Avis Harvey – The heritage queen
Avis Harvey can be considered an archivist in her own right. Even without subscribing to the conventional ways of storing cultural artifacts, she has been able to store and preserve important relics, some dating back to the 18th century.
Born in Linstead, St Catherine, Harvey, a Dinthill Technical High School alumna, has taken on the challenge of preserving some artifacts with minimal damage, at her home, where she often invites students to view.
Dress in her calico attire, Harvey told The Gleaner that not only does she enjoys collecting historical artifacts relating to Jamaica’s heritage, but she sees them as important for the awareness of the Jamaican people.
Harvey mounted a display to show off her collection and among the items were old charcoal stoves, iron pots, trays, old bed pans, old kerosene stoves, lanterns, music boxes and a 1950s component set.
“People, especially our students, need to know where we are coming from and where we are today. They should know that turning on gas stoves and switching on light bulbs were never a thing in the past,” Harvey said.
“For them to appreciate where we are now, they must be educated about where we were,” Harvey noted.
Of all the artifacts she had on displayed, an iron pot dating back to 1891 that she had restored, was her pride and joy, she told The Gleaner.
“This pot has gone all over the world – to Canada, England and America. It came back to Jamaica and was thrown away and I collected it because I know how historical it is,” she said.
“It is over 130 years old. I don’t think anyone in Jamaica is as old as this pot,” the senior citizen said.
Harvey said she restored it because she wanted children to see things that date back to the past and how important they were to survival in the society that existed at the time.
“These items are representative of the the old society. However, they remain relevant today because they contain historical information,” she added.
The considerable knowledge she has in the restoration, preservation and storing of artifacts without any formal training has amazed many of her contemporaries.
Other than her cultural attributes, Harvey is also a philanthropist. When word got to her some time ago that the Charlemont High School canteen needed a microwave, she took the one from her kitchen and donated it. She also gives bus fares and lunch money to needy students in her community whenever the need arises.
A member of the Rotary Club of Linstead, Harvey immerses herself in her community, always helping to plan and organise events and civic functions.
“I display my collection of artifacts at some of these public events as a way of reaching both the young and the old,” she told The Gleaner.