The Barbados Museum and Historical Society was founded in 1933. It is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organisation which aims to collect, preserve and interpret Barbadian heritage for its communities. Housed in a former prison, the museum now holds a collection of around half a million objects, dating from prehistory to today, as well as a significant archive.
The museum's permanent galleries explore the history of Barbados and its people through a range of different themes, including social, natural and military history. Colonialism and slavery feature as key themes in several of these galleries. In the Jubilee Gallery, which contains items relating to social history, the exhibition narrative charts four thousand years of Barbadian history. This includes the development of Barbados into a plantation society, life for the enslaved on those plantations and their lives post-emancipation. The Charles A. Robertson African Gallery also reflects on the legacies of slavery with regards to the African diaspora and its heritage within the Caribbean. Here the focus is on the processes of the slave trade, particularly the forced movement of people to the island. Objects in this exhibition reflect different African kingdoms, traditional customs and the diversity of African people.
In addition to its permanent exhibitions the museum also offers a range of learning opportunities relating to the history of slavery in the area. From educational island tours, to school visits and a programme of public events, the museum caters for a wide range of audiences.
The American Museum in Britain is housed in a manor house, built in 1820 by English architect Sir Jeffry Wyatville. It is the only museum of Americana outside the USA and was founded to 'bring American history and cultures to the people of Britain and Europe'. It uses a rich collection of folk and decorative arts to interpret these traditions from America's early settlers to the twentieth century. Living history events bring these stories to life, in addition to changing temporary exhibitions which keep the narrative up to date. The museum opened to the public in 1961 as the brainchild of two antiques dealers.
The museum's collections are a rich source of furniture, portraiture and textiles from America, displayed thematically within period rooms acting as gallery spaces. The 'American Heritage' exhibition, charting the history of America through the narration of key events and people dominates a large proportion of this space. Key collections highlights in this exhibition include Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech and a range of treasures from New Mexico.
Also contained within the 'American Heritage' exhibition is a small display about slavery and abolition in America. The main focal point of this display is a quilt made by enslaved people on a plantation in Texas. Other themes addressed here include the Underground Railroad, prominent abolitionists and the importance of the Civil War in the eventual abolition of slavery.