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Caribbean Collage: Archival Collections and the Construction Of History

February 24, 2006 - June 4, 2006
Past

This exhibition featured original documents and rare books and maps from the collection of the University of Florida’s George A. Smathers Libraries. Spanning five centuries of Caribbean history, the exhibition focused on the British West Indies, Haiti and Cuba from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century. The exhibition was presented in collaboration with the Department of Special and Area Studies Collections of the Smathers Libraries.

Drawing on several archival collections recently acquired by the Libraries, Caribbean Collage explored the Caribbean during a time of massive social change: slavery ended, new forms of agriculture developed and independent nation-states, with distinct creole cultures, emerged. The exhibition examined these large-scale transformations through documents specific to people’s lives: letters, diaries, ledger entries, business records, scrapbook clippings, photographs, drawings and similar items. Illustrated books and maps provided additional perspectives. Caribbean Collage focused on four areas: British Imperialism in the Caribbean (1756-1834), which covered the Seven Years’ War through Emancipation; the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804); the Cuban Wars of Independence (1868-1898); and U.S. Imperialism in the Caribbean (1898-1934), which featured the Spanish-Cuban-American War, U.S. political and economic domination of Cuba, and the American occupation of Haiti.

Exhibition Highlights

Highlights included a 1534 book with maps of Hispaniola and Jamaica, the oldest item in the exhibition; a published justification by Sir Walter Raleigh for his voyage to Guiana, written in the Tower of London before his death in 1618; a list of Africans enslaved at the Rocheblave plantation in St. Domingue; letters from Haitian Revolutionary leaders Toussaint L’Ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines; and an 1891 book of poems written by José Martí, with a personal inscription. The largest item was a 42 x 60 inch map of the Artibonite Valley in St. Domingue, showing landholdings, mountains and waterways in the eighteenth century.

Organized by HistoryMiami in collaboration with The University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.

Sponsored in part by The University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries, The South Florida Business Journal, Carnival Cruise Lines and the Orange Bowl Foundation.

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