Bermuda: Former prison to become history research centre

By CMC

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(CMC) – Bermuda’s former maximum-security prison, Casemates, located at the island’s west end, is to get a new life as a history research centre.

According to the executive director of the National Museum of Bermuda (NMB), Elena Strong, the Casemates buildings in Dockyard, a former British naval base, would be used to focus on “the Atlantic World from 1415 to 1945”.

“The concept is to establish a multidisciplinary research facility at Casemates comprising a consortium of universities from the US, UK, Canada, Europe and Africa, which will operate under the umbrella of the NMB,” she said.

The museum, formerly called the Maritime Museum, acquired the Casemates property from the Bermuda government in December 2009.

The complex was once a barracks for the Royal Marine guards until the Royal Navy departed Bermuda in the 1950s, and then a maximum-security prison from the late 1950s to 1994, when it was replaced by the Westgate Correctional Facility nearby.

Casemates has been under restoration for years, but the new concept, as outlined Strong, laid out initiatives under the museum’s 10-year plan.

She said the plan was designed to boost Bermudian knowledge of history and the island’s cultural assets, strengthen research and make the NMB “a must-see museum”.

The new centre will also be used to build on education, including teacher training and schools programmes.

Strong said the education strategy would guide the “learning landscape” of the museum down to publications, research and collecting.

Strong, NMB’s former curator and deputy director, took over the top job a year ago after Edward Harris retired.

Strong said that her biggest challenge had been repairs needed after four hurricanes hit the island from 2014 to 2016.

She added that the storm strikes were “the worst disaster in the museum’s history”, but the museum had now “emerged from the cloud of disasters”.

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