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QR CODING ART: Our Priceless Art and Antiques Being Evaluated For Dollars They’d Bring

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CHARLOTTE AMALIE – The government of the U.S. Virgin Islands has engaged St. Croix cultural preservationist Julio Encarnacion III to catalog and manage the territory’s priceless collection of antique artifacts and paintings.

Governor Kenneth Mapp announced the appointment of the Chief Conservator on Tuesday in a letter to Senate President Myron Jackson, and Encarnacion officially assumed his duties on April 16. Earlier this week, the Governor vetoed a bill calling for the creation of a Curator position, explaining that steps had already been taken to fulfil [sic] the tasks that the proposed legislation suggested.

“The newly hired Chief Conservator will work with the Commissioner of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, who is the statutory Historic Preservation Officer of the territory, to ensure the care and custody of our territory’s cultural resources, arts and artifacts in the Executive Branch’s possession,” the Governor stated.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria made it necessary to have additional assistance in this area as many valuable items were relocated due to storm damage at Government House on St. Thomas and other facilities.

Encarnacion, known to many in the Virgin Islands as “The Native Son,” said he started collecting local artifacts as a child. “I have independently curated and conserved my own private collection and a great amount has been on display over the past year,” Encarnacion said.

Encarnacion, a Professional Member of the American Alliance of Museums, returned to St. Croix last year from studies in Boca Raton to exhibit his collection at Government House during the Virgin Islands Centennial Transfer events. His Centennial commemoration efforts included a presentation at the John H. Woodson Jr. High School where he became inspired by the students’ enthusiasm.

His personal collection consists of more than 700 pieces dating back to the pre-Columbian era. It includes Danish Colonial coins dating back to 1748, photographs and books from the 19th century, furnishings passed down over three generations, rum receipts from brigs that landed in the Territory in the early 1800s and paintings from many local artists.

“My goal has always been to inform the community about the importance of preserving and promoting our culture and history through historical artifacts,” Encarnacion said. “I have visited schools to teach students about preservation and have participated in many exhibitions.” He feels he will help young people better understand their history by being a full-time ambassador for cultural preservation.”

Encarnacion said he enrolled in art history courses while a graduate student at Lynn University to better understand preservation techniques. “I also created a website ( and a social media platform to support my mission to preserve and promote our history,” Encarnacion added.

The new conservator will initially focus on cataloging the antiques and artwork and determining the best means of long-term storage during the renovation process.

“Documentation of this caliber takes time and we can’t afford to miss anything,” Encarnacion explained. “In order for everything to be formally and accurately cataloged we are implementing new QR Codes for each piece. Once I have completed the official assessment report, the inventory will then be made public. We look forward to being able to display all of these antiques and artwork once again, and at this point I am confident that all antiquities are safe and secured.”

Encarnacion said the QR Codes are similar to barcodes and that when scanned provide detailed information about each piece to which they are attached.


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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy has been reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Caribbean region since 1989. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan.

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