The Struggle for Freedom in The Bahamas – From Slavery to Independence

Pompey Museum of Slavery and Emancipation
Nassau, Bahamas

The Pompey Museum of Slavery and Emancipation is housed in Vendue House in The Bahamas.  Vendue House was the market place to which thousands of Africans were brought directly from the Nassau docks after their harrowing Atlantic crossing, to be sold into slavery.  Magian was contracted to redesign the Museum’s principal exhibition and introduce the use of multimedia as a communications tool. 

The interpretive plan for “The Struggle for Freedom in The Bahamas – From Slavery to Independence“ was established by the Museum’s Director, Kim Outten-Stubbs, who engaged historian Robert Smith of Detroit to research and curate the storyline and provide sources and content for the exhibition. Magian invited Paul Bluestone of Bluestone + Associates and partner Linda Wallis to participate in the Design Phase of the project.  With a relatively tight budget Magian then liaised with Museum staff, and local suppliers Margot Bethel and Digiprint to achieve a strong result for both the construction of exhibit furniture and the printing of large scale exhibit graphics.

Magian integrated exhibit graphics into the exhibition furniture which references the maritime culture of the Bahamas and the unique ways in which the history of enslavement unfolded in this Caribbean nation. The exhibit units are simple abstractions of “sailing boats” suggesting the many Bahamian islands from which the story of enslavement unfolded.  The Bahamian history of enslavement is delivered in seven distinct periods. The sails of each “sailing boat” carries texts and images about the relevant historical events from 1648 to the nation’s Independence from colonial Britain in 1973 and the Post-Independence experience in The Bahamas.

Print graphics set into the arches on one of the gallery’s side walls are colourful backdrops for four touchscreen stations providing visitors with additional information delivered through images, audio, videos and text.  The touchscreens cover enslavement in The Bahamas; culture and tradition in The Bahamas, the wreck of the American slaving schooner, The Peter Mowell (which ran aground in 1860, on Lynyard Cay in the Abaco chain of islands) with a human cargo of 400 captive Africans.  A final program is about the shame and scourge of contemporary slavery. 

As part of the exhibition the historic function of Vendue House is represented by an impressionistic video projected onto one of the (now sealed) arches through which African captives walked to the market platform from which African captives were sold into slavery.

Integrated infrastructure provides additional opportunities for updating content and visitor engagement. Integrated infrastructure provides additional opportunities for updating content and visitor engagement. Integrated infrastructure provides additional opportunities for updating content and visitor engagement. Integrated infrastructure provides additional opportunities for updating content and visitor engagement.