National Museum of Bermuda
The earlier Bermuda Maritime Museum (BMM) 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.
National Museum of Bermuda (Old Fort Complex)
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 now used by Dolphin Quest) to the ships docked at the Grassy Bay for supply of ammunitions from the Keep store.
Here are the main exhibits in the National Museum of Bermuda (go through the links for details):
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 and cultural exchanges with Portuguese and West Indies, see collections from the Royal Navy and the US Airforce and lot more.
Commissioner's House Bermuda
Photo: JERRYE AND ROY KLOTZ MD, cc by-sa 3.0
As you climb up the stairway, you get to see the stunning 1000 sq. ft. mural
painted by the artist Graham Foster depicting Bermuda's history and culture over the past 4 centuries... an awesome sight.
2) Queen's Exhibition Hall (1850 Ordnance House)
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 and artifacts recovered from 16th - 17th century shipwrecks in Bermuda's waters.
Queen's Exhibition Hall, Photo: AHEXP, cc by-sa 4.0
There are over 1,500 exhibits & artifact in the Queen's Exhibition Hall including a cannon, rare indigenous weapons made in the western world, olive jars, silver coins, pottery items that belonged to the British colonial days, many tools that were once used for medical, navigational and shipbuilding purpose, etc.
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) Forster Cooper Hall (1852 Ordnance House)
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 and boats, the great storehouse clock, and others reflecting maritime traditions of the island like fishing and turtling.
Some of the highlights here include:
A pilot gig Rambler which is the last one existing. This pilot rig was built in the late 1800s. It used to meet with the incoming vessels offshore and bring the pilots on such vessels back ashore navigating through numerous underwater reefs and using narrow water channels.
The 15ft sailboat known as Spirit of Bermuda. In 1935, two Bermudian cousins sailed this boat to complete an 18-day voyage between Bermuda and New York.
an old dinghy called Magic, that was built in St. David’s. It was used for hunting turtles. However, turtle hunting was banned in Bermuda and so was this boat in 1973.
The fitted racing dinghy, Victory, built in 1886, which won several regattas.
You can also see a collection of outboard engines that were manufactured in mid 1900s.
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.
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 and chargeable dolphin interaction programs where you can interact or even swim with the dolphins.
National Museum of Bermuda Imagery
Rotate the image for 360° view
Enhancements to erstwhile BMM
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 and collections done over and above what had been already existing as part of Bermuda Maritime Museum:
Display of decorative arts like furniture, local crafts, kite-making etc.
Display of all aspects of Bermuda’s unique architecture.
Research, publication and display of land sites as part of Bermuda's Archaeology.
Bermuda's transportation systems through historical time periods including carriages, trains, bikes, mopeds etc.
History and traditions in dance, music, entertainment and performances. It includes exhibits of musical instruments, Gombey costumes and traditions, and more.
History, equipment used and life styles of those engaged in Bermuda's agriculture.
Postal History including the national stamp and postal cover collection.
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.
Bermuda's first settlement and British colonization, including exhibits of rare personal possessions of such time.
History of Education and Schools in Bermuda.
Development of religions and religious institutions in Bermuda.
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.
The history and culture of people of African, Portuguese and other origin who immigrated to Bermuda, many of whose descendants are the present Bermudians.
Artifacts of household articles depicting the domestic life of Bermudians who lived through the centuries.
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.
Updates on National Museum of Bermuda
A cannon has been installed at the National Museum of Bermuda in June 2012 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.
In September 2015, it 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 Gonzalo in October 2014.
Adults $18.00; Seniors (over 65) $15.00; Under 16 free (must be accompanied by an adult).
Members have free entry with membership card.
School Groups Free... must book in advance (online through nmb.bm/visit/planning-your-visit/).
Summer: 9:00AM – 5:00PM
Weekends/Holidays: 9:30AM – 5:00PM
Winter: 10:00AM – 5:00PM
Last Admission: 4:00PM
Open every day except on Christmas Day.
Location and Contact
National Museum of Bermuda
Royal Naval Dockyard complex, Ireland Island, Sandys Parish.
Nearby Attractions and Eateries
There are several other great attractions nearby and within the dockyard area. Dolphin Quest
- a dolphin show and interaction center is located right with the museum complex. Walk down to visit the Bermuda Arts Center
or the Bermuda Craft Market
for its locally made goods, Bermuda Rum Cake Company and Dockyard Glassworks
(both housed in the same premises) for its exotic freshly baked cakes and also some exquisite glass pieces, The Jon Faulkner Gallery
for some beautiful handmade ceramics, Diamonds International for some exotic diamond pieces etc.
For lunch or snacks you can drop into the Bone Fish Bar and Grill
which is a stone's throw away from here. They offer a wide variety of dishes, starting from a simple snack like sanwiches and burgers to nice seafood, pastas, steaks etc. They also have a children's menu. The restaurant is wheelchair accessible.
The Dockyard Pastry Shop
is another option where you can drop by for lunch or even high tea. They offer a variety of sandwiches, paninis, wraps and desserts which you can enjoy indoors or even under the umbrellas outside. (12 Dockyard Terrace, Sandys , Phone: +1 441-232-2253)
The famous Frog and Onion Pub and Restaurant
is a short walk away. You can sample tasty pub style fare along with their craft beers here and also take a tour of Bermuda's only local brewery. For a quick ice cream walk down to Alex and Pete's Bermuda Artisan Ice Cream (9 Dockyard Terrace, Sandys).
The Clocktower Mall
in dockyard is a popular shopping arcade housing many boutique shops (most have their main stores in Hamilton) and even several eateries.
Visit Dockyard Attractions
for a complete description of all attractions and activities in and around Royal Naval Dockyard including historic sites, guided tours, water sports and lot more.
2) Check out Bermuda Museums
for museums and historical buildings in Bermuda.
6) Check out Sandys Parish
to know about other great attractions in the parish.
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