The National Museum and Art Gallery, built in 1892 as the Royal Victoria Institute, will soon benefit from a much-needed refurbishment, according to a paid advertisement in Tuesday’s newspapers, as Udecott’s CEO later confirmed to Newsday , Noel Garcia.
In the announcement, Udecott invited “suitably qualified and experienced entities to submit proposals for the provision of modified design-build services for the restoration and upgrade of the National Museum and Art Gallery”, located at the top of Frederick Street, Port of Spain.
The successful contractor will be chosen through a competitive selection process set out in the request for proposals (RFP) document, which was due to be available Tuesday, at a cost of $2,500.
Garcia was unwilling to say too much, such as budget or timeline, saying the project was now going through an active bidding process.
Newsday asked if the work was for the aesthetic enhancement of the building’s facade, or if it was necessary due to its age, which is around 130 years old.
Garcia replied: “If you visit the museum, you will realize that it has not been renovated or refurbished for several years. So there are a number of structural problems.
“There are issues with leaky roofs, there are general repair and maintenance issues, as well as minor expansions.”
When asked if the work would retain the historic aspects of the building, he said that was exactly why Udecott was chosen as the main contractor.
“We now have a lot of experience dealing with heritage buildings. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to renovate and modernize while keeping the building in the shape and fashion it was in the past. So we are not demolishing the building but upgrading and renovating, all within the strict guidelines with which we have treated heritage buildings in the past.”
Garcia recalled the long list of historic buildings in Trinidad and Tobago whose renovation Udecott had overseen.
He said: “The Heritage Library, Mille Fleurs, Stollmeyer Castle, President’s House, Red House, Whitehall. We are currently (sic) doing the Bishop’s House around the Savannah.
“We have some experience.”
Garcia developed the museum project.
“This is an upgrade renovation to ensure that the building is fit for purpose, that it fulfills the function that it is intended to serve.
“As a museum, it contains a number of our artifacts, paintings, etc. Therefore, it is incumbent on us to ensure that the building is structurally sound, that the air conditioning and plumbing are in good condition and that the roof does not The building is very old and this type of repairs are necessary to preserve and maintain the building.
“This is one of those buildings that has been listed by the National Trust and like all listed buildings we need to preserve it. We need to bring them into use. The museum does what it is supposed to do and that will extend the life of the building.
The Trinidad and Tobago National Trust website noted: “This site is on the Inventory of Heritage Properties, which is the official list of historic sites in TT deserving of note and preservation. The register is authorized by the National Trust Board and is by no means complete.”
The website says the Royal Victoria Institute was built as a science and art museum to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, which fell on June 22, 1897.
“It was built in the style of the German Renaissance, designed by architect DM Hahn.
“The institute has been used for natural history and archeology research exhibits, and arts and crafts classes.”
In 1901 the building was extended to include a reading room and recreation room while lawn tennis courts were laid out on the grounds and by 1905 the site was a center for social and dramatic functions. “On May 19, 1920, the interior of the building was destroyed by fire. Only the exterior walls remained and most of the collections were lost. The main part of the building was rebuilt according to the same plan as the old building .” It was reopened in June 1923 and used for theatrical and musical entertainment and business courses.
“In 1945, the colonial government decided to expand the exhibitions and activities and gave the institute the status of a museum.
“The National Museum of Trinidad and Tobago, insofar as it serves the public interest, relates the historical, artistic, intellectual, economic, technological, legal, social, political and physical environments.”