I love history. Whenever I have the opportunity to visit a museum, I take advantage and sign up. On a recent cruise in Bermuda with Viking Ocean Cruises, I visited the National Museum of Bermuda.
The Museum offers a fascinating look at 500 years of local history and culture. It is displayed in military buildings on the extensive grounds of the Keep citadel, including the award-winning restored Commissioner’s House. Located at the western end of Bermuda at the old Royal Naval Dockyard, the Museum offers several easy-to-understand exhibits.
The Keep Fort was once part of a ring of fortifications guarding the Dockyard against attack by land and sea.
Royal Engineers designed the fort to defend the channels and approaches to the Dockyard. The Keep, once a derelict wasteland, has been transformed into an award-winning cultural and educational institution. Former ammunition storehouses now serve as exhibition halls, offices, and event spaces.
Tracing Bermuda History
Bermuda was discovered in 1505 by Juan de Bermúdez, a Spanish captain who spotted the uninhabited island on his way back to Spain after dropping off slaves in the West Indies. Bermuda, however, was not colonized for another century, although numerous ships came to grief on her treacherous reefs.
Several items on display were recovered from the ocean’s floor from the 16th century, including a Ligurian blue on blue majolica plate recovered from the San Pedro, which shipwrecked at Bermuda in 1596 on her return voyage to Spain from Cartagena, Columbia.
A map from around 1630 by Johannes De Laet is another featured item.
After the English settled Bermuda in 1612, it was featured in many maps because it served as a colonial way station. English merchant ships and privateers stopped at Bermuda to re-provision, discharge cargo, passengers, and load colonial products bound for England and the American and West Indian colonies. This map is the first time any mapmaker included the name Manhattan on a printed map.
The Museum covers nearly every aspect of Bermuda’s history.
One of my favorite exhibits is “Shipwreck Island: Sunken Clues to Bermuda’s Past.”
A beautiful collection of 16th and 17th-century shipwreck artifacts are on display. Bermuda’s earliest wrecks are featured, with more than 1,500 artifacts of international and local significance. The collection includes large cannons, rare New World indigenous weapons, intact olive jars, silver coins, colonial pottery, medical, navigation, shipbuilding tools, and exotic trade goods from the New World and Asia.
The exhibit also explores life aboard ships, the people who discovered Bermuda’s earliest shipwrecks, underwater archaeology, and the importance of protecting underwater cultural heritage for future generations.
Another fantastic exhibit is the “Hall of History.” Local artist Graham Foster created a grand mural that captures, in art, Bermuda’s long history.
“I’ve drawn from Bermuda’s amazing multi-faceted history but also thrown in folklore, characters, traits, and traditions,” the artist is quoted as saying. “While much has been written about Bermuda’s history, there are few visuals, so hopefully, this mural will re-ignite an interest in our history, especially among young people.”
Taking in the grounds and buildings, the Museum is large. The Keep’s massive ramparts and bastions enclose eight Grade I listed buildings, including the hill-top Commissioner’s House. The 16-acre Museum property also extends to the fortifications adjoining the Keep and includes Casemates Barracks, which dominates the Dockyard skyline.
Plan at least two hours to enjoy this comprehensive Museum. It will visually take you back in time.Tags: Bermuda, Cruise, Viking Ocean Cruises