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Contact: Mark Ard
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Secretary Lee Announces the Opening of Spirits of the Passage at the Museum of Florida History

Tallahassee, FL –

Today, Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee announced the opening of a new temporary exhibit at the Museum of Florida History, Spirits of the Passage: The Story of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The exhibit, produced by and on loan from the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West, explores the origins of the slave trade and its lasting impact on American history. 


The exhibit features more than 125 artifacts recovered primarily from the Henrietta Marie, an English slaving vessel that sunk off the Florida Keys in 1700. Starting in West Africa, the exhibit traces the slave trade from its origins in antiquity to its expansion and evolution during the colonization of the Americas by European nations. The artifacts on display as part of the exhibit, including trade items, weapons, and shackles help tell the story of the largest forced migration in human history. The exhibit also includes interpretive panels and a portion of a reconstructed cargo hold representing conditions aboard a slave ship.  


Spirits of the Passage is a powerful and important exhibit, and we appreciate the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum and our partners for helping to bring the exhibit to the Museum of Florida History,” said Secretary Lee. “The exhibit is an opportunity to gain insight into history through the artifacts and the stories they help to tell.”  


Spirits of the Passage allows viewers to see authentic artifacts from the wreck of a slave ship, as well as dozens of other objects from West African societies that show the uniqueness of the individual cultures they represent. These include religious objects, bronze- and beadwork, pottery and jewelry. The artifacts, along with maps, paintings and illustrations create a picture of this historical era.


On display for the first time as part of the exhibit are artifacts from Angola, a free Black settlement near modern-day Bradenton, Florida, that was once home to 750 people. Angola was occupied from about the 1770s to its destruction in 1821. The Angola artifacts are the result of recent archaeological investigations and are on loan from Reflections of Manatee, Inc. The story of Angola highlights the efforts and determination of freedom-seeking people in Florida’s history. 


The Museum of Florida History welcomes the public to the Spirits of the Passage exhibit opening reception, starting February 17 at 5:30 p.m. The exhibit is open to the public from February 18, 2022 to May 9, 2022. For more information about upcoming programs related to the exhibit, visit the Museum of Florida History’s website: Admission and parking are free.  


Spirits of the Passage was developed by the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum (MFMM). Artifacts are on loan from the MFMM, Key West, Florida. Photography © 2017 MFMM.


Programming for Spirits of the Passage is sponsored in part by HR Expertise, Inc., the State of Florida through the Florida Department of State, Division of Arts and Culture, and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.




About the Museum of Florida History

Opened in 1977, the Museum of Florida History, as Florida’s official state history museum, collects, preserves, exhibits, and interprets evidence of past and present cultures in Florida, and promotes knowledge and appreciation of this heritage. The Museum of Florida History is located in the R. A. Gray Building at 500 South Bronough Street, Tallahassee, Florida. As the State's History Museum, it focuses on artifacts and eras unique to Florida's development and on roles that Floridians have played in national and global events. Hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday and holidays, noon to 4:30 p.m.  Free parking is available in the garage next to the R. A. Gray Building.

About the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum

The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum is located at 200 Greene Street in Key West, Florida just steps away from Key West harbor. The museum has the world’s richest collection of New World shipwreck artifacts recovered from sailing ships lost at sea from 1564 to 1865. In addition to the Spanish galleon treasure collections, the museum’s research team has located and studied five ships involved in the transatlantic slave trade. It is from the collections recovered from these ships that the Spirits of the Passage artifacts come. The museum actively focuses its research on the transatlantic slave trade.