Jamaica’s Port Royal History to be exhibited in Miami’s Historical Museum

MIAMI – An exhibition showcasing the history of Port Royal, Jamaica will open in the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, downtown Miami next February 16th and run through Sunday, June 3rd.

Titled ‘Port Royal, Jamaica’ the exhibition, jointly coordinated by the Institute of Jamaica and the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, marks the first time that a large collection of rare artifacts from that historic seaside town, much of which sank in a devastating earthquake in 1692, will be displayed in the United States.

More than 150 artifacts will chronologically illustrate the life of that City since it was founded in 1655. Many of these artifacts were recovered through underwater archaeology expeditions carried out since the 1950s.

Some of the items on display will include Chinese porcelain, German stoneware and Spanish silver coins, and red claypipes associated with African craftsmen in the city then.. Among the many skilled craftsmen inhabiting the City before it sank in the earthquake were shipwrights, blacksmiths, pewterers, and silversmiths.

The era of the Royal Navy will be portrayed through such items 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.

Among the collection on display will also be a collection of rare maps, prints, books and manuscripts and a ship model, all to be borrowed from the National Library of Jamaica, the University of Florida (George A. Smathers Library) and the Historical Museum of South Florida.

A series of 25 black and white photographs depicting community life in Port Royal and shot during the 1980s by a leading Jamaican photographer, Maria LaYacona will also form part of the exhibition.

In addition to the large collection comprising this historic venture, video footage of efforts to research and preserve Port Royal’s heritage through underwater archaeology will also be featured.

A highlight of the four-month feature on Jamaica’s historic city will be a variety of family-oriented educational lectures and entertainment programs about the island’s heritage and cultural traditions.

The seaside city of Port Royal has been a focal point of Caribbean and Atlantic history. It was also a cosmopolitan port and center for the African slave trade during the 17th century and a major base of the British Royal Navy during the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, the maritime city is famous as a world historical site and a tourist attraction to local Jamaicans as well as the many visitors to the island.

Chief curator for the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, Dr, Steven Stuempfle, said that the Museum is committed to partnering with those institutions to explore how events in the Caribbean have shaped world history during the past several centuries.

After the four-month display at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, the exhibition will be mounted in Jamaica through January 2008.

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