Commissioner’s House reopening a ‘success’
A celebratory fundraiser marking the reopening of the Commissioner's House at the National Museum of Bermuda has been deemed a huge success by organisers.
Elena Strong, curator at the museum, said yesterday: “The evening was a great success in celebrating the reopening of Commissioner's House and to help raise funds for the museum. We are still tallying up everything but I can say that we definitely raised $30,000 on the silent auction and cannon fire auction.
“Around three hundred people attended and half of them are now new members. Everyone looked like they were having a good time and enjoying the tour of the entire museum campus.”
During the fundraiser, attendees were given a brief walk through Casemates, enjoying cocktails on the roof of the former prison, before walking to the Commissioner's House where the crowd was entertained by the Bermuda Regiment Band.
The party later moved to the keep, where revellers ate, took part in a silent auction and danced to music performed by Working Title.
The Commissioner's House first suffered roof damage during the back-to-back impact of Hurricanes Fay and Gonzalo in 2014, forcing the building's closure. Roof repairs were carried out — only for the building to again be damaged by the impact of Hurricane Joaquin in 2015.
Ms Strong said: “While the museum has comprehensive insurance to rebuild after the storms, it became apparent that there were essential and additional upgrades and restoration work necessary to ensure the long-term protection and preservation of the historic buildings and the museum's vast collection.
“For the past 18 months the museum has been carrying out extensive repair and restoration work on Commissioner's House in order to strengthen and conserve its largest artefact. Work entailed replacing the entire roof of Commissioner's House with a modern steel system and carrying out major restorative work on the cast iron truss system.
“The 300 linear feet of cast-iron fascia and the cast-iron veranda pillars are also being restored. It was also decided to strengthen the building of the curatorial department and carry out upgrades, including expanding and improving artefact storage areas, to ensure better protection of the growing collection of Bermuda-related artefacts.”
She said the closure of the building had also hurt admission fees at the museum, reducing the museum's ability to carry out its role of educating the public, preserving local heritage and offering a destination for cultural tourism.
“We are thrilled that the House is back open so we can properly carry out our mandate, however work is not yet complete as there is more behind the scenes roof-strengthening work to carry out and the next project is to turn our attention to the interior work of the curatorial department,” she said. “By the end of the year we should be fully operational, stronger and better.”
Ms Strong thanked the museum's neighbours and friends for their donations, along with volunteers, party planners Das Fete, Selange Gitschner and Matt Strong, and the teams at Crissons Construction, Correia Construction, Kaissa Limited and Bermuda Project Managers Limited for their work in restoring the building, stating: “There was much to celebrate as it has been a very long 18 months rebuilding the museum after the 2014 and 2015 hurricanes.”
The Commissioner's House was first erected in the 1820s, but only actually served as the home to the Commissioner for ten years before the property was turned over to the army.
The house served as a Royal Marine barracks between 1862 and 1914, and as married quarters and barracks for naval ratings during the First World War.
In 1919, in keeping with its use as a naval establishment, the Commissioner's House was formally commissioned as a ship, HMS Malabar. During the Second World War, Malabar served as Allied headquarters for North Atlantic submarine radio interception, but it was abandoned when the Royal Naval Dockyard closed in 1951.
The museum took over the site in 1975, and after 25 years of restoration work, the building was opened to the public in 2000.