Royal Naval Dockyard has served as a hub in Bermuda for more than 200 years, though the type of activity you’ll find here today has decidedly changed since its inception in 1809. The 200 acres that were purchased in the early 1800s by the British Royal Navy were massively transformed over the better part of a century via large land reclamations. Dockyard itself was constructed under the direction of the Royal Engineers. The final complex took more than 50 years to complete and was painstakingly built by hand by enslaved and free Bermudians and by convicts brought to Bermuda from the United Kingdom. The result of their efforts was a strategically located secure anchorage for the Navy, complete with dockyard, victualling yard and ordnance depot. The site heavily influenced life in Bermuda on many fronts; not only did the Dockyard employ on average more than 1,000 Bermudians at one time in the 19th century — accounting for more than 15 percent of Bermuda’s income — but it also gave generations of Bermudians training in plumbing, carpentry and other trades.

Today, West End Development Corporation (WEDCO), which has guided Dockyard’s development since 1982, continually evolves the area’s offerings to ensure Dockyard remains a fresh and captivating destination. These efforts are bolstered by WEDCO’s recognition of the site’s important historical distinction, resulting in a truly unique hub where past meets present.

The Hall Of History: Bermuda’s Story In Art

Described by Lonely Planet as Bermuda’s own “Where’s Waldo?,” The Hall of History by Bermudian artist Graham Foster is a mesmerizing floor-to-ceiling grand mural that coils around the columned grandeur of the Pillared Hall in Commissioner’s House at the National Museum of Bermuda (NMB).

Painted in Foster’s distinct style, the 1,000-square-foot mural traces the 500-year human history of Bermuda and tells the island’s multifaceted story with vibrant detail, irreverent humour and poignant observations, capturing the imagination of all ages.

From scenes of children line fishing off a dock, to a Gombey troupe celebrating Emancipation Day, to kite flying and beloved holidays like Cup Match, this stunning piece of history in art illustrates all of the elements that give Bermuda and its people their unique character, highlighting major historical events, obscure day-to-day happenings, as well as local customs and traditions.

Though much has been written about Bermuda history, there are few visuals; and The Hall of History serves as a unique entry point from which to uncover new stories and histories that have never been recorded in art. Museum staff provided Foster with a list of historical events and subjects from the 16th century to present, but he immersed himself in additional research, bringing intense detail to the history and nature depicted in the mural. The Hall of History would become a three- year labour of love in research, planning and execution. Once the research was complete, Foster had to overcome technical issues with scale and perspective. Employing his unique perspective, Foster used trees, waterways and roads as visual arteries connecting the panels and creating a smooth transition between time periods. Completed in 2009, The Hall of History reflects the immense dedication and hard work that Foster put into the project: He spent more than 7,000 hours working on it and used over 150 12-ounce tubes of blue paint alone in creating it! When asked about his process, Foster quipped: “I will leave a piece of my sanity in this room.”

Driven by his passion for Bermuda history, Foster continued his research after the mural was complete and discovered the history of beekeeping in Bermuda. Fascinated by this story, he revisited the work to paint tiny bees into his now technically completed masterpiece. Today, the mural serves as a unique representation of Bermuda’s history and cultural heritage and is meant to inspire the viewer to learn something new, take a trip down memory lane, have a good laugh or just lose oneself in the intricate details.

New details or old, you’ll be sure to learn something new every time you visit the National Museum of Bermuda and perhaps see history in a new perspective or format. From the wreck of the Sea Venture to the descent of the bathysphere, from the fevered activities of the 18th-century maritime economy to emancipation and the development of modern-day Bermuda, there is so much to discover! Don’t miss out on this must-see attraction; visit the National Museum of Bermuda and explore Bermuda’s history in The Hall of History.

The National Museum of Bermuda is housed in Bermuda’s largest fort, the Keep. NMB’s expansive 16-acre property includes eight historic military buildings, including the award-winning restored Commissioner’s House. Exhibit topics include Bermuda’s links with the West Indies and the Azores, trans- Atlantic slavery, the history of tourism and the island’s defence through two World Wars, shipwreck artefacts and local watercraft.
Kids will love the Museum Playground & Playhouse, complete with interactive exhibits, a slide and a giant moray eel.

Living History

Today, vestiges of Dockyard’s history still exist, and Royal Naval Dockyard remains a major player in many facets of Bermudian life. Naval ships no longer come to call at Dockyard, which instead welcomes cruise ships at its King and Heritage Wharves. The hustle and bustle of tourism and the attractions that have developed to accommodate the island’s guests exist alongside historic structures that today house modern offerings. The Keep, the largest fort in Bermuda, dominates the Dockyard skyline and is home to the National Museum of Bermuda, where visitors can find out about Bermuda’s history and culture and learn about Bermuda’s links with the West Indies and the Azores, trans-Atlantic slavery and the island’s defence through two World Wars. Local artist Graham Foster’s grand mural, shipwreck artefacts, local watercraft, the Museum Playground & Playhouse and the jaw-dropping views are just a few of many reasons to visit the National Museum of Bermuda.

Dolphin Quest, housed in the National Museum of Bermuda’s grounds, boasts an expansive lagoon featuring friendly frolicking dolphins. Dolphin Quest gives visitors the chance to personally interact with these playful mammals in experiences that range from short 30-minute encounters to a full day of working alongside the dolphin’s trainers.

The Cooperage, where barrels were historically made, today contains makers of a different sort. The Bermuda Craft Market and Bermuda Arts Centre at Dockyard are both housed here. It’s the perfect place to find unique, locally handmade items. Return home with one-of-a-kind mementos of your time in Bermuda whilst supporting local artisans with your purchases — a win-win for all.

The Dockyard was also a part of more recent history when it hosted the 35th America’s Cup in 2017. Whilst the excitement that comes with hosting the elite sailing competition has long passed, the America’s Cup lives on in Endeavour, a sailing instruction and education programme headquartered at Dockyard that could very well lead to young Bermudians becoming world-class sailors in their own right.

Family Fun For All

Dockyard is a favourite amongst families thanks to the numerous activities to be found here. Naturally, a trip to Bermuda is not complete without time spent on the water, and Royal Naval Dockyard offers plenty of ways to make a splash. Head to the Dockyard Watersports Centre and choose your own adventure, whether it’s riding the waves via Jet Skis, kayaks and banana boat tubing, soaring into the skies by parasailing, going under via snorkelling or scuba outings, or skimming the surface on a glass- bottom boat, a sailboat or a high-speed catamaran.

Visit Island Tour Centre’s booking office conveniently located at the Dockyard Watersports Centre, where knowledgeable staff can assist in planning West End excursions. Visitors can also stop by the Visitor Services Centre located in the Gazebo on Dockyard Terrace. Check with the helpful staff, which provides insider knowledge about Dockyard. Scan the QR code on the poster found inside the Visitor Services Centre to view the digital Royal Naval Dockyard Guide, as well as a new Maps of Bermuda guide, to help you navigate the area, buy tickets for local tours, bus and ferry tickets and passes, and Bermuda-branded merchandise.

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