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Jan. 16 2010 - 7:21 pm | 542 views | 0 recommendations | 7 comments

The Anchor of the Santa Maria May Have Been Destroyed in Haiti Earthquake

Much of the news that comes out of Haiti at this moment is still conjecture, but from the looks of things, from the images that have started to complete the picture, it’s safe to assume that the National Museum of Haiti is destroyed. The Museum stood close to the National Palace and pictures of the Palace have been all over the Internet post-earthquake. The toppled roof and failing walls suggest what may have happened to the neighboring museum. The National Museum of Haiti was the largest collection of significant cultural and historical artifacts and work by many of the island’s painters and sculptors. Haitian painters, like many Caribbean artists, often painted the world they saw around them, the people, the land, in vibrant colors. So not only are they lost art, but the works functioned as depictions of Haitian life as well.

One of the most important pieces in the museum’s collection is the anchor to Christopher Columbus’s ship the Santa Maria, which ran aground on the Haitian coast on Christmas Eve in 1492. No part of the ship exists to this day except for the anchor, a major piece of American, Caribbean, and world history. Only time will tell how many of the works in the National Museum survived the earthquake, if any, and at this point, the priority is saving lives. But it is disheartening to think that the largest store of Haiti’s artistic and cultural history has most likely been destroyed, and along with it, buried in the rubble, a substantial relic from Columbus’s voyage to the Americas.

Given the destruction of the National Museum of Haiti, one of the the largest remaining collections of Haitian art now resides in the unlikely town of Waterloo, Iowa at the Waterloo Center for the Arts.

UPDATE: Research on the museums of Haiti proved to be confusing in writing this story. The National Museum of Haiti referred to above is not near the National Palace, but in the neighborhood of Montrouis. The National Museum is still believed to house the anchor to Columbus’s ship, but word on the state of the museum is difficult to ascertain at this point. More updates coming as my research reveals more on the condition of the museum and its collection.

via Largest Haitian art collection in Waterloo – KWWL.com – News & Weather for Waterloo, Dubuque, Cedar Rapids & Iowa City, Iowa |.


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  1. collapse expand

    Who cares…it was columbus and those who followed him who killed all the natives thru disease and outright murder on the island of Hispaniola which today is haiti and the dominican republic

    The spanish cut of the arms of the native indians when they didn’t come up with their quota of gold

  2. collapse expand

    The New York Times today stated that the museum seems to have survived, according to experts. It was built largely underground, apparently.

  3. collapse expand

    An update: The Times appears to be referencing the 1983 Musée du Pantheon National, an underground structure which is located across the street from the National Palace in the park known as Champs de Mars. The National Museum you are referring to is located in a neighborhood known as Haut Turgeau. I can find nothing definitive about that museum’s condition.

  4. collapse expand

    I tried to locate the anchor of the Santa Maria, as I am teaching history to some American kids residing in Port-Au-Prince. The anchor IS in the Musée du Panthéon National Haitien (MUPANAH), located across from the National Palace. I went by there this morning and saw it. The museum, though directly across from the destroyed National Palace, had no major damage and only had a couple of sculptures fall and break, which are still out for repair.

    We will be taking a field trip to enjoy the museum’s history of Haiti, and the art exhibit it houses.

    Thanks. I was just wanting to update some misleading information.

  5. collapse expand

    I just found an old photo taken of the anchor in what was called the “Jail House” in Port Au Prince in 1925 by my father, who was in the U.S. Navy on a Haiti/Cuba/Panama cruise.

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    I am a Brooklyn-based writer and editor covering arts and culture. I was an editor at Art & Antiques magazine, an editor at Picador USA, and an editor for a magazine about coffee and tea. On the best of days, I get to write about art, or work on fiction. My writing can be found on the Huffington Post, The Rumpus, and in Art & Antiques, Art in America, Tin House, Willamette Week, San Francisco magazine, Food Network Magazine, and Fresh Cup magazine. I also write about and promote the arts for Columbia University in New York.

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