Museum Story

The Cayman Islands National Museum is dedicated to the preservation, research and dissemination of all aspects of the Caymanian heritage. After years of planning, artefact conservation, and exhibit design, the Cayman Islands National Museum opened to the public in 1990 in the Old Courts Building. The Museum was closed for restoration following Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and re-opens in the first quarter of 2009.

The Museum can trace its roots to the 1930's when Mr. Ira Thompson began collecting Caymanian artefacts as a hobby. In 1979, the government purchased Mr. Ira's collection which became the nucleus f the National Museum’s collection. Today, the Museum's collection contains over 8,000 items ranging from tiny coins to a 14-foot catboat, to natural history specimens and rare documents.

Established as a place of learning and enjoyment, the Museum provides residents and visitors with a rich understanding of the Caymanian heritage through its exhibits and special activities.

The Old Courts Building

Old Courts Building ca, 1970, Museum Archives

Among very few remaining 19th century structures, the Old Court House has served as town jail, parliamentary centre and even hall for Sunday worship and civic dances, but it is most widely known for its use as the first formal Court House of the Cayman Islands. This role was so entrenched in local history and culture that the exterior stairs of the building gave rise to the saying, "walking the thirteen steps," meaning being taken to court. The buildings’ two major restoration initiatives have placed much emphasis on preserving its historic authenticity, the 1990 works attracting an award from the American Express Preservation Awards Program for the Caribbean. Plans are now afoot for possible declaration as a national heritage site.

Museum Shop
End your tour of the museum by taking a little piece of Cayman back home with you. Visit the Museum's gift shop for quality memorabilia, including exquisite Caymanite jewellery.

The Gaol House Café
Relax in the picturesque courtyard of the Gaol House café on the south east corner of the Museum. The cafe specializes in tropical drinks, ice cream and snacks.