Housed in the former courthouse of Antigua's capital, St John's, the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda opened in 1985. Managed by the Historical and Archaeological Society, it interprets the history of Antigua from the island's geological birth until its political independence in 1967. Collecting is central to the museum's ethos and it has developed a large collection of items relating to its local history through acquisitions and donations. It also has a digital records library with over 25,000 records available to browse.
The exhibits themselves trace the history of Antigua chronologically. The first gallery maps the geological development of the island using natural history specimen and artist interpretations alongside text panels. There are also displays that showcase the traditional crafts of the island, including basket weaving.
The second gallery then explores the arrival of the Europeans to the island and the development of the plantation economy fueled by the transatlantic slave trade. Here the displays examine what life was like on the plantations, using objects that highlight the brutal nature of enslavement, as well as archaeological samples that provide an insight into the everyday life of the enslaved. Some text panels provide information about instances of resistance, alongside images of supporting archival sources.
The final gallery explores how the island developed following the abolition and then the emancipation of the slave trade, two world wars and political independence. Here, objects are complemented with oral testimonies from local people.
The museum also has a gallery for temporary exhibitions focussing on different aspects of Antigua and Barbuda's local history. It also runs a programme of community events, and a series of education sessions for schools.