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National Museum releases new book on Bermuda architecture

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Bermuda’s unique architecture and furniture are the subject of a new book.

On Tuesday, the National Museum of Bermuda Press launched John Lyman's The Old Bermudas: A Study of Bermuda's Vernacular Architecture.

Edited by Linda Abend, Edward Harris and Duncan McDowall, it tells how, in the early 1900s, the Canadian artist John Lyman discovered the beauty of the island’s vernacular architecture — that which is domestic or functional.

Rounding out more than a century of research, the book centres on Mr Lyman’s unpublished photos and sketches and a manuscript rediscovered recently by Mr McDowall in the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.

It is the earliest-known deliberate documentation of Bermudian vernacular style.

Mr Lyman first visited Bermuda in 1913. He took and commissioned almost 200 photographs of buildings, their details and ancillary features, and wrote brief histories on them.

His book has a foreword by Dame Jennifer Smith and includes chapters by experts, professors, researchers and historians.

Ed Chappell, an architectural historian, includes in the book his research on the evolution of Bermuda’s historic vernacular architecture.

Elena Strong, the National Museum of Bermuda’s executive director, read remarks given by Marley Brown, research professor of anthropology and history at the College of William and Mary, and former director of the American Friends of the National Museum of Bermuda.

She said: “Ed Chappell, in the words of his friend and colleague Jeff Klee, ‘embodied, to the end of his life … humanism, the belief in the value of fieldwork and the pursuit of scholarship in the service of a more just world’.

“Ed leaves behind a precisely and elegantly phrased prose of a thoughtful and penetrating analysis of how Bermuda’s houses reflect the important phases of its own history seen more broadly against the canvas of Britain’s role in transforming the Atlantic world.

“His understanding of all of this, gained through his careful reading of your vernacular buildings, will, in my view, never be supplanted.”

Ms Strong described The Old Bermudas as “the definitive text on Bermuda vernacular architecture”.

She added: “Bermuda’s unique vernacular architecture is grounded in our locality, natural resources and heritage, and was influenced by our historic Atlantic maritime economy.

“Our stone buildings represent over 300 years of Bermuda’s history and connections to the Atlantic world — they are tangible symbols of our collective past and reminders of those who designed, built and lived in them.

“The editors and contributors to The Old Bermudas add an important text to further our collective understanding of the island's built heritage. To quote Dame Jennifer’s foreword and John Lyman, ‘we are a bred-in-the-bone people who have built our way of life under the roofs of our own fashioning. Be proud!’ ”

Sponsors of the book included The Anchor Fund, John Adams, Neptune Group, American Friends of the National Museum of Bermuda, Edward Harris, Linda Abend and Marley Brown.

The book is available for purchase at The Bermuda Bookstore, The Bookmart at Brown & Co and online at www.nmb.bm/shop. It will also be available at the NMB ticket office and is priced $55.

Duncan McDowell, Edward Harris and Linda Abend, editors of The Old Bermudas: A Study of Bermuda's Vernacular Architecture. (Photograph supplied)

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Published June 01, 2023 at 3:57 pm (Updated June 01, 2023 at 5:42 pm)

National Museum releases new book on Bermuda architecture

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