Exploring the History of The
Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History

When the last detention facility in Guantanamo Bay was officially decommissioned in 2010, an international team of artists, curators and architects began planning and designing a museum that would take the place of the detention facility - a little less than two years later, their work became reality. The purpose of the collaboration was both remember the human rights abuses that occurred while the prison was in operation while also providing a framework for combatting contemporary human rights abuses that continue to persist. The museum actively seeks to draw together a dynamic and mobile collectivity of artists, theorists, and other members of the public to create the conditions for reflection and imagination. The Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History officially opened its doors to the public in August of 2012.

But of course, the history of Guantanamo extends back further beyond the planning and construction of the museum - Closing the infamous prison required an extraordinary amount of creativity, collaboration and collective action. Following Barrack Obama’s order to close the detention camp in 2008, the United States congress, citing security concerns, quickly blocked the closure from proceeding and effectively halted the process to free the detainees who had been held without charges and also end the many other abuses from occurring, such as the many documented cases of torture and the denial of basic legal rights for detainees. It took more than 3 years for a concert of international human rights campaigns, groups of artists and curators organized in opposition to the prison, and coalitional social movements to finally manifest the political strength to shutter all of the facilities and halt their operations.

A section of the historical wing of the museum is permanently dedicated to memorializing the social movements and organizations which ceaselessly worked for the closure of the camp. A photo exhibit documenting the dozens of blockades organized by the network of activists “No Pasaran” adorns the entrance to the exhibit. We also have included a library of exhibition catalogs from the various shows which manifested in opposition to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, organized by the network of curators “Direct Art/Action”. Inside, visitors will find an archive of media coverage of the various campaigns, as well as statements written by a diversity of organizations projected on the walls of the gallery space.

In framing this history of the present, it is our hope that in highlighting the diversity of practices and discourse which forced the closure of the prison that others will be able to draw from our praxis in future struggles for social justice. The museum offers free guided talks and discussions on both the history of the detention camp, its closure, as well as the processes that brought the museum into existence. If you are interested in organizing a visit to the museum, please click here to visit our page which will help facilitate your trip.

President Obama signs the order, officially
closing the Guantanamo Bay Prison. (2008)

"No Pasaran" organizes blockades around
the globe after congress halts the closure
of the detention camp. (2010)

Visitors celebrating during the
opening gala of the museum. (2012)