I must say this museum is quite a pleasant surprise and worthy an hour or more of your time. It is a very modern, well maintained, museum opened in 2002 to coincide with the Island’s quincentenary celebrations.
Created and maintained by the St Helena Heritage Society the museum, housed in the town’s former power station, has a wealth of quality exhibits and displays preserving the island’s colourful and interesting history. Note that while there are a few Napoleon related items in the museum, Longwood House should be visited as the primary source of information on Napoleon and St Helena.
Museum exhibits include Ming Porcelain, items made by Boer War Prisoners (of which St Helena accommodated some 6000), old coins, items recovered from ship wrecks including the Wittle Leeuw, old guns and other military artefacts, musical and scientific instruments, details on royal visits and everyday items all of which are used to recount the history of the island.
Upstairs you will find a very interesting exposition on the ending of slavery on St Helena and of St Helena’s role in the ending of the transatlantic slave trade. Governor Lowe (of Napoleon fame) is credited with taking the first step in 1818 that lead to the abolition of slavery on St Helena itself. Those readers who have read my Napoleon related reviews will know that history has judged Lane less enthusiastically in his guardianship of Napoleon. In the 1840s British ships, based on St Helena, intercepted numerous transatlantic slave carrying vessels and consequentially many people who would have otherwise been enslaved were liberated on St Helena. In fact over 15,000 people were liberated just between 1840 and 1849. Almost 5000 of those liberated in this period chose to remain in St Helena.
The museum has a small gift shop but lets face it you’re not going to St Helena for its shopping (or I hope that’s not your intention!). That said, between it and the shop beside the Tourist Office you will be able to get a reasonably tasteful memento of your visit – there is a small range of local handicraft and artwork around if you look.
The museum is also where you get (buy – GBP 2.50, as I recall) your certificate for having climbed Jacob’s Ladder.
Admission fee: Free
Thursday and Friday from 10:00am to 4:00pm and Saturdays from 10:00am to 1:00pm
Special openings during Cruise Ship visits and when the RMS St Helena, is anchored in James’s Bay. As always on St Helena, check with the tourist office.
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries on my trip to St Helena. I suggest you continue with my next entry – A Most ‘Uncastle’ Looking Castle– or to start the loop at the beginning go to my St Helena Introduction entry.