On the corner of Frederick Street and Keate Street in downtown Port of Spain is the National Museum and Art Gallery of Trinidad. Home to Amerindian artifacts and other displays showcasing Trinidad’s varied and interesting history, the museum is worth a stop if you’re in the city.
For the casual visitor trying to answer questions like how the interesting mix of people walking around the island came to call themselves Trinis and why towns carry Spanish (San Fernando, Sangre Grande) and French (Blanchisseuse) names, this is a good place to start. The museum offers snapshots of life in Trinidad during colonial rule, the changing of hands between the French, Spanish, and English, the African slaves, the indentured laborers from India, the Portuguese influence, the Venezuelan migration, and the Amerindians that were here before them all.
There are also exhibits on Trinidad’s oil wealth and the local flora and fauna.
If you’re going to build a walled-in, windowless space on an island with an average temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit, you need to put in a couple of fans. Not just one in front of your bored employees watching TV, but throughout the museum, so visitors don’t die of heat stroke or slip on their own sweat after it drips on the floor.
Also, the museum officials should have a read through of some of the explanations next to the exhibits. On one descriptive plaque, the words, “which we discussed on previous pages” was included in the description. I don’t mind that you take your blurbs from a book, but a little editing to eliminate the obvious wouldn’t hurt.
The staff also objects to picture taking inside of the museum. To get around this, just take photos when no one is looking (like I did with this one above). The only surveillance cameras are in the sole air-conditioned room that hosts watercolors depicting scenes of Trinidad from back in the day.
The museum is undergoing reconstruction at the moment, which decreases the picture-taking opportunities. There are normally revolving art exhibitions on the second floor, but at the time of writing, there was nothing going on and another section of the museum was roped off to visitors due to renovation.
The National Museum & Art Gallery is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am to 6 pm, and on Sunday from 2 pm to 6 pm. Admission is free of charge.
Around the Museum
You only need an hour or so in the museum, so if you want to hang around afterward, you can sit in the shade in the memorial park across the street. Next door is the National Academy for the Performing Arts, a structure that looks like a Sydney Opera House from the future.