More than a third of the population of Belize is part of the Kriol (Creole) community, who are descended from enslaved Africans brought to the country by Europeans in the 18th and 19th centuries. The legacy of British colonialism in Belize is strong: national school curricula, the offerings at the national museum, and the booming tourism market all tend to focus on the ancient Maya and colonial periods, with little emphasis on the rich history and culture of the Kriol.
Eleanor Harrison-Buck will use the Fellowship to establish a new Kriol public history museum, working in collaboration with Kriol community leaders, educators, and local and regional authorities. For over 25 years, Harrison-Buck has conducted archaeological research in Belize. Through the course of her work in the lower Belize River valley, she has cultivated deep connections with her local collaborators in this project. Her work will build on her prior research in this area, which includes a temporary exhibit on Kriol culture that she helped develop with collaborators last summer in Crooked Tree village—one of the oldest Kriol communities in Belize. Working with community partners, she will now spearhead the design of a permanent exhibition that will incorporate local oral histories, historic artifacts, images, and stories to present this culture to tourists, teachers, and students. As the first of its kind, the new museum, housed in a building donated by the town of Crooked Tree, will also be a vital meeting point for the Kriol community who are committed to supporting and sustaining it.