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$5M for Bunce Island

$5M for Bunce Island

Bunce Island, the 18th century British slave castle located in the Freetown harbour near Pepel, will finally get the attention it deserves with the launching of a $5 million historical preservation project sponsored by the Bunce Island Coalition (BIC).

British slave traders sent thousands of African captives from Bunce Island to rice plantations in South Carolina and Georgia in the North American Colonies, and sugar plantations in the West Indies.

The slave castle was abandoned in the 1840s, and over the years many of its stone walls have collapsed.

The Bunce Island Coalition has four goals:

  1. To stabilize the ruins on Bunce Island, and build a proper historical park complete with all-weather exhibits that tell the history of the island.
  2. To build a sea wall to halt the erosion on the north end of the island  that threatens to destroy the ancient buildings.
  3. To construct all the necessary facilities for a modern historical park, including a new caretaker’s house, jetty, store rooms, public toilets, etc.
  4. To build a museum in Freetown dedicated to the story of Bunce Island and the impact of the Atlantic slave trade in Sierra Leone.

The Bunce Island Coalition launched the project on October 27th with the arrival of a team of four American engineers and scientists who will assess the preservation issues on the island.

The team is led by Micheal Schuller, president of Atkinson-Noland Associates, a U.S. engineering firm that specializes in preserving historic structures.

Schuller’s team also includes Donald Harvey, a structural engineer. Amanda Trienans and Christina Lombardo, materials scientists representing the New York firm Integrated Conservation Resources, are also team members.

They will run tests to determine the strength of Bunce Island’s remaining walls. The engineering team will be in Sierra Leone for two weeks.

During the launching of the project this week, BIC officers and their engineering Consultants will meet with government ministers and other officials, as well as U.S. Ambassadors Michael Owen.

The Coalition will also keep in close contact with the US Embassy in Freetown.

The Bunce Island Coalition has pledged to involve Sierra Leoneans in the project wherever possible, so while the US engineering team will play a significant role in designing the project and supervising its implementation, Sierra Leonean firms will carry out most of the actual work on the island. The American engineers will also consult with Sierra Leonean academics in a number of disciplines, as well as local architects, engineers, and construction companies, to determine what resources are available locally.

The American engineering team will investigate the ruins at Bunce Island for a week, but they will also spend two days surveying the ruins of old Fourah Bay Collage in Cline Town. The Bunce Island Coalition hopes to rebuild Old FBC and use that venerable building as a museum dedicated to Bunce Island and the Atlantic Slave Trade.

The Bunce Island Coalition will host a press conference together with the American engineering team prior to the team’s departure on November 12th.

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