Heritage Museum Collection Anguilla is, like Bankie Banx's Dune Preserve, a labor of love by a native islander for his island. Both were started single handedly by local men who have gained celebrity for their efforts. Where the Dune Preserve works to restore and preserve the fragile ecosystems of the island’s beaches and sand dunes, this Anguilla museum has researched and preserved Anguilla’s history.
The Heritage Museum Collection Anguilla was begun by Colville Petty, OBE (Order of the British Empire), a noted historian who has written several books on the island’s history. He has spent his life collecting a rich tapestry of artifacts, photographs, and other pieces that reach as far back as the original Arawak indigenous people who were living here when Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492 on his search for a sea passage to China and India. For his efforts in collecting and preserving these items in his historical museum in Anguilla he was awarded the OBE by Queen Elizabeth II of England.
The Heritage Museum Collection Anguilla is located in the village of East End, on the far eastern tip of the island, only about 2.5 miles south of Shoal Bay Beach. It is open every day except Sunday, and there is a small gift store where you can do some shopping for souvenirs of your holidays, including Mr. Petty’s books. There are few hotels on this part of the island, but you can find a number of charming vacation rentals.
Items you can browse in the Anguilla museum include archaeological finds and everyday implements of the indigenous people and later settlers. There is an extensive collection of items from the fishing and boat building industries that have always been important to the island, as well as the salt producing industries concentrated around the many salt ponds on the island. Today the Heritage Historical Museum in Anguilla sits across the street from one of these ponds that provides a delicate and fragile ecosystem that shelters a wide variety of bird life, mangrove forests, and marshy swamps. More collections chronicle the slave period, when sugar plantations filled most every arable space on the island.
One of the highlights of the Heritage Historical Museum in Anguilla is an impressive collection of artifacts and documents from the two rebellions (in 1967 and 1969) that culminated in the island enjoying a brief period of independence and self-government before becoming a British Overseas Territory in 1980. With that status, it joins other similar territories such as Bermuda, the British Virgin Island, Gibraltar, and the Falkland Islands off the coast of Argentina.
If you plan to visit this fascinating Anguilla Museum attraction during your vacations, you will find it is well worthwhile, and will add a depth of understanding about the beautiful place you have come to visit. This island is rich in natural beauty, but there are few sites of historical interest. This museum and the Wallblake House (one of the most complete slave era plantations in the Caribbean) in The Valley, are two of the few historical sites. Because of the lack of hotels, the beaches in this area are pristine and nearly deserted. If you plan to visit in car rentals, it’s recommended that you get a four-wheel drive. The nearest beach is Mimi’s Bay, beautiful and romantic. Because it’s an Atlantic-facing beach, the water can be choppy and novice swimmers should use caution.
Image: Anguilla Board of Tourism