Tampa Museum Shelves Pirate Ship Exhibit with Slavery Connection

A controversial exhibit featuring artifacts from a former slave ship, the Whydah, will not premiere at Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry next May as planned.

The museum said in a two-sentence news release that the exhibit is still in the conceptual phase and that museum leaders believed, "there is insufficient time to effectively review how the sensitive history of this particular exhibition will be treated."

A coalition of black civil rights groups opposes the exhibit, which will focus on the Whydah's time after its capture by pirates. Coalition leaders feel the museum is seeking to cash in on the ship's controversial past while de-emphasizing Africans' suffering under slavery.

The head of the company that is designing the exhibit said pressure from civil rights groups had nothing to do with the cancellation.

John Norman, president of Arts and Exhibitions International, said artifacts that were excavated from the wrecked ship this summer have to be treated to remove salt from the metal so they don't deteriorate.

"Usually it takes about a year to develop an exhibition," Norman said. "We just do not have enough time to get it developed for this summer."

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