MORE than 200 rare artifacts from the historic city of Port Royal went on display last week at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida in downtown Miami.
This is the first time that the artifacts, which were recovered from the city, much of which sank in a devastating earthquake in 1692, are being displayed in the United States.
The exhibition, titled 'Port Royal, Jamaica' and jointly coordinated by the Institute of Jamaica and the Historical Museum, will run through to June. The display will then be moved to the Institute's location in Kingston for public viewing up to January 2008.
Minister of Tourism, Entertainment and Culture Aloun Ndombet Assamba, in declaring the exhibition open, said the display should pique the interest of archaeologists, history students and even laypersons, who had an interest in the civilisations of the past.
The exhibit should also be of interest to tourist, she said, noting that research had indicated that while many visitors were attracted to the physical and natural beauty of the island, including its pristine beaches and majestic mountains, many others wanted to be immersed in the culture and way of life of the people.
The minister encouraged the Jamaicans present to "add their own significant colour, texture and context to the exhibition by being invaluable interpreters of the passive language of print and still lift in the brilliant oral tradition of our great little country".
Meanwhile, chief curator of the museum, Dr Steven Stuempfle, said that the facility was committed to partnering with institutions such as Institute of Jamaica, to explore how events in the Caribbean have shaped world history during the past several centuries.
As part of the four-month exhibit, the museum will host a series of family-oriented educational lectures and entertainment programmes, which will provide information about the island's heritage and cultural traditions.
A cosmopolitan port and centre for the African slave trade during the 17th century, Port Royal was known as the "richest and wickedest city in the world" for its gaudy displays of wealth and loose morals. It also served as a major base for the British Royal Navy during the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, the sleepy seaside town is a world historical site and a major attraction for visitors and locals.
The artifacts on display, many of which were recovered through underwater archaeological expeditions carried out since the 1950s chronologically illustrate the life of the city since it was founded in 1655.
Included are Chinese porcelain, German stoneware an Spanish silver coins, and red clay pipes associated with African craftsmen in the city. The era of the Royal Navy is portrayed through items such as pharmaceutical vials from the naval hospital, the Spencer Browning & Rust telescope, as well as a bust of Horatio Nelson, one of several British naval heroes, who served in Port Royal during the 18th century.
Also among the collection are rare maps, prints, books manuscripts and a ship model, while a series of black and white photographs depicting community life line the wall of the museum. Jamaican photographer, Maria LaYacona, took the pictures during the 1980s.
Story from The Jamaica Observer (www.JamaicaObserver.com)See You in Jamaica