Department of Archaeology PhD Student, Oliver Antczak worked on a project titled “Heritage Management on Bonaire”

The Fellowship

The aim of this fellowship was to address a series of recommendations by Stichting NAAM on how to improve current heritage management practices on the island of Bonaire. Specifically, I was tasked with implementing a new depot for archaeological finds, creating a framework for the designation and management of archaeological monuments.

I was able to complete several drafts and eventually final version of documents concerning the main aims – I further implemented the first stage of the archaeological depot and laid out a plan for a long-term depot solution that would involve several departments of the government (archives, museums, archaeology). Beyond these initial aims, a few other things were achieved as I presented a workshop three times on the archaeology and heritage of Bonaire to different audiences, I organized an exhibit for Museum Day 2022 and I began planning an art contest for youth on Bonaire that will hopefully take place late in 2022.

I produced three policy documents outlining steps for the implementation of a temporary and permanent depot, and for the designation and management of archaeological monuments. I also began the implementation of the temporary depot, with the materials and new shelving already in place when I closed my fellowship period. The impact of this work was immediately visible in the depot, in removing materials in hazardous conditions and moving them to their current safe storage area. In terms of the other two documents, the impact is difficult to measures at this stage as they need to be accepted within the government and implemented, which may take months or even years.

Impact of the Fellowship

The fellowship helped me to gain experience implementing heritage policy and changes at a government managerial level. I gained skills in policy writing, in how governments work, and a great insight into how heritage is managed on Bonaire. Beyond this, my network has grown, and new ideas and projects have sprung from this fellowship, In particular, I was exposed to new people who are planning heritage projects on Bonaire and with whom I am planning to collaborate in the coming months/years thanks to this fellowship.

This fellowship has allowed me to learn about the operations of a heritage management office in the Southern Caribbean, the area where I am from, where I am conducting my research, and where I hope to work in after my PhD. One of the greatest impacts on my own work has been the insider knowledge I have developed which will let me build more effective recommendations for heritage managers in the region during the PhD. This fellowship has also permitted me to implement some of the results of my research (which is still currently being undertaken), particularly as it regards the management of Indigenous heritage. These impacts have materialized in several ways including three workshops given to government officials and heritage managers, as well as the plan in place for a youth art contest to be run later in the year.

Undertaking this fellowship provided me with experience and training at the Government of Bonaire on how heritage is managed, and how a heritage management body changes and improves in the light of the recommendation, such as the one sent by Stichting NAAM. During my fellowship I gained and/or improved the following skills: event planning, communication, policy preparation and execution, and liaising with stakeholders. Further, I developed my interpersonal skills, my knowledge about Bonairean heritage and history, and deepened links between Bonaire and the other case-studies I work with, Trinidad and Margarita (Venezuela) through a display celebrating Museum Day 2022.

Bonaire is small and does not have a designated archaeologist working full-time. Therefore, my supervisor planned to use my archaeological experience and knowledge where he could, including on spatial planning matters concerning new developments. My research and knowledge of Bonairean archaeology was particularly useful as I gave three workshops on archaeology and history during my stay to three different audiences composed of heritage managers and government employees. My academic knowledge of heritage was used in the planning and deployment of the storage depot and shaping of policy for designating and managing archaeological monuments.

One of the things I was happy to bring to my placement was my knowledge of the region, specifically the adjacent Venezuelan islands. I employed this most effectively when I was asked to help with a display of archaeological materials for the Day of Museums 2022. I created a display showing objects found on Bonaire but which originated from different parts of Venezuela – evidence of extensive networks of exchange in the pre-colonial past. I hope this work contributed to forging a link across borders in a very segmented region.

Advice to Prospective Fellows

I would recommend seeking out small partners in the geographical area of your interest and reaching out to passionate individuals for opportunities. I recommend supporting and interning with local organizations, not necessarily NGOs or large multinationals. While these may be harder to organize and may require greater proficiency in the local language, I have found that these experiences are much more impactful for everyone involved.

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