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NEWS  

Bunce Island Coalition Presents Report to Sierra Leone Tourism Minister
By Bunce Island Coalition
Mar 4, 2011, 18:45
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BUNCE ISLAND COALITION
Preserving an important piece of African and American History

PRESS RELEASE March 1, 2011

BUNCE ISLAND COALITION PRESENTS REPORT TO MINISTER

The Bunce Island Coalition has presented a 130-page report titled: Bunce Island: Initial Condition Assessment, to the Minister of Tourism and Culture, Mrs. Victoria Saidu Kamara.

The report which contains a detailed study of every building on Bunce island, a description of the various types of damage that nature has caused to the fort during its nearly 200 years of abandonment, and a list of strategies that will be used to preserve the ancient buildings, was presented to the Minister on Tuesday February 22 by Mr. Michael Schuller, President of Atkinson, Noland, & Associates, the company hired by the Bunce Island Coalition to do the preservation work on the island.

Presenting Mr. Schuller to the Minister, Prof. Joseph Opala, the Coordinator of the Bunce Island project, said the Bunce Island Coalition is making rapid progress in its efforts to preserve the 18th century British slave castle located in the Freetown harbor near Pepel.  He pointed out that Mr. Schullers company specializes in the preservation of historic buildings, and his firm has rescued ancient structures in danger of destruction all over the world.

Prof. Opala informed the Minister that In October last year, Schuller took a team composed of two American structural engineers and two materials scientists to Bunce Island where they mapped and photographed the ruins and took samples of the castles brick, stone, and plaster for laboratory testing in the US, pointing out that when Schuller and his team begin the actual preservation work in about a years time, they will, with the help of local construction companies, repair the old buildings with virtually the same materials that were used to construct them 200 years ago.

Prof. Opala explained that the next step in the project will be the drafting of a Conservation Master Plan that will lay out every task to be completed during the roughly five years it will take to preserve the castle.  He however pointed out that in the meantime, the project will continue to move forward, with Archaeologists from the US and Ghana commencing research on Bunce Island in May. Schuller will come back to Sierra Leone in September with his team of engineers.

Presenting the report to the Minister, Mr. Schuller pointed out that the report also examines a serious threat to the island itself caused by the tides and currents in the harbour that are eating away the north end of the island resulting in some walls having already fallen 35 feet to the beach below. 

He informed the Minister that during his visit, he met with several scientists and engineers he hopes to consult for the preservation of the castle.  He also met with the owner of a logging company whose expertise will be useful for removing the large trees that are growing inside several of the buildings at Bunce Island, without damaging the walls.     

Receiving the report, Mrs. Kamara thanked the Bunce Island Coalition for embarking on such a laudable project, stressing its importance for the future of tourism in Sierra Leone.  She pointed out that she has a particular interest in Bunce Island since she represented nearby Tasso Island while serving as a Member of Parliament.  The Minister assured both Prof Opala and Mr. Schuller that she will carefully study the report and bring it to the attention of other members of government.  She assured them of her ministrys continued support and cooperation to ensure the project is successfully implemented.

ABOUT BUNCE ISLAND COALITION (BIC)

The Bunce Island Coalition is made up of three groups working together -- the Bunce Island Coalition (US), Bunce Island Coalition (SL), and Bunce Island Coalition (UK).  

The Bunce Island Coalition (US) was formed in 2007, with the goal of raising funds for the preservation of the British slave castle through a publicity campaign.  In 2010 private donors came forward with a pledge of $5 million for the preservation of the castle and the construction of a museum in Freetown on its history.

The US group is led by former U.S. Ambassador Thomas Hull as Chairman of the Board, and Joseph Opala as Director.  Opala, an historian who has been studying Bunce Island for more than thirty years, will act as the project Coordinator in Sierra Leone.

The Bunce Island Coalition (SL) was formed in 2010 to work hand-in-hand with the US group to preserve Bunce Island. The Sierra Leone group is led by Manilius Garber and Julius Spencer.

The  Bunce Island Coalition (UK), was also formed in 2007.  It is led by Sir Roland Jackson.  The UK group recently made arrangements for Kew Gardens, the famous botanical research center in Great Britain, to send one of its top scientists to conduct a botanical survey of Bunce Island.

BIC members believe that the preservation of Bunce Island will create a new industry in Sierra Leone -- African American heritage tourism. Bunce Island is the only slave castle that sent a significant portion of its captives to North America.  Bunce Island, therefore, has a unique significance for African Americans. 


© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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