The Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda, His Excellency, Sir Rodney Williams, says he wants Antiguans and Barbudans to embrace the historic Government House as ‘the People’s House’ where a sense of national pride and community spirit may be nurtured and encouraged.
Sir Rodney made the call Thursday morning during activities marking World Monuments Fund (WMF) Watch Day celebrations held at Government House. The occasion also marked Government House’s inclusion on the list of properties worldwide which WMF has earmarked as properties that should be preserved.
Speaking of the honour that has been bestowed on Government House, Sir Rodney said, “it underscores what many in Antigua and Barbuda have been sharing for decades – that the Government House property has an important message for present and future generations.”
He noted that the property, which served as the official residence of the Head of State for many years, tells the story of struggles and triumphs of Antiguans and Barbudans, and it maps the path from enslavement to emancipation to independence.
Sir Rodney described Government House as a building from the 1700’s that is full of history, which led to its selection as one of 25 heritage sites worldwide that made it to the prestigious World Monument Fund List, 2018.
“We need to preserve this building so that present and future generations can understand the cultural and heritage value of the past. We need to preserve this building so that it can be utilized for educational purposes as a historic site as well as a tourist attraction,” Sir Rodney stated.
Executive Director of World Monuments Fund, John Darlington, who also spoke at the launch, disclosed that WMF was founded in 1965 and that it is involved in 800 properties in over 100 countries. He said these include the iconic temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Gardens of the Taj Mahal in India, the Rock Cave Churches of Ethiopia and the Moai Heads on the Easter Islands.
He said joining this distinguished list was a ‘very historic and important’ achievement for both Government House and Antigua and Barbuda as a whole. Additionally, he said Antigua and Barbuda’s approach to preserving Government House which includes school children, local and overseas experts, as well as a group of prisoners was commendable as it brought with it much social benefit. “Its not just about heritage, but how heritage helps a nation,” he declared.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Cultural Envoy, Dr. Barbara Paca, spoke of the efforts being made to restore the gardens at Government House and the decision made to ensure that there was a local understudy working alongside the experts from abroad. This is to ensure the transfer of knowledge and skills which are at the heart of the project.