One of Barbados’ newer museums is the Exchange Interactive Centre, also known as the Exchange Museum Barbados. It is housed in a beautifully restored 18th-century building that was previously the home of Harrison College (1745 to 1871) and a Masonic Temple (1871 to 2005).
Directly across from The Cathedral Church of St. Michael and All Angels on S. Michael’s Row, the Exchange Museum Barbados, which began operations in January 2018, is located within Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Exchange Museum Barbados on Spry Street in Bridgetown. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey. Exchange Museum Barbados on Spry Street in Bridgetown. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
Visitors to the Exchange Museum Barbados can explore interactive exhibitions over two floors across three main themes:
The Currency Exhibition, which takes up the first floor at the Exchange Museum Barbados, provides insight into the development of trade in Bridgetown and contributions to the world starting in the 1700s. There is mention of Black business owners like hotelier Rachel Pringle Polgreen who owned the Royal Naval Hotel. This section of the museum also educates visitors on the history of currency in Barbados, the Caribbean, and across the globe. Finally, there is a major section on the development of the Central Bank of Barbados, which was established by an Act of the Barbados Parliament on May 2, 1972.
Bridgetown as Sugar Entrepot at Exchange Museum Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey. Bridgetown as Sugar Entrepot at Exchange Museum Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
Currency notes of Barbados at Exchange Museum Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey. Currency notes of Barbados at Exchange Museum Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
The Freemasonry Exhibition, on the second floor at the Exchange Museum Barbados, provides insight into the history of freemasonry and how it came to be in Barbados. Membership in the secret society included prominent Barbadian politicians like Sir Grantley Herbert Admas (Barbados’ first Premier and the first and only Prime Minister of the West Indies) and Errol Walton Barrow (Barbados’ first Prime Minister). The freemasonry section also highlights other famous members across the globe, including George Washington, Sir Winston Churchill, Nat King Cole, and Edward Buzz Aldrin.
Freemasonry exhibition at Exchange Museum Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey. Freemasonry exhibition at Exchange Museum Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
The Craft of Freemasonry at Exchange Museum Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey. The Craft of Freemasonry at Exchange Museum Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
The School Exhibition, on the second floor at the Exchange Museum Barbados, provides insight into the development of schooling and education in Barbados during the 18th century, focusing on Harrison College.  It was founded in 1733 by wealthy Bridgetown merchant Thomas Harrison and took up residence in the museum building in 1745.
School Exhibition at Exchange Museum Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey. School Exhibition at Exchange Museum Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
Harrison College Puzzle at Exchange Museum Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey. Harrison College Puzzle at Exchange Museum Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
One of my favorite interactive pieces from the Exchange Museum Barbados is a timeline highlighting over thirty major trade events in Barbados during 300 years. As you turn each ball on the timeline, you learn about Barbadian history and get insight into how it became the crown jewel in the British colonial empire.
History of Barbados Commerce and Trade 1925 to 1938. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey. History of Barbados Commerce and Trade 1925 to 1938. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
1625: A British ship, the Olive Blossom, encountered Barbados.
1627: First British settlement of Barbados at Hometown.
1628: On July 5, Bridgetown was established by Charles Wolverstone, who Brough 64 settlers with him.
1633: Imperial Post Office opened a Packet Agency in Barbados.
1639: Barbados House of Assembly established.
1640s: Introduction of sugarcane processing technology.
1706: Bank was established to remedy the shortage of gold and silver coins with a paper money currency.
1745: Harrison College opened in this building (where the Barbados Exchange Interactive Centre is located) with 24 boys and quarters for the masters.
1788: Sir Philip Gibbes introduced the ‘pineapple penny’ to provide coins for small local transactions.
1791: Rachel Pringle Polgreen, who ran the Royal Naval Hotel, died and left a considerable fortune in her will.
A life size caricature of Rachel Pringle Polgreen at Exchange Museum Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey. A life-size caricature of Rachel Pringle Polgreen at Exchange Museum Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
1807: On March 25, the slave trade was abolished in the British Empire after a vigorous campaign by abolitionists.
1816: Enslaved people, led by Bussa, rebelled across the island. Severe reprisals followed.
1824: St Michael’s Church became a cathedral.
1830s: Friendly societies, encouraged by the Anglican Church, were first created in Barbados.
1831: A severe hurricane devastated Barbados and damaged many buildings and business premises in Bridgetown.
1834: Emancipation of enslaved people across the British Empire; British government, introduced colonial Banking Regulations.
1836: Colonial Bank, later Barclays’ Bank DCO, received its charter.
1837: London Bourne owned three stores in Bridgetown and had a net worth of between twenty and thirty thousand dollars.
1838: The end of the Apprenticeship system, which was introduced after Emancipation.
1840: Barbados Mutual Life Assurance Company, founded in 1840, is the oldest English-speaking mutual life assurance society in the Western Hemisphere.
Barbados Mutual Building. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey. Barbados Mutual Life Assurance Building. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
1846: The West Indian sugar industry lost the protection of the British government.
1851: Barbados House of Assembly passed the Post Office Act.
1852: On April 15, the first issue of Barbados stamps went on sale.
1854: Imperial Packet Agency and the Inland Post Office were amalgamated.
1886: Barbados Post inaugurated an International Parcel Service with England.
1872: Parliament Buildings in Bridgetown became the headquarters of the Barbados Postal Service for 112 years, until 1984.
1873: The Bridgetown Club opened in Hoad’s House on Broad Street with 100 members.
1887: International Parcel Service with the United States inaugurated.
1895: The Bridgetown Club moved to the top floor of the Barbados Mutual Life Assurance Company’s building on Broad Street.
1904 – 1910: Thousands of Barbadians left the island to work on the Panama Canal construction, and many sent remittances back home.
Hamburg Sud at Exchange Museum Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey. Hamburg Sud at Exchange Museum Barbados. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
1929: On March 29, Captain William Lancaster made the first international flight into Barbados in a single-engine Avro Avian.
1933: Over 60 land ships across Barbados came together as a ‘fleet’ and were named the Barbados Land Ship Association.
1936: Unique Progressive Friendly Society was created in August.
1937: Riots break out in Bridgetown after the deportation of Clement Payne.
1938: On October 19, the first scheduled flight to Barbados, a KLM Royal Dutch mail shuttle from Trinidad.
The Exchange Barbados Museum is located on Spry Street in Bridgetown. It is open from Monday to Saturday, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Visitors can explore the museum to learn about the island’s history on their own or book a one-hour guided tour. This can also be combined with a general history of Bridgetown tour with stops at the Errol Barrow Statue, the Independence Arch, and the Spirit Bond.
General entrance to the Exchange Barbados Museum is $15 BDS per adult, $10 BDS for group adults, and $5 BDS for children under 12 years old. Combined with a tour of Bridgetown is $45 BDS per adult and $20 BDS per child.
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Welcome to Caribbean & Co. founded by Ursula Petula Barzey who enjoys traveling the Caribbean in search of the best cultural and food adventures, places to stay and live/work opportunities. Launched in 2014, Caribbean & Co. has won five travel media awards.
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