The word Caribbean evokes images of hot tropic lands, colourful cultures, buried treasure and fabulous beaches – in short, the perfect vacation destination. One was to see into the heart of a country is by exploring museums, those treasure houses of a country’s past. Here we’ll look into the Caribbean world through unique museums in the Bahamas, Barbados and Jamaica.
First, we’ll visit the Bahamas, an archipelago of 700 islands and cays. In 1783 the Bahamas became a British colony, a status it was to maintain until 1973 when it gained independence.
One of the major themes of the Caribbean is of course pirates and the Bahamas was one of their lairs. This area was once the stomping ground of such buccaneers as Captains Morgan and Kidd who grew rich from the spoils of looting ships. If you want a glimpse into this murky world you can visit the Pirates of Nassau museum which recreates the golden age of piracy (1690-1720).
At the Pirates of Nassau museum you can stroll through the body of a pirate ship eavesdropping on the buccaneers as they plot their next attack. The museum is staffed with pirate impersonators and features its own pub called the Malborough Arms. It’s especially great for kids.
Next is Barbados, an island that’s part of the Lesser Antilles located northeast of Venezuela. With its tropical climate, pink and white sand beaches, sugarcane plantations and vibrant West Indian culture, Barbados is a deservedly popular tourist destination.
To get to know Barbados, head for the Barbados Museum, located at St Ann’s Garrison, a former British Military Prison. There a set of comprehensive displays trace the island’s development from prehistoric times to the present day. Displays include natural history including the local coral structure, Amerindian culture, Barbadian history, and African and European decorative arts. Especially notable are the collections of West Indian maps.
Finally we look at the seductive islands of Jamaica. And what more fitting museum in the home of reggae than a shrine to its founder and high priest, Bob Marley? Located in the singer’s former home in the capital Kingston, the Bob Marley Museum is the city’s most popular site for visitors.
The museum is housed in a simple clapboard building was not only Bob Marley’s house but also his recording studio until his death in 1981. And it was the headquarters of Tuff Gong, the record label founded by Marley and his band The Wailers in 1970. The museum also features an 80-seat theatre.
Reggae fans can feast their eyes on Marley memorabilia such as his star-shaped guitar by the bed in his bedroom. You can also see the bullet holes that tore through the rear wall during an assassination attempt in 1976 in which Marley was wounded.
So when you take your Caribbean vacation, don’t neglect the museums. Not only do they bring alive the history of a place, they’re your conduit into the heart of a country, culture and people. Before travelling to Jamaica, make sure that the hotel reservations are in place. Hotels in Barbados and hotels in Bahamas can easily be booked in advance through the Internet, and then you will be able to enjoy Jamaica at the best.