In 1997 Spencer Meredith, with the help of Professor Jose M. Cruxent, founded the non-profit Sociedad Historica de Montecristi, Inc. Professor Cruxent, at the time was co-director of the archeological excavations at La Isabela. La Isabela is the place where Columbus established his first settlement on his second voyage to the island.
As a result of Professor Cruxent field work in the unexplored coastal hills of Monte Cristi Province, near La Isabela, the decision to build a public museum in Monte Cristi was made.
Mr. Meredith built the museum in 2003 as a contribution to the city to house and protect Monte Cristi’s and the nation’s patrimony.
The building’s design makes it stand out from the other building surrounding Duarte Park and in the city. The museum is over 3,000 sq. ft. of space that can accommodate over 400 linear feet of exhibits. It was designed to be a low energy consuming building by take advantage of natural light and prevailing breezes. There is also an open-air cantina that faces the park. It provides a pleasant place to relax and enjoy the view.
The “Museo de Montecristi” contains an extensive collection of valuable archaeological objects found in and around Monte Cristi Province. These objects include fossils and artifacts from the pre-Columbian Tainos and items salvaged from the hundreds of shipwrecks found in Monte Cristi bay.
The first set of artifacts contained in the museum are Pre-Columbian Taino cultural pieces and fossils. Each artifact is accompanied by an explanation of the importance of the symbols and its mythological meaning.
Monte Cristi was once a prominent trading town. It traded extensively with Europe. Due to the shallow waters and the numerous reefs, many ships sank. Not all of the items on these wrecks could be salvaged at the time. Some of the wrecks have been salvaged recently. The museum contains many of the items that were excavated and preserved.
The building is not just a museum. It is also a research center and library. The research center has a lab area that can be used for archaeological research, conservation and teaching. In addition, there is a photography room to catalogue and register objects. Finally, there is a secure room that is used for the conservation and treatment of small objects found at shipwreck sites.
The library houses almost 900 copies of original records, correspondences between Monte Cristi, the Governor of Santo Domingo and the Spanish government and maps from the “Archives of the Indies” in Seville, Spain. These records begin with Colon’s arrival and continue through the 1750’s and the second founding of Monte Cristi as “San Fernando de Monte Cristi.” There are also hundreds of contemporary books, journals and technical magazines that are vital for archaeological and marine archaeological research.