Mariners Museum Opens Major Exhibit on Transatlantic Slave Trade

Article excerpt

Newport News, Va. - 4 May 2002, saw The Mariners' Museum open Captive Passage: The Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Making of the Americas. Unlike any exhibition the Museum has ever created, Captive Passage is a compilation of over 200 extraordinary objects and images from The Mariners' collections and from others around the world to tell the story of the slave trade from a maritime perspective. This exhibition was organized in cooperation with the South Street Seaport Museum in New York City and the National Museums & Galleries on Merseyside in Liverpool. The original Transatlantic Slavery Gallery in Liverpool was initiated and supported by The Peter Moores Foundation.

For nearly 400 years, the institution known as the transatlantic slave trade fueled the growing economies of the New World. Millions of Africans were torn from their homeland and forced into slavery throughout the Americas. This Diaspora had profound effects not only on Africa but on every aspect of developing New World cultures from Brazil to many parts of North America.

"Captive Passage is undoubtedly one of the most powerful and compelling exhibitions ever undertaken by The Mariners' Museum. Its model is the critically acclaimed exhibition at the Merseyside Museums in Liverpool, England. That exhibition, and we hope this one as well, has had a profound, positive, and lasting effect on those who have seen the exhibition as well as the surrounding community," said The Mariners' Museum President and CEO John Hightower. "Captive Passage will travel to cities throughout the country providing similar opportunities to effect a greater understanding of the forced journey that brought millions of enslaved Africans to the Americas and the subsequent contributions they made."

"The forced migration of millions of enslaved Africans across the Atlantic to the Americas has not been told in sufficient detail from the maritime perspective," said The Mariners' Assistant Curator Randy Wyatt. "In addition to telling this important story, many of the extraordinary artifacts and images on this subject from The Mariners' collections will be exhibited for the first time. Indeed, about half of the objects, images, and graphics in Captive Passage come from The Mariners' collections. The Museum is purposely reaching out through its exhibitions to reach audiences that have not traditionally come to the museum. We feel The Mariners' is ideally suited to tell this story - a story vitally important to all Americans."

Partnering with The Mariners' in organizing this exhibition is museum professional and visual arts specialist Julia Hotton. With extensive experience as an arts administrator and exhibition curator, Hotton provides a rare and special background for Captive Passage as guest curator. Having worked on more than twenty-five exhibitions for organizations such as the New York Historical Society, The Brooklyn Museum, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library, Hotton played a key role as advisor on all aspects of the exhibition, including locating significant artifacts, and was key to the creation of the "Legacy" portion of the exhibition.

The Museum's collaborations with this exhibition do not stop with Hotton. A companion volume entitled Captive Passage: The Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Making of the Americas, published by the Museum in association with the Smithsonian Institution Press, offers essays from eight well-known scholars and authors on the slave trade. This 208page book considers various aspects of the trade including the physical, social, and enduring emotional Middle Passage, as well as the history of the abolitionist movement in the U.S. and the struggle for racial justice. This volume also features important material from the collections of The Mariners' Museum, as well as artifacts assembled from around the world specifically for this exhibition, including rare engravings published for the first time. …