Culture & History

A window into the past

The Turks & Caicos Islands
While sharing much, each of the Turks & Caicos Islands has it’s own unique story and it’s own unique history. The Turks islands have been called the salt islands reflecting much of the industry there. The Caicos Islands saw more agricultural industries, such as sisal, and there is long tradition of boat building. Each is special and together they are the Turks & Caicos Islands.

On the following pages discover the cultural history of the islands. Read more about the natural history, the geology, plant, and animal life on the Nature and Environment page.

History is our story

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The word history grows from the same root as story. In the Turks & Caicos Islands, our history is intimately connected, in all its aspects, to the sea and our natural history.

Prehistory is the story of the time before the written word. In the Turks & Caicos, prehistory refers to the era before Columbus brought Europeans and writing to the Americas. We access these stories of prehistory through archaeology. This prehistory is the time of the Lucayans.

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The Turks & Caicos historic period begins with European contact sometime in the 1490s. The Molasses Reef shipwreck exhibit dates to this early period of our history. Some suggest that Ponce de Leon was the first to record these Islands when he passed this way in 1512, while others believe that earlier records may include this area.

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History is those stories gleaned from the words written by our ancestors: in diaries, letters, reports, wills, lawsuits, expense accounts, ordinances and laws, books, religious instructions. The Museum is collecting a wide range of information to help us understand this period of history. Maps can be found that include the Caicos Islands  as early as 1530. Written text does not become extensive until the British declare ownership of the Islands. After this date records were kept in duplicate or triplicate files and can be found in various archives around the world.

For most of these records following 1764 there are copies held in the Public Record Office in England. Copy files are held in the Bahamas (1767-1848 and 1962-1969) and in Jamaica (1873-1962).

The Museum is having many of these files held overseas copied onto microfilm so that they are accessible in the Turks and Caicos.

Some say if you do not know your past you are destined to make the same mistakes. The Museum sees history as the keystone for much of its work and development