Last Updated: January 2, 2017
National Museum of Bermuda
The earlier Bermuda Maritime Museum located at the dockyard in Sandys, has been expanded, exhibits and programs enhanced making it the National Museum of Bermuda. The original museum was established in 1974 and officially opened in 1975.
It was housed in the 10-acre area of the great fortress The Keep
. In December 2009 the Bermuda government decided to transfer the Casemates Barracks
, additional buildings and fortifications to the existing Maritime Museum giving it a national stature covering an expanded area of 15 acres of land.
First about The Keep fortress which houses most of the exhibits and artifacts of the museum. The fortress was built by the British to defend the Royal Naval Dockyard from enemy attacks. It has 7 bastions named A to G mounted with guns that were built for firing at the enemy.
At the lower grounds of the fortress there is a large store area built in 1857 that comprised of two large bombproof magazines that stored huge amount of gun powder, one shell storage room, one filling room and one shifting house. Small boats were sent from the Keep Pond (a small water area in the fortress) to the ships docked at the Grassy Bay for supply of ammunitions from the Keep store.
Ariel view of National Museum of Bermuda
Here are the main exhibits in the National Museum of Bermuda (at dockyard):
1) Commissioner's House
: This is the oldest cast iron house in the world built in 1820 in Georgian architecture. The ground and two upper floors house numerous precious collections and exhibits. You will come to know about Bermuda's slavery period, get to see many rare coins and notes, understand the island's economic links & cultural exchanges with Portuguese and West Indies, see collections from Royal Navy and US Airforce and lot more.
Sketch outline of the Bermuda National Museum
2) 1850 Ordnance House (Queen's Exhibition Hall) : Located at the lower grounds of the fortress, this used to be the bombproof magazine that stored 4,860 kegs of gun powder. It has been converted into an exhibition hall which was inaugurated by the Queen Elizabeth II in 1975. A recent set of exhibits here depict the story of how Bermuda was discovered and how the settlement took place in the island. This is done with a series of collections & artifacts recovered from 16th - 17th century shipwrecks in Bermuda's waters.
3) Shifting House: This used to be the storage house for storing muskets, gun powder etc from the ships undergoing repair work at the dockyard. It faces the Keep Pond from where small boats were dispatched to the ships to bring the gunpowder etc. It now houses many artifacts from 17th century shipwrecks including Sea Venture
, the ship of Sir George Somers which got wrecked near St. George's in 1609 as a result of which Somers and his men came ashore and initiated the first settlement in Bermuda.
4) 1852 Ordnance House (Forster Cooper Hall): This was also a magazine for storing gun powder but it's a smaller one compared to 1850 Ordnance House. It has interconnecting chambers. Various exhibits here depict the story of Royal Naval Dockyard and how it was developed. The hall has been dedicated to Forster Cooper, a Bermudian who made major contribution in collecting and preserving the museum artifacts.
5) The Boat Loft (1853 - 1890 Ordnance House): Although the construction started in 1853, it had to be stopped soon due to wide-scale epidemic of Yellow fever. Later the upper floor with an wooden roof was constructed and finished in 1890. It houses exhibits such as Fitted Dinghies with large sails, several other yachts & boats, the great storehouse clock, and others reflecting maritime traditions of the island like fishing and turtling.
6) The Dainty - Ocean Racer: This is a lovely yacht more than 100 years old and has been restored. This yacht won many races in its time.
7) The Dolphin Quest
: The Keep Pond is now part of a Dolphin exhibition and training center which is located inside the museum complex. You can just walk into Dophin Quest and see dolphins at play. There is no separate admission fee. However there are separate & chargeable dolphin interaction programs where you can interact or even swim with the dolphins.
Update June, 2012
National Museum of Bermuda now has a cannon that was excavated from the 'Warwick' shipwreck that sank in 1619 at Castle Harbor. The ship came to unload cargo and passengers, and pick up tobacco from Bermuda.
The former Bermuda Maritime Museum and Enhancements to make it National Museum
The authorities of the erstwhile Bermuda Maritime Museum
were instrumental in restoring the Commissioner's House and other historic buildings within the Keep fort through a painstaking process. With the present expansion to the Bermuda National Museum, there have been many enhancements to the exhibits, programs, nature of its research and publications.
Here are some highlights of the enhancements of exhibits & collections done over and above what had been already existing as part of Bermuda Maritime Museum:
1) Display of decorative arts like furniture, local crafts, kite-making etc.
2) Display of all aspects of Bermuda’s unique architecture.
3) Research, publication and display of land sites as part of Bermuda's Archaeology.
4) Bermuda's transportation systems through historical time periods including carriages, trains, bikes, mopeds etc.
5) History and traditions in dance, music, entertainment and performances. It includes exhibits of musical instruments, Gombey costumes and traditions, and more.
6) History, equipment used and life styles of those engaged in Bermuda's agriculture.
7) Postal History including the national stamp and postal cover collection.
8) In Sports and Recreation, there are displays on cricket history and memorabilia, soccer, and other athletic sports. The great achievers are also highlighted in this section.
9) Bermuda's first settlement and British colonization, including exhibits of rare personal possessions of such time.
10) History of Education & Schools in Bermuda.
11) Development of religions and religious institutions in Bermuda.
12) How the defense mechanism of the Royal Naval Dockyard
was built up over time and the role of the fort Keep, the Casemate barracks that used to be once a prison, and the Ramparts.
14) The history and culture of people of African, Portuguese and other origin who immigrated to Bermuda, many of whose descendants are the present Bermudians.
15) Artifacts of household articles depicting the domestic life of Bermudians who lived through the centuries.
16) Bermuda's outstanding contribution to world's heritage including rigs and sloops, marine science breakthroughs, how Bermuda Shorts
originated, Bermuda onions, Cassava Pie, and what Bermuda has been probably most well known for - The Bermuda Triangle and the mystery behind the disappearances of ships and planes.
Admission fee for adults is $15 per person. Admission is free for children under 16. Entry fee for Bermuda senior citizens is $12. Admission fee includes entry to Dolphin Quest but not any dolphin interaction activity. Entry is usually offered free for all locals during the months of January & February.
Update May 2015: the Commissioner’s House was damaged during Hurricane Gonzalo in October 2014 and is currently closed while repair work is being done. Temporarily the museum admission fees have been dropped to Adults $10 and Bermuda Seniors $8 until the repair work is complete and Commissioner’s House re-opens (expected in February 2016).
Update September 2015: This is the second consecutive time the National Museum of Bermuda has made it to the Travelers' Choice list of top 10 museums in the whole of Caribbean. It has been ranked 6th this year despite closure of Commissioners House due to its extensive roof damage from hurricane last year.
Open daily from 9:30am-5pm (Except on Christmas Day). Last entrance is at 4pm.
Winter Hours (usually starts from December):
Monday through Friday, 10am to 4pm, last entry at 3pm.
Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 5pm, last entry at 4pm.
Location and Contact
National Museum of Bermuda
Royal Naval Dockyard complex, Ireland Island, Sandys Parish.
2) Check out Bermuda Museums
for museums & historical buildings in Bermuda.
5) Check out Sandys Parish
to know about other great attractions in the parish.
Visitors' Reviews & Comments
Review and share your experience.