On many of the islands throughout the Caribbean, you can find archaeological museums displaying the local history and heritage. On Bonaire, one of the Dutch Caribbean islands, this is not the case. With approximately 250,000 tourists visiting the island by cruise ships and another 70,000 staying on the island for its beautiful diving, Ruud Stelten and I find this a missed opportunity!
Ruud, my former colleague on St. Eustatius, and I have been working on setting up a new archaeological museum, Terramar, which will be opening in October this year. Ruud leads this project and I function as the Museum and Collection Consultant. Besides helping out with the displays, selecting artefacts and setting up loans with other musea, I’m also involved in developing educational programs and writing information sheets for the museum. Our intention is to give the visitor a one-hour tour of the region’s past, from the precolonial period to the present. Themes that we will touch on are food, settlement and ritual practices, the maritime world, slavery and long-distance exchange networks. Of course, Bonaire’s specific history will be highlighted, but our goal is to give the visitor a much better idea how people in the Caribbean are connected through the Caribbean Sea.
Last week Ruud and I visited the Florida Museum of Natural History. I worked here for my Ph.D. and knew the museum curates one of the largest collections of precolonial artefacts from the Caribbean region in the world. Working together with the curator and my former advisor Dr. Bill Keegan, we selected a large number of artefacts that we will bring to Bonaire to put on display. We have a variety of ceramic pieces with different styles from different islands, but also stone, shell and bone artefacts. We’re really excited about these artefacts and cannot wait to see our first visitors admire them in our museum!
We were also lucky to be able to set up a loan of materials from St. Augustine, the first city in the United States. We haven’t made the full selection of the materials, but I’m very sure they’ll include some very special pieces. Together with other artefacts from collections on Curacao and St. Eustatius, we will be able to give our visitors one of the most diverse Caribbean collections on display in world!
The coming weeks, Ruud and I will continue to develop the exhibit and create a archaeological museum that will capture the interest of many. I’ll keep you posted of all the developments!