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Posted by portugalpress on June 16, 2016

Lagos’ slavery museum, closed since November 2013 to undergo a €426,000 overhaul, reopened in the heart of the town last week.

Located in the ‘Mercado de Escravos’ building, the expanded museum is now spread across two floors and features an advanced AR (Augmented Reality) system, which can be accessed from visitors’ smartphones and tablets to obtain further information and interactive content.

Though it is meant to be a tourist attraction, the museum is also a way of owning up to a “sad part of the town’s history” and shedding some light on the town’s pivotal role in the development of slavery in Europe.

In fact, Lagos is said to be the first European port where African slaves were brought to.

The town’s link to slavery was further proved in 2009, when 158 skeletons were found during digs in the area where the Anel Verde parking area would be built.

The remains belonged to African slaves, who were dumped into a hole made specifically to throw sick and dying servants into. These ditches were approved by Portugal’s king at the time, D. Manuel I, who wanted to avoid leaving bodies on streets where “dogs would drag and devour them in plain sight”.

Many of the skeletons showed evidence of malnutrition and “direct and indirect violence”, namely signs of having been chained up.

The remains of a woman holding a baby were also found, and are thought to belong to a mother thrown into the hole with her child in her hands.

It’s these kinds of horrific practices that Lagos wants to condemn.

“The reopening of the museum is the first step on a long journey of historical responsibility. We want to develop this theme by speaking with other communities linked to us through this same legacy,” said mayoress Joaquina Matos at the opening ceremony on June 6, cited by Barlavento newspaper.

“We’re all responsible for reflecting upon the evolution of slavery in modern times, which, despite being different now, still exists and jeopardises the most basic and fundamental human rights.

“The council has accepted this responsibility by opening a museum that brings some visibility to our sad history – namely our role, for centuries, in human trafficking.”

Culture Minister Filipe de Castro Mendes also attended the ceremony, saying that “Portugal is sharing this memory (of slavery) that led millions of Africans to a terrible fate through a completely condemnable practice which was the trafficking of human beings”.

The museum features all sorts of objects, documents and remains from the times of slavery, including a pair of handcuffs from the 17th century and a manuscript from 1582 detailing the costs of burials in Lagos.

It is open Tuesday to Sunday between 10am and 12.30pm and 2pm and 5.30pm.

Tickets cost €3, though discounts are available. Lagos residents, council workers and children under 12 can enter for free.

282 771 724 | museu@cm-lagos.pt

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