On Tuesday, 2 February, the Grenada National Museum (GNM) will be relocating one of its most beloved exhibits from the ground floor to the first floor of the main exhibition building.
This is part of a major reorganisation effort at the Museum that began at the end of last year and will continue through 2021.
The canoe is one of the highlights of the National Collection curated at the GNM. It was found in the late 1970s by Leon Wilder, one of the founders of the Museum. It washed ashore near Point Salines, presumably lost by a modern indigenous group in South America. As a dugout canoe, it was made from a single tree, hollowed out by stone axes and expanded using heated rocks, much as was done in pre-Columbian times. Thus, while likely a modern ethnographic item, the canoe is an excellent example of its pre-Columbian antecedents.
However, the Museum is organising a scientific study to determine its actual age (using radiocarbon dating) and origin (using strontium isotopes), as well as botanical analysis to determine the exact species of tree used. The results will be incorporated into the new display planned for the canoe.
As a maritime society, ancient Amerindians relied heavily on their canoes, building a robust network of trade and communication between the islands. Several different types of canoes have been identified in the historical literature, ranging from one-person kayaks to large, ocean-going “pirogues” with planking and reinforcements that could accommodate up to 60 people. While incomplete and damaged from its wreck ashore, this canoe measures just over 20 feet and would fit into a middle category of boat, probably only holding a handful of people and goods. It was likely intended for riverine or near-shore transport rather than open-sea voyages.
The Museum is in the process of revitalisation that includes, among other things, exhibits downstairs being moved and expanded upstairs the main exhibition area, the entrance being changed to the main gate at Young Street, and the collections being rehoused for better preservation and digitised for public access online. Exhibits are still being constructed, but renovation is set to begin in the downstairs area this week, necessitating the need to move the canoe. Major renovations are expected to continue through 2021.