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Pirate Soul - A little less than a happy high
Pirate Soul
From mudguts, with additional commentary by yours truly.

There's a new pirate museum that's opened up in Key West where upon entry, visitors are greeted by the words, "Welcome to Port Royal."

A few years back, I was fortunate enough to go to Port Royal when I visited Jamaica. I had hoped to stumble upon a raucous little town that had barely shed it's past as pirate haven. I was young, and rum and wenching seemed a worthy way to spend a very hot afternoon. Of course, I was disillusioned. Today, Port Royal is kind of a quiet place, and this transition may have to do with the passage of time, or it may have something to do with the fact that most of the town that existed in the Golden Age got sucked underwater in an earthquake in 1692. Wrath of God was cited by contemporaries as a likely cause.

There is a small museum there devoted to piracy and privateering (which were to thank for much of the town's early commercial success), but because Port Royal specifically, and Jamaica generally, are not very rich places, I'm guessing that the quality of the artifacts doesn't really compare to the collection that's been gathered by a wealthy American. Stuff like this makes me angry, but then again, I'm the kind of person who upon visiting the British Museum couldn't kept thinking, "Why isn't this in (Egypt/Persia/Greece/Japan/etc...)?" I'm weird like that.
7 comments or Leave a comment
khep From: khep Date: January 14th, 2005 01:44 am (UTC) (Link)

I need to go!!!!
komos From: komos Date: January 14th, 2005 01:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think we all need to go.

...and we might as well schedule jaunts to Port Royal and Tortuga while we're at it.
From: corvus_coronis Date: January 14th, 2005 02:30 am (UTC) (Link)
"or it may have something to do with the fact that most of the town that existed in the Golden Age got sucked underwater in an earthquake in 1692. Wrath of God was cited by contemporaries as a likely cause."

There were no tsunami appeals for pirates back then :'(
komos From: komos Date: January 14th, 2005 01:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
The 17th century wasn't exactly known for its great humanitarian movements...
rciaodree From: rciaodree Date: January 20th, 2005 04:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Not at all weird -- perfectly sane sentiment. It's interesting when some of those nations from whom the art in London/New York/Paris museums was plundered demand their artifacts back. This came up when Greece demanded that the British Museum return the Elgin Marbles chipped off the Parthenon. The plundered nations, like Greece, Egypt, etc., have a very solid argument that stolen goods should be returned and that the artifacts are national and cultural treasures that belong in their place of origin. The museums generally argue -- and perhaps there is some merit to this -- that the manner in which the artifacts were obtained may have been illegitimate but there are good reasons for keeping the art in the established museums: (1) these museums are the safest places for the art, and they have the best technology, techniques, preservation, etc., and (2) by centralizing these artifacts in large museums, they are made available to be viewed and appreciated by many more people than if they were returned in a diaspora to the various far flung places from whence they came. In any event, it is an interesting debate.
komos From: komos Date: January 21st, 2005 08:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
The funny thing is that either argument is largely self-referential. Why is the British Museum the safest place for the treasures of Egypt? Because the experts are at the British Museum. All well and good, but it's fairly likely that if they were centralized in Cairo that there would be experts in the preservation and security of antiquities there as well or perhaps instead.

This is not to say that I believe that everything should remain in the hands of the culture/region that produced it. There's a great deal to be said for cultural exchange and the understanding that comes from it. I do think that it's absurd that a number of cultures, simply by virtue of having been occupied during the age of imperialism, are now forced to travel to 'The West' in order to view their own history.

I just keep imagining just how angry Americans would be if the Declaration of Independence had been captured and was now on display in the British Museum...
rciaodree From: rciaodree Date: January 21st, 2005 09:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
I wholly agree with your sentiments, and as a person whose ancestors were occupied and had their artifacts lifted from their lands to be displayed in London and New York, my sympathies tend to lie with the occupied and plundered.

That said, I live in New York now, and every time I go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art I am amazed and humbled at the vast, all-encompassing range of human art on display. Visitors come from around the world to see this collection. I agree completely that there is great injustice in removing cultural artifacts from the cultures that created them. I only point out that there is something to be said for having centralized places such as the Met or the British Museum, in which any visitor can take in a broad and representative range of human creativity. These institutions are fantastic centers of learning -- it is too bad that they are built on foundations of colonialism and exploitation.

In the end, though I think it's a complicated issue, I probably agree with you.
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