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.
The Freedom Roads exhibition at Guildhall Art Gallery was one of several initiatives led by London Metropolitan Archives to mark the bicentenary. The exhibition featured contemporary photographic portraits of people of African origin whose work has contributed to the continuing struggle for human rights in different fields. Colin Prescod, Shirley Thompson, Eric and Jessica Huntley and Rudolph Walker were amongst the individuals featured. Others like the young people from BEAT (Black Experience Archive Trust) were engaged in a project to find out about significant people in their local community. Each person was photographed with an image of an object or place which has a special significance to them. The other part of the exhibition focused on relevant archival materials held by London Metropolitan Archives, including the South African Bill of Rights and a copy of the Constitution signed by Nelson Mandela, Cyril Ramaphosa, F. W. De Klerk and Roelf Meyer. Other material relating to slavery and abolition included a letter from John Julius, a plantation owner on the island of St. Kitts.
An exhibition by the City of Westminster Archives Centre focused on the impact of the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition in Westminster, which drew on the Centre's archives and local studies collections. Links explored included the parish of St Anne's Westminster with St John's Antigua, and the large circle of planters living in Marylebone in the 18th and 19th centuries. The exhibition also documented the lives of the African residents of Westminster during the age of the slave trade. Some of the individuals looked at in the exhibition included James Somerset, Granville Sharp, Ignatius Sancho, Ottobah Cugoano, Olaudah Equiano, and the African activists who styled themselves 'Sons of Africa'.
This exhibition and booklet were produced as part of South Gloucestershire's Engage 2007 project, in partnership with Yate and District Heritage Centre. Both the exhibition and booklet explored local connections with the history of slavery and anti-slavery in South Gloucestershire. Links identified included the career of Robert Jenkinson of Hawkesbury (later Prime Minister Lord Liverpool), the Caribbean plantations of the Codrington family, the campaign efforts of abolitionist Joseph Sturge and, looking further back in history, St Wulfstan's attempts to abolish the trade in slaves to Ireland in the 11th century. The booklet was written and edited by Lorna Brooks and David Hardill. The exhibition toured the local area, including Thornbury and District Museum, pictured here.