Archaeology Center Sabarc is gearing-up for an exciting year in heritage preservation with new management and prospects for the opening of a permanent facility in Windwardside, writes The Daily Herald. Former Leiden University student Helena “Heli” Böhm arrived on Saba in mid-January to take over from her Leiden colleague Ryan Espersen at Sabarc. Espersen returned to The Netherlands to finish his doctoral thesis based on research conducted on Saba.
Established in 2012 by Jay B. Haviser of St. Maarten Archaeological Centre Simarc, Sabarc seeks to integrate archaeological work with community-oriented projects. They have succeeded in attracting and training youth in their preservation activities while seeking to promote pride in local heritage. This focus on creating community awareness and promoting youth involvement is at the heart of what Böhm intends to achieve in her new job. Born in Henley-on- Thames in England, Böhm obtained her undergraduate archaeology degree from Reading University. She obtained much of her heritage-management experience working as visiting manager at Silchester Roman Town.
After some globetrotting she settled on obtaining her Master’s degree at Leiden University in the Netherlands, where she met Professors Corinne Hofman and Menno Hoogland. Their team’s archaeological research work on Saba spans over 26 years. Böhm joined at the time when the Leiden team was developing an exhibit with the most important archaeological findings on Saba. The exhibit covering Saba’s 3,400 years of history was opened in January 2013 by Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk at the Government Building in The Bottom. At the opening, public pledges for the establishment of a permanent centre to store Saba’s historical artefacts were made. The exhibit is temporarily hosted together with Queen Wilhelmina Library in Carmen Simmons Cultural Complex in The Bottom. It is expected that it will be transferred later this year to a stand-alone archaeological centre at the former library building in Windwardside. The building will be refurbished soon.
Böhm worked alongside Espersen on various excavations including one in Spring Bay. She focused her Master’s thesis on community outreach, in particular assessing through interviews what residents wanted to be done in terms of museum initiatives and heritage work. She will continue Espersen’s work, especially the weekly Saturday afternoon outdoor archaeological activities with youths.
Excited about her new job, she welcomes all residents to join the programme and check their progress via posts in the social media. She invited all to share their thoughts on what the new heritage centre should feature. In addition to a permanent exhibition area with models of the island’s archaeological sites and display cases, Böhm would like to integrate a section on Saba lace and documentaries featuring interviews with residents. She would like the centre to become a research library on Saba’s history and hopes to develop an ancestry-resource database. Such a project
may incorporate the work of René Caderius van Veen, who developed an inventory of private graveyards on the island. Historian Will Johnson is expected to be a vital part of the effort to develop an extensive ancestry resource centre by providing the wealth of information he passionately accumulated over the years. The new centre is expected to accommodate proper storage for artefacts and may lead to the return of many Saban artefacts currently in museums in the Netherlands.