Collection documentation: creating a relational database for the National Museum of Belize
Belize is the only English speaking country in Central America. It is also the only nation in the region that does not have a national/central museum or a system of regional museums. However, since the 1950's serious measures have been set in place to reverse this situation. These include the creation of a Ministry of Culture as well as the Department of Archaeology (with a Museum unit), a National Arts Council and a National Archive. Today, as Belize enters the 21st Century, there is a renewed focus on the preservation of the country's cultural heritage and national identity. It is the hope of the Government and those in the Cultural Heritage field that the creation of a national museum or a system of small regional museums will act as an instrument that bridges the cultural gap between Belizeans of all ethnicities. The mission of the museum(s) will be the preservation and interpretation of the country's diverse cultural and natural heritage and the main divisions include Art, Ethnology, Natural History, History and Archaeology. In order to support the various programs of these departments, a few years ago an ambitious national collection retrieval program was initiated. The result of which can be seen in the recently completed Curatorial/Storage Building. However, while hundreds of objects were collected this figure represents only a fraction of what will be needed for the creation of a system of nationally connected museums. For instance, the Department of Archaeology estimates that it has excavated and collected over one million archaeological artifacts. In addition, the majority of Belizean artifacts are currently stored in intemational institutions due to our lack of a national museum and/or other research facilities. With figures like these there is an urgent need for the creation of a computerized database program that focuses on an effective way to manage and track the country's material heritage located both in Belize and abroad. With a relatively young museum movement, Belize finds itself fortunate in that it can create a system that will serve its needs. As such, museum administrators will not have to rely on an old outdated system, because they will be in a position to implement an electronic data management system created and designed to suit their unique needs.