Museum to open to illuminate Mozambique Island’s hidden maritime history

The Museum of Maritime History will open at the The Fort of São Sebastião on Ilha da Moçambique

The Museum of Maritime History will open at the The Fort of São Sebastião on Ilha da Moçambique in 2020

A new museum illuminating Mozambique Island’s hidden, rich maritime history is set to open its doors in 2020 in a major boost for travellers coming to Ilha.
The island’s archaeology centre, inaugurated last year to protect our maritime history, is developing the museum in Ilha’s former fortaleza barracks. Currently, there is no interpretation of the centre’s archaeological discoveries for visitors. In response to this, the exhibition will be created and local people will be trained to work at the museum to assist the archaeologists.
The first exhibition of the Museum of Maritime History will bring to light evidence that Ilha was trading with Asia in the millennium before Europeans arrived. And future sections of the new museum at the Fortress will cover the history of slavery and Ilha’s ancient shipbuilding tradition.
This project follows the Government banning of the commercial excavations of shipwrecks five years ago, and the launch of the centre’s protection of the rich history lying submerged in the depths of Ilha’s waters in 2018.
Ricardo Teixera Duarte, a professor at the Eduardo Mondlane University and project lead, told Ilha Blue: “We want to spread the movement to protect our underwater heritage and offer visitors a new perspective of our history, born of the contribution of local people.”  

Ricardo Duarte of the Island of Mozambique's archaeological centre

Ricardo Teixera Duarte of Ilha’s archaeological centre spoke to us at the site of the new museum, a former barracks in the fortress                                                                             

The move comes as the centre prepares to embark upon excavations of a number of shipwreck sites around Ilha. These include a 12th Century vessel likely to contribute to our knowledge of the island’s ancient Indian Ocean trading and navigation.
Ilha was trading directly with India right up until the 1960s — as Ricardo has highlighted, long-time residents recall the huge pangaios loaded with cashews and other goods careened in front of the customs building. 
There will also be an excavation at the site of L’Aurore, a 16th Century galleon that sunk after a slave uprising.
In the longer-term, the centre would like to launch dives of wrecks around Ilha for tourists that protect and share this maritime heritage.
The museum is the result of a collaboration between Mozambique’s Eduardo Mondlane University, UNESCO and the Smithsonian Institute as part of the Slave Wrecks project to uncover and humanise the history of the global slave trade. Ilha Blue is excited to join forces with these partners to better share the many stories of our island.
“We are firm believers in keeping Ilha’s maritime history alive,” commented Gail Woods of Ilha Blue. “Travellers joining Ilha Blue’s island safaris ensure we sustain islanders’ navigation and shipbuilding knowledge.”
For more information on Ilha’s rich maritime heritage, click to read a paper by Ricardo here. And to keep updated with the plans, request to receive our email newsletter here.

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