Cayman Brac’s museum is the oldest museum in the Cayman Islands and offers a fascinating insight into what life on Cayman Brac was like a century ago.
The building that houses the museum was once the government administration building and islanders would have gone there to conduct all sorts of business. The separate counters for the post office, customs and registry are still in place inside the entrance, while the adjacent room, which was the courthouse, still has a raised platform where the judge would have sat.
A variety of household goods dating back to the 1920s and 30s highlight how life on this small Island has changed. Water pots that would have been used to carry water for washing, cooking and drinking from the well to the home are displayed alongside barber sets, gas and coal irons, dolls and wompers (sandals made from old car tyres tied on with thatch).
In the next room, a typical bedroom has been recreated, with an iron framed bed, simple handmade furniture and enamel wash basins. With so few resources, Brackers learned to eke out whatever was available to them. Bedspreads were therefore quilted from off cuts of fabric or discarded clothing. Even smaller pieces would have been used to make rugs and mats.
A display of telephones through the ages illustrates the progress of telecommunications through a few short decades. Bearing in mind that most people in Cayman Brac did not even have power until the late 1960s, the transformation is impressive – from a four foot radio-phone through dial phones to the brick-sized early cell phone.
A new temporary exhibit on the great storm of 1932 reveals how the worst in the history of the Cayman Islands affected Cayman Brac.
It was a late season hurricane, taking residents by surprise when it slammed into the islands with 160 mph winds on 9 November. It was not only the wind that wreaked havoc in Cayman Brac – survivors report a tsunami or tidal wave crashing into the Island, claiming many lives.
The exhibit includes personal accounts of the storm, newspaper clippings following the event, lists of those who perished, the ships that were lost at sea, and more.
Of the 932 houses that stood on the Brac at that time, only 11 were not damaged in the storm and 108 lives were lost, 19 of them in a single house.
A defining event in the Islands’ history, the new exhibit serves as a stark reminder of the vulnerability of islanders to tropical storms at that time, and of how isolated they were from assistance.
The museum is open Monday – Friday, 9am to noon and 1pm to 4pm, and Saturdays 9am to noon. Admission is free but photography is not permitted inside.