Bunce Island Exhibit

The Bunce Island exhibit consists of 20 door-size display panels, each containing text and images illustrating Bunce Island's history and its links to North America. The exhibit includes period drawings of the castle made in 1726, 1748, and 1805 and other pictures illustrating the slave trade era in Sierra Leone and North America. There are also photos of the ruins of Bunce Island today as well as computer-generated reconstruction drawings showing in great detail how Bunce Island appeared in the year 1805.

The three pilgrimages made by Gullah people from South Carolina and Georgia to Bunce Island in 1989, 1997, and 2005 are also pictured in the exhibit. The Gullahs are the descendants of the African captives taken from Bunce Island and other parts of the Rice Coast to those states in the 18th century. The Gullah visitors’ poignant comments about Bunce Island and its personal meaning for them are among the most memorable parts of the exhibit.

The exhibit also includes an 8-minute video on Bunce Island prepared by Charleston filmmaker Jacque Metz, who did filming in Sierra Leone in 2003 and 2005 with support from the Sierra Leone Government and the United States Embassy. And, finally, there is a brief illustrated catalog accompanying the exhibit that provides more information on Bunce Island, its history, and its connections to the United States.

Computer Animation

Historian Joseph Opala, the exhibit curator, and Gary Chatelain, an art professor and computer artist, have been working for several years on a computer-generated reconstruction of Bunce Island. They have rebuilt the castle in the computer in 3-D based on archaeological studies, period drawings, and period accounts. Their work is supported by Isaiah Washington, the African American TV actor. Washington, who traced his own ancestry to Sierra Leone based on DNA testing, donated $25,000 to the project in 2007.

Opala and Chatelain’s computer images appear in the exhibit panels and in the 8-minute video. Their computer animation allows us to see Bunce Island as it actually was 200 years ago, and a virtual slave ship designed by nautical archaeologist Andy Hall adds even more realism to the computer image. Describing the importance of their computer project, Professor Opala said:

"Unlike the Jewish holocaust and other terrible crimes of the modern era,
the Atlantic slave trade took place before the advent of photography,
and thus we can only imagine its horrors.
Our computer animation project will allow us to go beyond the imagination,
and actually see how the Atlantic slave trade was carried out."

Twenty-Six Topics

The Bunce Island Exhibit covers 26 topics relating to the slave castle, its history, its operations, and its contemporary importance:

Introductory Panel

Part One: Slave Castle
Sierra Leone
Bunce Island
Slave Castle
Castle Society
Human Commerce
Barter Trade
“Wretched Victims”
Africans in the Slave Trade
Pirates & the French Navy
Parliament Bans the Slave Trade
Eclipse of Bunce Island

Part Two: Links to North America
South Carolina & Georgia Rice Plantations
African Rice Coast
American Slave Ships
American Revolution
“Where History Sleeps”
Oral Traditions
Bunce Island Today
The Gullah Connection
“A Lot of Pain”
Priscilla’s Homecoming
Imagining Bunce Island

The Ruins of Bunce Island
Help Us Preserve Bunce Island


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