PHILIPSBURG–A giant leap towards the creation of a nerve centre for the country’s history, knowledge, heritage and culture was made with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) by foundations responsible for Philipsburg Jubilee Library, St. Maarten Museum and St. Maarten Archaeological Centre Simarc in the library’s book-filled foyer on Thursday.
The MOU is the basis for the trio “to explore all possibilities for permanent joint housing and possibilities of jointly presenting and rendering their services to the public in the future” as they consider their objectives and their services complementary to each other. Being complementary means “the result of the cooperation can be bigger as a result of synergy effects than if parties work solitary,” according to the document.
Library president Paul Martens said at the signing that he was happy to see the signing of the MOU after years of discussions. “The library is broken into pieces, Simarc wiped out and the museum is very damaged. … The library is a total loss, according to the insurance.” In spite of all the damage, Hurricane Irma was somewhat of “a blessing in disguise,” as the search for better housing is on the way, he said.
Martens said he understand there is “a large amount” in the Dutch recovery funds for a joint facility for the three foundations. “I hope it gets approved,” he said.
In the meantime, a temporary location has been found for the library with the help of the Culture Department. The library is to move across the street to the Super Plaza building in the next month or so.
Simarc secretary Elsje Bosch said that together the three foundations call create “a landmark” for the country where its knowledge, artefacts and heritage can be safeguarded and accessible to the public.
Klaas van Sloten of St. Maarten National Heritage Foundation, which runs the museum, said he is a firm believer that the partnership will work.
Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Jorien Wuite was one of the people on hand to witness the signing that came after more than a decade of perseverance and determination by the three foundations. She viewed the coming together as “an opportunity in adversity” and expressed hope that the joint housing will be in the country’s capital, Philipsburg.
The foundations come together via the “St. Maarten United Culture and Heritage Taskforce” on which each will have two members. The Taskforce, among other things, will make a list of each party’s housing requirements, explore all possible alternatives with regard to permanent joint housing and services, make a feasibility study of the two best alternatives, seek external funding and external promotion in general, and develop an action plan for decision-making and implementation.
All three foundations are not-for-profit, non-governmental subsidised agencies. The MOU does not contain any financial commitments for the foundations aside from the agreement to work on attracting funding to further the project.
The MOU does not constitute a merger of the three foundations; each party is to maintain its own identity.
According to the MOU, in a meeting dated December 14, 2017, government committed itself, by means of an allocation in its capital investment budget, to the demolishing of the current library building and technical support with the design of the new housing. The design will be based on the requirements list the committee will develop.
The committee will promote the joint effort, with the main message being the advantages of a joint cultural and heritage centre for residents and visitors.