Home Museums Archeology NATIONAL MUSEUM JAMAICA: An overview


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National Museum Jamaica (NMJ) is the national agent for the collection, preservation and documentation of Jamaica's material culture. The mission of National Museum Jamaica is to increase knowledge and promote appreciation of Jamaica's material heritage through public education and community outreach, research, community-based museums, special exhibitions, and the collection and conservation of historic artefacts.

The goal of the NMJ is to make every Jamaican and visitors to the island aware of and engaged in Jamaican history. We want to foster 'citizen historians' who understand their family, community and national histories.


NMJ was originally established as the Museums Division of the Institute of Jamaica in 1976. National Museum Jamaica operates the four museums of National Museum West in Montego Bay, the Fort Charles Museum in Port Royal, The People's Museum of Craft and Technology in Spanish Town and the exhibition spaces on East Street, Downtown Kingston. At present, 34 team-members work in the Division in the Collections, Research, Curatorial, Education and Administrative Departments. Each space offers tours and a year-round calendar of educational and outreach programmes.

As the repository of Jamaica's National Collection, National Museum Jamaica houses close to 19,000 thousand historic, ethnographic and archaeological artifacts that are relevant to Jamaica's material culture from the Pre-Columbian era to the contemporary. The work of the museum is focused in three areas: preservation, research and communication through education. National Museum Jamaica is committed to mounting major and temporary exhibitions. Each exhibition is accompanied by various public programmes. In addition, National Museum Jamaica offers many different public programmes geared to primary, secondary, tertiary, adult and community participants based on issues of Jamaica's history and contemporary condition.

Departments of NMJ and their Functions:

NMJ has four different departments, which work in tandem with each other:


The Administrative Unit is responsible for the direction of the division's work and supervises the activities of the units. It also works to form relationships with other agencies and private sector bodies as well as representing NMJ within the Institute of Jamaica and on various bodies and councils. Fundraising, grant-writing and forming alliances are becoming an increasingly important aspect of our work.


Research and exhibitions are the core activity of National Museum Jamaica. This department is coordinated by the curator and is responsible for investigating the material objects in the national collection as well as cultural events, stories and memories. It supplies all other departments with the findings of its research. The department is also responsible for writing exhibition scripts as well as taking and answering questions from people the world over about objects, people and events. The Research Department employs many different research techniques in order to retrieve information, such as observation, field research, site visits and interviews among others.


The collections department is responsible for the collection, cataloguing and conservation of each object. The work of the unit is coordinated by the 'Keeper of the Collections' and is guided by a Collections Management Policy that addresses all aspects of an object's life while it is in the care of National Museum Jamaica.


The education department uses an object-centered approach to learning. The department uses the information gathered by the research department, to develop educational programmes that accompany every exhibition. This department is also responsible for outreach programmes in schools, communities and organisations island-wide. The education department also designs, coordinates and implements the Museums' educational and outreach programmes for each of the museums. All of the programmes are aimed at heightening public awareness of Jamaica's rich history and heritage while also addressing the ways in which history informs our contemporary social life. The most popular programmes of the education department are the annual installments of the Museum Day, Taino Day, GSAT and CSEC lectures, Heritage Month lectures, The 'Out of Many One' Series and summer workshops.



NMJ develops and mounts major exhibitions, some permanent but mostly temporary. Some recent exhibitions include:

Uprising: Morant Bay, 1865 and its Afterlive,

Looking at the history of the Morant Bay Uprising through the voices and lives of many of the participants.

The Spirit of Budo: The History of Japan's Martial Arts

Japan has a rich and fascinating martial arts tradition, this travelling exhibition took a close look at all of the various forms.

Picture: Budo flyer


An exploration of one of the World's foremost social movements

Picture: Rastafari logo


National Museum Jamaica protects a large historic and ethnographic collection of artifacts. This collection features an array of artifacts of Jamaican heritage that date back to the Taíno, the island's indigenous inhabitants. The collection also includes objects from other cultures some of ancient origin, whose arrival in the island are of special interest. Having its beginning with the establishment of the Institute of Jamaica (IoJ) in 1879, to date the collection has grown to close to 19,000 objects that are categorised into several major and minor collections. All of these objects are overseen by National Museum Jamaica. The collections of the museum are split into two separate groups, major collections and minor collections. The major collections of the Museum are as follows; the Taino Collection, Slavery, Port-Royal, Post Emancipation and African Collection. The minor collections are the Spanish, Miscellaneous, Jamaican Diaspora, Furniture, and Independence collections. Collectively, the objects that lie within these collections represent the diverse nature of our Jamaican life and heritage. As material sources, they provide tangible evidence for research, story-telling, object-centred learning and are considered National treasures. Pieces from the collection are presented for the Jamaican public and to its visitors by way of the Institute's exhibitions, its satellite museums, special programmes and website.


