Amazing Discoveries In Nassau’s Museums For Culture And History
During our Bites of Nassau Food Tasting & Cultural Walking Tour, you get a chance to take a peek into the history of The Bahamas, and it’s not too hard to picture what the city of Nassau must have looked like when the town has retained so many of its old buildings and landmarks. We know that once you’re done with our tour, you’re probably thirsty for more knowledge, curious to explore the more intimate aspects of a culture and our past. Luckily, New Providence and the immediate Downtown area is fully equipped with museums to answer all of your questions. From themed museums depicting slavery and piracy to ancient archives, the history fanatic in you will definitely get a chance to gorge itself while in Nassau! Take a look at some of the best museums for culture and history here in Nassau- all of which happen to be in and around Downtown Nassau- how convenient!
Graycliff Heritage Museum
For several years now, the Garzarolli family at Graycliff has been breathing new life into West Hill Street in Downtown Nassau, and to kickstart the rejuvenation of the northern buildings, they created the Graycliff Heritage Museum. The museum is housed in the historical Mountbatten House, the summer home of Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was a member of the British royal family and the first Governor-General of the independent Dominion of India. Seeing the social and historic value of the home, the Garzarolli family restored the house in 2014 and, with the help of British antique collector Hamilton White, filled it with artifacts, documents, and relics of Bahamian history.
The museum explores the lives of notable citizens including Lord Mountbatten and The Duke of Edinburgh, Winston Churchill, and also features artifacts of sea life, 15th century furniture, pirate memorabilia, documents, colonial clothing, an out-island hut, and a prehistoric meteorite! The museum also hosts a gift shop where you can buy authentic and replicated artifacts like buttons, bottles, nails and mustard balls. You can even buy some shark teeth, but most importantly, you’ll always leave the Graycliff Heritage Museum a little smarter having soaked up the history of The Bahamas!
Pompey Museum of Slavery & Emancipation
Credit: Alek Seitro Fimov
Directly next to the Pompey Square is the Pompey Museum of Slavery and Emancipation, a museum dedicated to educated visitors and locals alike on our history of slavery in The Bahamas. The museum itself was first housed in Vendue House, previously an outdoor market and slave-auction house from the 1760s up until Emancipation in 1834. However, in 1992, the building was renovated and converted into a expose of the lives and struggles of African and Creole slaves in The Bahamas. The museum is actually named after the famous rebel-slave leader Pompey, who led a revolt in 1830 on another Bahamian islands, Exuma.
The museum did, unfortunately, burn to the ground in 2011, but as of 2014, the museum is up and running in its original spot, sporting new interactive exhibitions and lectures on the history of the country. The Pompey Museum of Slavery and Emancipation always has new themes and information to relay, and offers renowned exhibitions including “A Slave Ship Speaks: The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie” and “Lest We Forget: The Triumph Over Slavery,” which uses the actual shackles, slave branding iron, and slave house furniture along posters to tell the story of enslaved Africans. This museum is a must-see for your list of historical sites!
Location: Bay Street, Downtown Nassau
Hours: Mon-Wed & Fri-Sat, 9:30am – 4:30pm / Thurs, 9:30am – 1:00pm
Fee: Adults – $3.00 / Seniors – $2.00 / Locals – $2.00 / Children 6-12 – $1.00
Contact: (242) 325-2315 / Facebook
The Bahamas Historical Society
Credit: Mighty Mac
The Bahamas Historical Society is the premier social hub for history enthusiasts here in Nassau, so if you’re looking for an open forum, discussion-based approach to history, this is the place for you! The museum may not be as heavily stocked as other themed museums in the Downtown area, but its small collection of old artifacts from the daily lives of 17th, 18th, and 19th century settlers will coax a curiosity that will spark hearty conversations with the well-versed staff. The Bahamas Historical Society is one of the only operating facilitators of historical dialogue, and can provide you not only excellent historical facts, but with pamphlets and books with articles that delve deep into the history of the islands as well.
When you visit the museum, guides lead you free of charge through portraits of notable Bahamian citizens and residents and replicas of old ships, and if you’re in town during their special conventions, you’ll get a chance to pick the minds of some of the country’s leading experts in culture and history. The Bahamas Historical Society is a great place to begin your journey into the past to learn about the city, the outer islands, and the people of The Bahamas.
Location: Shirley Street & Elizabeth Avenue, Downtown Nassau
Hours: Mon-Fri, 10:00am – 4:00pm / Sat, 10:00am – 12:00pm
Fee: Free! Donations graciously accepted.
Contact: (242) 322-4231 / Website / Facebook
Pirates of Nassau Museum
Credit: Nassau Paradise Island
For a day designed for pirate lovers, head on to King and George Street and take a step back in time at the Pirates of Nassau Museum! This interactive museum will sweep you back to 1716, the final years in the Golden Age of Piracy. You’ll begin your adventure on a moonlit dock to the sounds of waves and rough-housing pirates, all the while learning about the lives of some of The Bahamas’, and the world’s, most notorious pirates, like Henry Morgan, Edward Teach, Anne Bonny, Mary Reed, and Benjamin Hornigold. You’ll get a chance to board a replica of an old pirate ship and afterwards plunder the gift shop for pirate memorabilia.
