Exhibition on transatlantic slave trade coming to Mobile’s GulfQuest

By William Thornton

The “Spirits of the Passage” exhibition coming to the GulfQuest Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico features scores of artifacts related to the transatlantic slave trade. Courtesy of the city of Mobile.

Mobile’s GulfQuest museum will present an exhibition of artifacts pertaining to the transatlantic slave trade starting in January, the city announced Thursday.

“Spirits of the Passage: The Story of the Transatlantic Slave Trade” will open Jan. 4, “in conjunction with the 160th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation,” and run through June 21. It is described as “the first exhibition of its kind to examine the entire history of the Transatlantic Slave Trade from the 16th to 19th century while presenting modern research and discoveries to the public.”

The exhibition, which will cover 3,500 square feet and feature nearly 150 artifacts, was developed by the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West, Fla., and the Frazier Museum in Louisville, Ky. It includes artifacts from slave ship wreck sites and from West African societies to “create a provocative picture of a tragic era while recognizing the legacy of strength and resilience that enslaved people left behind.”

According to a website about the exhibition, featured artifacts come from the sites of the Ivory Wreck and the Henrietta Marie. The Ivory Wreck site is the resting place of an unidentified ship that sank in 1853 in the Florida Keys. The Henrietta Marie sank west of Key West in 1700 after delivering enslaved Africans to Jamaica.

“‘Spirits of the Passage’ represents a wealth of new scholarship on a topic that often gets reduced to data and charts,” said Madeleine Burnside, former Frazier Museum executive director and slave trade historian. “What’s so rare about this exhibition is how we delve into the details of this haunting world event — with real stories about specific people and coordinating artifacts.”

The exhibition is being supported by the Mobile County Commission. For information about GulfQuest hours and ticketing, call 251-436-8901 or visit www.gulfquestmuseum.com.