Elena Strong (museum curator), Dr Charlotte Andrews (exhibit consultant), Michael Weeks (Minister of Public Works) and Robert Blee (chairman of the museum’s Board of Trustees) open the $1.4 million exhibit. *Photo supplied
Elena Strong (museum curator), Dr Charlotte Andrews (exhibit consultant), Michael Weeks (Minister of Public Works) and Robert Blee (chairman of the museum’s Board of Trustees) open the $1.4 million exhibit. *Photo supplied
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MONDAY, SEPT 24: A fascinating exhibit has opened at the National Museum of Bermuda celebrating the island’s stature as the shipwreck capital of the Atlantic.

‘Shipwreck Island’ will enthrall, educate and inspire with its tales of discovery and adventure. It also encapsulates the early history of Bermuda, with displays on early settlement, seamanship and slavery. 

More than 1,000 artifacts are on display in the permanent exhibition, in the Queen’s Exhibition Hall, Royal Naval Dockyard.

It took seven years to create, at a cost of $1.4 million, which included the restoration of the 1850 ammunition magazine building.

Archaeological finds from 16th and 17th century vessels wrecked on our reefs include gold jewellery, silver coins, Chinese porcelain, early navigation instruments, large cannon, olive jars, ammunition, weapons and rigging.

Elena Strong, museum curator, told the Bermuda Sun: “Bermuda has hundreds of shipwrecks — victims of Bermuda’s treacherous reefs, poor navigation, inaccurate charts and turbulent storms. They represent 500 years of Atlantic history and an extensive cross-section of maritime technology.

“Not everyone has access to the shipwrecks or their historical stories, so the exhibit intends to make history accessible.

“It hopefully will provide an invaluable teaching tool for schools on early Bermuda history (from 1505 to 1684), including slavery, showing that 70 years after its first settlement, Bermuda had developed its own unique Atlantic culture divergent of English ways.

“Visitors, locals and students should walk away with a greater appreciation of shipwrecks and how they provide insight into the lives on board a ship, the technology, craftsmanship, activities and cultures of the past.”

She added: “The exhibit hopes to inspire people to protect our precious underwater cultural heritage. If you explore Bermuda’s underwater shipwrecks then do so responsibly. Take only pictures and leave only bubbles.”

‘Shipwreck Island: Sunken Clues to Bermuda’s Past’ was officially opened in a ribbon-cutting ceremony by Ms Strong, Dr Charlotte Andrews (exhibit consultant), Michael Weeks (Minister of Public Works) and Robert Blee (chairman of the museum’s Board of Trustees).

Mr Weeks described the exhibit as “a gem for anyone with an interest in what lies on Bermuda’s ocean floor”.

“Remnants of Spanish naos, English galleons, French frigates, American schooners, brigantines, paddle steamers, steamships, gunboats, tugs and racing yachts (to name a few) can all be found on Bermuda’s ocean floor,” said Mr Weeks.

“Congratulations to the museum, its trustees, donors and staff for adding another major display to enhance our cultural tourism economy.”

Among the donors were the Bank of Bermuda Foundation, Bermuda Container Line, Bermuda International Shipping Ltd, BELCO and the Government of Bermuda.

For more information, contact the National Museum of Bermuda at 234-1418 or visit www.bmm.bm.