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Cannonball done. Museum handed new 100 year lease

Bermuda's national museum has been given a lease of nearly 100 years and expanded its Dockyard portfolio of properties to include the historic Casemates site.

And the move clears the way for a $15 million-plus redevelopment of Casemates and an increase in museum space in the future.

The House of Assembly approved a new lease on the existing National Museum of Bermuda yesterday — and added Casemates and associated buildings and fortifications to the museum's land holdings in the Dockyard area.

Now the museum will push ahead to raise the $15 million plus needed to restore the buildings to their former glory and expand its exhibition areas into Casemates and two large former ammunition storage buildings on the site.

National Museum of Bermuda chief Dr Edward Harris said: “It's good news for the museum and good news for Bermuda.

“It's going to give us a lot more exhibit space and will provide a larger facility for our visitors and Bermudians to spend the day in Dockyard viewing various aspects of our heritage in our exhibits and the buildings themselves, which are very historic.”

The new 99 year lease replaces an earlier one of the same length granted to the museum, located in the former Commissioner's House overlooking the Dockyard complex, which was approved in 1985.

Dr Harris said it would be “a few years” before the newly-acquired buildings would be open to the public.

“We have to raise the money, but even if we had all the money, it would take three or four years of work,” he said. “It will take a lot of time, but it doesn't have to be done overnight.”

He was speaking after acting Public Works Minister, the new Attorney General, Trevor Moniz, tabled the changes in the House of Assembly yesterday morning, allowing the West End Development Company (Wedco) to turn over the buildings to the museum.

Mr Moniz said the rent would be a nominal $1 a year — or a cannonball, in recognition of the Dockyard's rich Royal Navy past.

He added that museum volunteers had been working, with the permission of Wedco, since 2007 to clean up the Casemates area and protect the buildings to ensure “they were not lost due to neglect.”

And he said: “The lease will allow them to raise and capital and return buildings to their original state, establish educational programmes and improve outreach activities.”

Casemates — once the barracks for Royal Marines posted to protect the Dockyard — became redundant after the Royal Navy pulled out of the Dockyard in the 1950s.

The building served as the Island's prison from 1963 until it was replaced by the nearby Westgate prison in 1994.

Shadow Public Safety Minister Walter Roban said the expansion would help promote Bermuda's role in the development of the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos and the eastern seaboard of the US.

“Bermuda played a role of great significance — well above our size — and we have shaped much of the development of this region in our own way,” he said.

Locals and visitors alike explore the Casemates Barracks during a special open house tour on Saturday. (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published May 24, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated May 23, 2014 at 11:36 pm)

Cannonball done. Museum handed new 100 year lease

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