With two stories and six different collections, the Cayman Islands National Museum is a fun way to learn about the history of the arts in this beautiful geographic location. The massive collection of cultural, historical, and award-winning art pieces will stun and delight even visitors with no knowledge of art.
Located in the building that previously housed Old Courts, the national museum is on Harbor Drive in the George Town area of the Cayman Islands. The building itself is a work of art and, inside, the staff is dedicated to continuing to preserve the arts heritage of the area. The museum opened in 1990, although the collection was started as far back as the 1930s with Ira Thompson’s private arts collection. The Caymanian government purchased that collection in 1979 and it formed the core of the now over 8000 items that are housed at the museum (from the very small - like coins - to the very large - like the 14-foot-long catboat).
The national museum features frequently rotating temporary exhibitions that vary depending on theme and length of stay. The museum also is home to a variety of permanent collections.
- Ira Thompson Collection - This collection is named for the man who is often considered the “father” of the many museums located on the Cayman Islands, as he was well known for almost literally collected anything. The permanent Thompson collection consists of multiple manuscripts, time pieces, prints, musical instruments, animal specimens, fossils, household utensils, and other tools. This is the core of the museum, containing over 1500 items.
- Natural History Collection - Focusing on science and the long-standing traditions with a collection of various specimens (some that came from the Ira Thompson collection and others that are newer specimens), the Natural History Permanent Collection includes a variety of sea fossils that were discovered on the land in Cayman Islands, bird taxidermy specimens, seashells, and others. This collection is constantly growing.
? Cultural History Collection - This section of the permanent collection features the many cultural achievements of the Cayman Islands. The collection seeks to trace a direct line between the cultural world of the people in early days of the Cayman Islands (by using physical items from shipbuilding, rope making, and turtling as well as cultural representation through discussion of their personal ideologies) and the cultural patterns of the current time.
- Art Collection - One of the other large collections at the national museum is the art collection. Featuring an extensive collection of artwork, this section focuses on Caymanian cultural and natural life by displaying pieces by both international and local artists. As part of the collection, make sure to pay special attention to the McCoy Collection. This collection displays pieces of artwork that have won the McCoy Art Prize (paintings, sculpture, drawing, craft, and photography).
-Admission is charged for adults with a discounted admission for seniors (60 years old and above) and an even more discounted admission for children (from 6 years old to 12 years old). Free admission is permitted for members of the museum as well as local students and children under the age of 6.
The national museum offers a variety of educational opportunities, which are organized through their Education Programme. The goal of these programs is to make sure to help raise awareness of art in the general public starting early. Field trips can be catered to the curriculum goals and grade level of each classroom. There is also a section of the website devoted to educational resources for both students and teachers that don’t include having to take a physical trip to the museum.
Field trips to the national museum can include workshops, lectures, guided tours, and other children’s activities. Students are also very welcome to visit on a more self-guided field trip, where each student determines his or her own pace in viewing the collections. There are also audiovisual tours and different speaker series. For teachers who don’t want to take their students out of the classroom, the museum also offers a variety of social media related videos, like videos on Wednesdays that teach the meaning of specific art vocabulary words and questions on Thursdays called “Tink Fass.”
There is a nearly endless selection of art related gifts at the museum gift shop. From locally made jewelry to official flags of the Cayman Islands, guests who visit the museum can bring home a souvenir that is, in and of itself, a piece of art. There are even t-shirts and other apparel that lets visitors literally wear a piece of the museum home with them.
Cayman Islands National Museum, 3 Harbour Drive, George Town, Cayman Islands, KY1-1105, Phone: 345-949-8368
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