The great thing about the Pirates of Nassau Museum is that it’s highly entertaining and educational. Why else would game designers and movie directors from around the world come to this museum to engross themselves in all this pirate? Whether you’re 5 or 50, you’ll enjoy your walk through this pirate museum, learning all about one of The Bahamas’ most lucrative industries. Grab your bands and set sail for the Pirates of Nassau Museum, where piracy truly comes to life!
Educulture Bahamas Junkanoo Museum
Credit: 10 Best
If you’ve heard anything about The Bahamas, it’s probably been Junkanoo, and the Educulture Bahamas Junkanoo Museum can tell you all about it! This museum is a pays homage to The Bahamas’ annual masquerade festival, Junkanoo. We’re pretty sure you’ve heard about it before, or have perhaps even had a chance to attend our Boxing Day or New Year’s Day parades, but if you haven’t, don’t worry! Junkanoo is the quintessential icon of Bahamian culture, and even if we’re not having a mini Junkanoo rush out when you’re in town, you can always visit the Educulture Bahamas Junkanoo Museum!
Junkanoo dates back to our time of slavery. During the Christmastime, plantation owners would give their slaves a few days of temporary freedom, two of which the slaves would use to march through the Downtown area as a representation of that freedom. Educulture Bahamas seeks to keep the spirit of Junkanoo alive, and the curator, Arlene Nash Ferguson, is so dedicated to Junkanoo, she established the museum in her childhood home! Learn all about Junkanoo, from the costumes to the music, and perhaps even make your masks and headpieces, but don’t leave until you whine down to some Junkanoo music!
Balcony House Museum
Credit: Tru Bahamian Food Tours
There’s no way we could pass this bright-pink gem during our Bites of Nassau Food Tour without talking about it! Balcony House happens to be one of the oldest standing building in Downtown Nassau, and with it’s old colonial charm and bold colors, it’s a great landmark when you’re trying to find your bearings while in the city. Now a museum, the interior furnishings and floor plans provide a wonderful look into Bahamian history. Not only is the museum an excellent testimony to the unique features of Loyalist architecture and its evolution in the warm Caribbean climate, but this house was home to many local and international celebrities!
Built originally in the 1780s, this house was once home to Stephen Dillet, who was the first coloured person to be elected in The Bahamas and lived in the house during the mid 1800s. It was also home to Marie Josephine Brice, a major shareholder in the A&P Grocery Store chain. Remarkably, the house has had little expansion done over its 300 year history and retains its bow-shaped staircase, open-balcony verandahs, and even many of its previous owners’ furniture. Walking through the house is like taking a peek into the past, so take a look inside the history of The Bahamas for a minute or two at Balcony House Museum!
Location: Market Street & Trinity Place, Downtown Nassau
Hours: Mon-Wed & Fri, 9:30am – 4:30pm / Thurs, 9:30am – 1:00pm
Fee: Free! Donations graciously accepted.
Contact: (242) 302-2621 / Website / Facebook
Nassau Public Library & Museum
When it comes to iconic landmarks in Downtown Nassau, the Nassau Public Library is pretty hard to miss! This flamboyant, pink, octagonal building was originally the country’s first prison, built between 1798 and 1800. However, the building was converted into a museum and library once a new prison was built in 1873. Dungeons were replaced with reading rooms and a repository for old journals, legal documents, and court ledgers from colonial times that have been carefully preserved for your perusal today!
The Nassau Public Library is technically an reference library, but while the lower floors contain the children’s novels and adult fiction, non-fiction and reference books, there are displays of Bahamian artifacts and books throughout the library. The level above the second floor also an attic where old artifacts are kept and can be viewed upon request. The library is a wonderful place to catch up on Bahamian history, for the staff members have managed to collect newspaper articles, postcards, old photos and legal documents that depict the progress of the country through the centuries.
The Bahamas Department of Archives
Credit: Off The Shelf
Found out you have some roots here in The Bahamas? Maybe you were inspired by our old colonial charm and want to write a novel set in the country? Either way, you’ll need to do some research, and there’s no better place than The Bahamas Department of Archives! Located on the eastern side of New Providence, the Department of Archives is home to documents dating back as far as the 18th century. The Department of Archives wasn’t founded until the early 1970s, but the staff has done a tremendous job retaining and preserving Bahamian historical documents.
The Department of Archives is a trove of knowledge, providing access to books, film, journals, articles, documents, and legal papers from various points in our history. The Archives has even managed to preserve letter and diaries depicting our time of slavery and voting scores from our first parliamentary election in 1729! Search through your family lineage, discover the lost culture of the original inhabitants of these islands, the Lucayan Indians, or simply peruse our history by spending a day at the Department of Archives and leave with the knowledge of the centuries!
Location: Mackey Street, Nassau
Hours: Mon-Fri, 10:00am-4:45pm
Contact: (242) 393-2175