THE HISTORY OF THE WYANNIE MALONE
In 1977, Byrle Patterson, her sister Shirley Higgs, and Vernon Malone presented the community of Hope Town with the idea of a museum. The idea was enthusiastically accepted and a location was found. The late Mr. Harrington Albury made his vacant "Wee House" available, and the townspeople pitched in to repair, paint the house and build a new picket fence.
By October 1977, the local residents donated artefacts, ranging from photos to furniture, and the museum opened to visitors.
A formal Grand Opening was held in March 1978, which included an address by the noted Historian, Paul Albury, of Nassau. Many individuals volunteered to serve as docents or receptionists and new artefacts were added to the collection. The Museum became a significant part of the community, sponsoring annual Heritage Days, at which speakers and skits highlighted important events in the history and heritage of Hope Town and its environs.
A few years later the Museum assumed responsibility for maintaining a piece of Crown Land, which is now known as the Byrle Patterson Memorial Garden. The Museum's role in community activities culminated in a Bicentennial Celebration in November 1985. This celebration involved all the residents of the Island, foreign and Bahamian. The then Governor General, Sir Gerald and Lady Cash, were special guests who were joined by Members of Parliament, Local and National leaders of Church and Community Activities, and other officials. Many descendants of Wyannie Malone came from the United States, Nassau, Abaco, and other Family Islands, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the 1785 settlement of Hope Town. Hundreds of visitors filled the streets, shops, and restaurants, to say nothing of the sleeping accommodations, commercial and private. Some remarked, "If one more person comes ashore, the island will sink".
The Bicentennial program, and the request of Museum leaders, motivated Jinny and Mac McAleer to begin their twelve-year research into the Genealogy of Wyannie Malone. As a result, and with the help of Mr. Oreste Lombardi of Weatherford, Texas, the Museum now has more Bahamian Genealogical information than any other location except the Archives in Nassau.
Two years later, Mr. Albury asked that the "Wee House" be vacated and returned for his use. The committee was able to find another vacant house, owned by Jack Malone of Nassau, and known locally as the Ella Gates house. It was once occupied by John "Skinner" Malone and his family, and before him, Ben "Whit" Malone and his family.
In 1991, The Wyannie Malone Historical Society was incorporated as "a not for profit society" under the Bahamas Company Act of 1990. That same year, after a successful submission, the Museum received the "American Express Preservation Award for 1991".
The Museum was on the map and a legal entity. By 1994, the Society purchased property on Gillam Street where the Wyannie Malone House stands today, and in 1999 after several years of negotiations with the Government of the Bahamas, a lease agreement was signed for the adjacent lot.
After suffering significant damage at the old museum site by Hurricane Floyd on September 14, 1999 the decision was made to begin the construction of the first of two buildings at the new site. Work began in March 2000 and the outer shell of the building was completed by
August 1, 2000. Completion of the interior began in January 2001 and the building was formally opened on Heritage Day, March 9, 2001.
Work was begun on the second building, reminiscent of the Balcony House in Nassau, one of the oldest Loyalist buildings in the Bahamas in May 2003. The outside was finished in August 2003 and the building was opened for limited use on Heritage Day, 6 March 2004. The new Museum Complex was formally opened during Heritage Days, March 2/3, 2007. Work on the interior, the Genealogy Center, the Library and many displays continues.
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