Location: George Town, Grand Cayman, Western Caribbean
Entrance $8 USD
Recommended Time: 1 to 1.5 hours
Many of the museums of Caribbean Islands share similar histories, but tell them differently. In Antigua, they focus on community interaction. In Cozumel, they emphasis reef conservation. The Cayman Islands National Museum utilizes contemporary technology to tell their history. One thing that sets the history of this British territory apart from nearby islands like Cozumel, is that Grand Cayman was never inhabited by humans before the British.
Your experience at the museum starts with a fifteen minute multimedia film, which orients you to the natural and human history of the island. The entry documentary uses multiple screens and stages to shift the viewers attention from era to era.
The museum is split between two levels. The downstairs level houses reception, gift shop, the mirco-theater and a natural history exhibit. A fascinating room downstairs allows guests to see live archaeology, as the building—itself a historic site– is being studied. This particular room once housed the island’s jail.
The key key exhibit downstairs introduces the guests to the wildlife on Grand Cayman, and in the surrounding waters. One cool interactive area features a stage submarine. Climb inside the cockpit and choose what kind of marine life you want to see on the main screen. The secondary screen on the left allows you to control the depth of the dive. As you go further down, expect the marine life to get more bizarre!
Also in this room, be prepared for the area dedicated to turtle egg nesting. The cutaway model of showing the style of the nest in the sand is effective. The most unforgettable part is the turtle model in mid-lay of the egg. This hind-end of nature isn’t put on display so often, which is a damn shame. Props to curators for showing it like it is.
Upstairs, expect to find animatronic figures related to the islands maritime heritage—particularly the harvesting of sea turtles. Around the corner, a gallery dedicate to local hero Georgette Ebanks because of her advocacy for women’s voting rights. The staircases are utilized as micro art galleries, featuring local artists.
Also upstairs is a special exhibit on loan from the International Diving Hall of Fame. Just like in Cozumel, this museum celebrates the region’s diving heritage, in Cozumel, the focus was on the reef with information about diving, however here at the Cayman Islands National Museum, the underwater sport takes center stage. There are many fascinating artifacts on display, however, one particular underwater camera casing stands out. One ingenious mind improvised an underwater camera case using a pressure cooker from Montgomery Ward. Talk about gumption! This clever mind pioneered underwater photography using a kitchen appliance.
Overall, this museum caters to multiple styles of learners, using dioramas, video, models, and artifacts. Highly recommended for this special diving hall of fame exhibit, and its marine life displays, and those who like to push buttons in exhibits.