This exhibition features over 150 unique artifacts illustrative of life in Port Royal, such as an intricately engraved tortoise-shell comb case, a red clay pipe associated with African craftsmen in the city, a pewter plate made by local pewterer Simon Benning, Chinese porcelain, German stoneware and Spanish silver coins. Many of these artifacts were recovered through underwater archaeology expeditions carried out since the 1950s. The Royal Navy era of Port Royal’s history will be portrayed through such items as a Spencer Browning & Rust telescope, pharmaceutical vials from the naval hospital, and a bust of Horatio Nelson, one of several British naval heroes who served in Port Royal during the 18th century.
The exhibition also examines community life in Port Royal today through 25 stunning black and white photographs shot during the 1980s by Maria LaYacona, one of Jamaica’s leading photographers. In addition, video footage of efforts to research and preserve Port Royal’s heritage through underwater archaeology are on display.
About Port Royal
Once known as the “wickedest city on earth,” Port Royal has a past far richer than pirates’ treasures. For centuries, Port Royal has been a focal point of Caribbean and Atlantic history: a cosmopolitan port and center for the African slave trade during the 17th century, a major base of the British Royal Navy during the 18th and 19th centuries, and a maritime town and world-class heritage site today.
From its founding in 1655 until the 1692 earthquake, Port Royal was one of the most important cities in the English-colonized Americas. Comparable in size to Boston, it was densely settled, graced with lavish homes and imposing forts, and extremely wealthy, due in part to government-sanctioned pirate raids of Spanish ships and ports. The city was also known for its abundance of shipwrights, blacksmiths, pewterers, silversmiths and other skilled craftsmen.
Rare maps, prints, books and manuscripts accompany this wide-ranging collection of artifacts from the National Library of Jamaica, the University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries and the Historical Museum of Southern Florida. Among the many treasures are John Taylor’s map of Port Royal, with perspective views of the city before the earthquake, and two illustrations of ships at Port Royal by the prominent 19th-century British artist Joseph Bartholomew Kidd.
Port Royal, Jamaica is sponsored in part by ExxonMobil, the Jamaica Committee, Air Jamaica, the Jamaica Tourist Board, Jamaica Awareness and Jampact. Additional support was received from the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, Florida. Arts Council & Division of Historical Resources; the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, the Cultural Affairs Council; Miami-Dade County, the Mayor & the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners; and the members of HistoryMiami.
Special thanks to Consulate General of Jamaica (Miami), C.P. Ricardo Allicock, Marcia Bullock, Eddy Edwards, The Jamaican Diaspora, Marlon A. Hill, Cathy Kleinhans, Jacky Shepard, Vicki Silvera and Tina Spiro.
Jointly organized by the Institute of Jamaica and HistoryMiami (formerly known as the Historical Museum of Southern Florida).