A national treasure

The Cayman Islands National Museum is one of the nation’s most important cultural attractions.

Not only does the museum house the islands’ national treasures but it is the oldest public building in the Cayman Islands.

The structure was built in the 1830s as a one-story property for government business, using traditional wattle-and-daub architecture.

Since then, it has been home to a post office, library, secondary school, dancehall and courthouse, adding a second-level floor along the way.

museum3That last incarnation led to the saying, “Walk the 12 steps,” meaning a person was going up the building’s external staircase to attend court.

Various additions over the years led to three separate buildings, which have since been attached, and the museum opened officially in 1990.

Destruction caused by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 led to the museum shutting its doors for a number of years for extensive renovations, but out of that work a fascinating piece of history was discovered.

During post-Ivan repair work, graffiti written in pencil was uncovered on one of the layers of a wall of the Old Gaol, dating from the days when it served as a prison.

That section is now enclosed in glass through which visitors can see the writing of that long-ago prisoner.

Before walking through the museum, take 15 minutes to view the introductory video, which is both educational and entertaining, a great start to your visit.

museum2The exhibits are a diverse and absorbing mix of items detailing the cultural and natural history, and all things in between, of the Cayman Islands.

Two permanent exhibits are dedicated to natural and cultural history, the former focusing on scientific studies and collections including everything from a bat cave to turtle nests, and the latter on shipbuilding, rope making and turtling. There are changing exhibits as well.

In all, there are about 9,000 artifacts in the museum’s permanent collection, which are alternated in the exhibits.

key-info-redOPENING HOURS

  • Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and select public holidays.

The Cayman Islands National Museum is located downtown opposite the George Town Harbour.

Tel: (345) 949-8368
Visit: museum.ky

 

Old time Cayman

In the early 1970s, George Nowak set out to capture the spirit of the Cayman Islands. “The People Time Forgot” showcases old Cayman, its people and life as it was before the advent of jet planes, television and modern transport.

“I donated all the 35mm negatives to the National Archives rather than have them mold in my closet,” says Nowak. “The National Museum then created this book and they sell it to raise money for their projects.”

museumbookThe book can be purchased from the National Archives and the National Museum, which displays a number of the photographs year-round. Individual photos from the book can also be purchased at the National Archives.