgrown its space and needed the area occupied by the museum, but we’re very disappointed the V.I. government is not trying to find someplace else to put this.”