The Mary Seacole Bust, was created by Count Gleichen in Terra Cotta in 1871. Mary Seacole was born Mary Jane Grant in Kingston, Jamaica in 1805. Her father was a Scottish army officer, and her mother a free black woman. Mary gained her earliest knowledge of treatment of tropical ailments from her mother, who was experienced in traditional medicine and offered medical care to invalids at her boarding house, called Blundell Hall, in Kingston. In 1854, Seacole travelled to England. She had learned of the war in Crimea on the Ukrainian mainland and asked the British War Office to be sent there as an army nurse to wounded soldiers. Despite her experience, her offers to help were refused. This rejection was reflective of the racial prejudice and discrimination of the time. Undeterred, she financed her own trip to Crimea, with the help of a relative of her husband. Once there she established the British Hotel, out of which she distributed food, supplies and medicine to the troops. She assisted the wounded at the military hospitals and was a familiar figure in the area. Her remedies for cholera and dysentery were particularly valued. Count Gleichen, a nephew of Queen Victoria, was one of her patients and created the bust as a tribute to 'Mother Seacole'.


This beautifully preserved porcelain figure of Kuan Yin is a true treasure, having survived the journey from China in the 1600's, the catastrophic earthquake of 1692 and also centuries lost underwater in the sunken city of Port Royal. It was recovered by the diver Robert Marx during one of his expeditions in the 1960's. Figures of Kuan Yin were often mistaken as a Madonna and Child. In fact, the statue is of the feminine form of Buddha the Compassionate. It was made in Te-Hua, China, in the early 1600's using a type of porcelain known as Blanc-de-Chine. A common Chinese export in the Seventeenth Century, Blanc-Chine was used for religious and other figurines as well as small household articles. Other finds of this type in the ruins of Port Royal include cups and a Chinese lion-dog. The presence of these articles in Port Royal in 1692 vividly illustrates the great extent of the shipping and trading links with that town and the wealth of some of its inhabitants.


The Independence Urn was commissioned by Sir Alexander Bustamante in 1962. This urn was one of the eight pieces created by Peter Cave and Gary Sharpe of Island Worcester Ceramics. One of the urns was presented to Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret in 1962. This celebratory piece chronicles various important events in the history of Jamaica. The design starts with the arrival of Columbus in 1494. It also includes the arrival of the British in 1655, the Port Royal earthquake in 1692, Emancipation in 1838 and the securing of Independence in 1962.


This helmet commonly called a Navropio Helmet, is also known as yugongo by the Navropio people of the northern region of Ghana: “They are made of sliced halves of calabash and are decorated with cowries and skins. They have tops made of the horns of certain animals such as the cow, buffalo and waterbuck. They were originally worn by the ruler and his men on the battlefields but are now chiefly worn by his bodyguards and musicians.”



Petaloid celts were cutting tools that the Taíno people made from river stones. These were chiseled and shaped to an edge and made in a variety of sizes to cut and prepare food, with or without being fixed to a wooden handle. Sculpted to their pleasant 'petaloid' or teardrop shape, it is believed that celts were also ceremonial in use and given beautifully polished finishes. They are said to have been used as gifts or as a form of exchange. In Jamaica and among African descendants from other Caribbean islands, celts are often called 'thunderbolts'. Jamaican oral traditions often refer to them as having spiritual or cosmic force. Over time Taíno celts have been chanced upon and collected, most often by farmers, and in many households, they are kept to cool and purify drinking water.


National Museum West

National Museum West was established on National Heroes Day, October 21, 2014, and is located in the Montego Bay Cultural Centre on historic Sam Sharpe Square. There are two exhibitions mounted at the civic centre. The first is a permanent exhibition, which explores the history of Jamaica with a focus on Montego Bay and Western Jamaica. The second exhibition is a temporary exhibition on Rastafari, which focuses on the Coral Gardens incident that occurred in St. James in 1963. The space also features the Bad Friday documentary with texts displayed on the episode, which remains a powerful issue of debate among Rastafari and Montego Bay communities. The opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.


The People's Museum, Spanish Town

The People's Museum showcases the creative industry of emancipated Jamaicans, as they fashioned a new life for themselves in villages across Jamaica despite impossible odds. It was originally created in 1961 as the Folk Museum in the grounds of the Old King's House on Spanish Town Square, where the Emancipation Proclamation was read out. The museum is scheduled to be re-opened in 2018, and will feature a refurbished exhibition space.


Fort Charles Port Royal

The Fort Charles Museum is located in the historic Fort Charles that dates back to 1655. The Fort Charles Museum traces the history of Port Royal, from the Spanish presence, the heady days of the Buccaneers as the richest and wickedest city on earth, to its destruction by the earthquake of 1692 and life thereafter. The Fort Charles Museum is open every day from 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.



10 East Street, Kingston

The headquarters of National Museum Jamaica is at 10 East Street, Kingston. We have a number of exhibition spaces as well as our offices, conservation programme and storage.


10 East Street, Kingston, Jamaica

Tel: (876) 922 3795

Fax: (876) 922 3795

Email: nationalmuseumjamaica@gmail.com

Opening times: Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.

Website: http://www.museums-ioj.org.jm/

Facebook: @NationalMuseumJamaica

Instagram: @national_museum_jamaica

You can support us through nationalmuseumfoundation@gmail.com

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