MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) —The GulfQuest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico museum has added a new exhibition to their collection of historic artifacts and memorabilia.
“Spirits of the Passage: The Story of the Transatlantic Slave Trade” is GulfQuest’s largest traveling exhibition on display since its opening in 2015.
It is the first of its kind to examine the entire history of the Transatlantic Slave Trade from the 16th to 19th century, according to the museum.
The 3,500 square foot display has nearly 195 historical objects dating back to more than 350 years ago from the wreck of an actual slave ship and authentic artifacts from various West African societies.
As you walk through the exhibit, it is set up as a timeline of the history of slave trade legacies ending with the emancipation proclamation.
Some of the artifacts include objects like a historic bell from the Henrietta Marie, a British merchant slave ship that carried captive Africans to the West Indies to be sold as slaves. After two voyages, the ship wrecked off of the coast, about 30 miles from Key West in the 1700s.
Director of GulfQuest Museum, Mary Elizabeth Harper, says the exhibit is a reminder of how far we’ve come and reflects on the direction we still need to go.
“It’s a powerful story, It’s a story that absolutely transcends time and has to be told,” said Harper. “I’m just excited that we are able to be the group that tells it.”
Among the exhibit’s rich history includes Mobile’s very own legacy of Africatown and the Clotilda, the last known slave ship to carry enslaved Africans to the United States that arrived near the Mobile Bay 40 years after African slave trading became illegal.
Shannan Cutler, Guest services and special events manager at GulfQuest believes including Mobile’s own history in the exhibit allows the community to come see firsthand the historical significance of both Africatown and the Clotilda.
“I think that it’s important for it to be here and accessible,” said Cutler. “It’s the information, I learn something new every time I walk through the exhibit something that you wouldn’t have known prior to seeing it here on display at GulfQuest, so I love that it is present.”
On February 3 at 10 a.m., a third-generation descendant of the Clotilda will be a special guest at GulfQuest to talk about slave cemeteries.
The artifacts from the exhibition are on loan from the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West, Florida and was funded by the Mobile County Commission. It will be displayed through June 21st, 2023.
GulfQuest is asking the community to bring in any local artifacts to add to the “Spirits of Passage” exhibit. They are also looking for volunteers who want to be tour guides for the exhibition.
Click here for information on the pricing and hours for the GulfQuest Museum.