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Kingston Jamaica, November 23, 2015 – Effort to boost community tourism along the island’s South Coast has received a major boost as the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment through its agency the Tourism Product Development Company Limited (TPDCo), officially opened the Maidstone Museum in Nazareth, Manchester on Wednesday November 18, 2015. The project, that formed part of the Ministry’s Tourism Improvement Programme (TIP) is situated on the premises of the Nazareth All-Age School located in the Manchester community.
Funding for the project was provided by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) and amounted to J$ 9.73 million. The funds were allocated to transform an existing building on the site into the museum within the guidelines of the Jamaica Heritage Trust (JNHT) and Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) and to prepare the community for tourism development. A total of Forty-five (45) persons were employed to the project that was managed by the TPDCo, under the Tourism Improvement Programme (TIP).
Guest speaker for the event, Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Hon Dr. Wykeham McNeill, underscored the merit of the project and was excited to inform the assembly that the facility was credited with museum status by the Institute of Jamaica. The Minister also highlighted that, “the opening of the museum would welcome a wider and very appreciative audience for the community to share the heritage and history of Maidstone in a holistic and fulfilling way”.
The Musuem and surrounding community will welcome visitors from far and wide for a Museum and Nazareth community Walking Tour, which will also be part of the expanded Manchester Heritage Tour.
Member of Parliament for North Western Manchester, Mr. Mikael Phillips was especially pleased to welcome members of the community, the media and specially invited guests to the opening.
The Maidstone Museum project, according to Mr. Phillips, now belongs to the people of Nazareth – as he charged them to take responsibility for its successes, failures and growth opportunities. He spoke of the threat of vandals and thieves that would attempt to erode the good that has been done. Mr. Phillips applauded the work of the security forces, who in recent times thwarted the attempts of criminals to steal infrastructure from a nearby project and urged the citizens to continue to take a keen interest in preserving the site from such elements.
He thanked the many partners who made the project possible: The Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment and its agencies- TPDCo and TEF; Manchester Parish Council, JNHT and members of the community who he also indicated were employed to the project and provided exemplary service. “The fact that no external persons were employed to the project evidenced the buy-in of the residents and was a major credit to their determination to realize the dream," he explained.
Maidstone, originally a 349-acre coffee plantation, was owned by Thomas Frith. It ceased operation after the Emancipation declaration in 1838. In 1840 the Nazareth Moravian Church, located at Adam's Valley, bought 341 acres of the estate and subdivided them into lots of one to 15 acres and established a free village for the former slaves. To date the museum has a billboard with the names of the first ex-slaves to have been granted plots of land and some descendants of ex-slaves are still residents of Maidstone.