Bunce Island Slave Castle
Importance for African Americans
Virtual Archaeology Project
Bunce Island Weblinks
Clues from History and Archaeology
Brief History of Bunce Island
Bunce Island Reconstructed
Project Team and Sponsors
The Castle Complex
Where We Go From Here . . . . .
Visit Bunce Island in 1805
Make a Contribution

Project Team

Joseph Opala is an American historian who lived in Sierra Leone for 17 years, teaching at Fourah Bay College and doing research on Sierra Leone's history and culture. Mr. Opala has been studying the history, archaeology, and oral history of Bunce Island since 1976. He has also organized three historic "homecomings" to Sierra Leone by Gullah people, African Americans from the coastal South Carolina and Georgia. Professor Opala now teaches history at James Madison University in Virginia.

Gary Chatelain is a professor of art and design at James Madison University. Professor Chatelain has considerable experience in the field of Computer Assisted Design (CAD), but has also done research on the history of Georgian architecture and interior design. Since 2004, Professor Chatelain has spent hundreds of hours preparing a digital recreation of Bunce Island's buildings and interior spaces. In 2006, the digital animation of Bunce Island appeared in an exhibit at the New-York Historical Society.

Andy Hall is a nautical archaeologist who has served as the graphic illustrator on several underwater projects, including the wreck of the French ship La Belle, the Civil War blockade runner Denbigh, and the U-166 Project. He wrote the chapter on nautical archaeology and the internet in the International Handbook of Underwater Archaeology (2002). Mr. Hall has created a detailed digital reconstruction of a slave ship for our Bunce Island model based on the original plans of an early 19th century vessel.

Virtual Archaeology

The Bunce Island Computer Animation Project falls under the heading of virtual archaeology, a multidisciplinary field that combines archaeology, history, architectural history, nautical history, art history, computer science, and art and design. Projects in this field are so complex that one person rarely, if ever, commands all the knowledge necessary to carry them out. Our own project has benefitted from the fact that our team members – the co-directors (Opala and Chatelain) and the virtual slave ship designer (Hall) -- all have experience in more than one discipline. Opala has been researching the history and archaeology of Bunce Island for more than 30 years; Chatelain has expertise in computer assisted design and architectural history; and Hall is skilled in both nautical archaeology and digital reconstruction.

Project Sponsors

The first phase of the project was funded by the New York Historical Society for preparation of the video accompanying its exhibit "Finding Priscilla's Children."

The second phase was funded by Gondobay Manga Foundation, established by Isaiah Washington, the African American film and TV actor. Mr. Washington learned of his own ancestral connection to Sierra Leone through DNA testing. His foundation advocates cooperative planning to achieve improvements in the lives of Sierra Leoneans.

The third phase of our project is supported by Action Africa, a group of employees of "Accenture," the management consulting and technology services company. Action Africa is composed of Accenture employees originally from Africa and the Caribbean and others with a passion for Africa. It aims at assisting Africans in their own countries and promoting a greater understanding of Africa here in the United States.

We gratefully acknowledge the sponsorship of the Friends of Sierra Leone, a non-profit organization founded in 1991 by returned Peace Corps Volunteers who were soon joined by their Sierra Leonean friends and other volunteers who had served in Sierra Leone. A registered non-profit organization, FoSL is acting as the fiscal agent for this project.

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