On March 17, 2020, the National Museum of Bermuda (NMB) temporarily closed its doors to the public due to the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Staff immediately shifted to tele-working and our resident flock of sheep took over our social media, becoming unsuspecting celebrities with posts on their daily antics.
Looking back, we can all remember the intense feelings of uncertainty and fear we all experienced during the early days of Bermuda’s lockdown. I am so thankful for my team, who approached our collective challenges through a lens of compassion, optimism, and opportunity. We found ways to accelerate projects, reinforce our mandate, and serve our community in our own, best way.
Living history together, NMB documented our collective experience through United Together: Sharing Bermuda’s COVID-19 Pandemic Stories. We crowdsourced mementoes of people’s experiences; amplifying the voices of community members grappling with—and often creatively responding to—a new “normal.”
We supported educators with new content for remote learning, fast-tracking our role as education advisors to provide Bermuda history content for current social studies curricula, and reinforcing the value of our museum expertise.
“The National Museum of Bermuda will be a primary and vital resource to our curriculum development.”
– Nicole Grant, Education Officer, Social Studies, Department of Education
Our newly launched Teachers Professional Development Programme, which is shaping how history is being taught in the classroom, moved from in-person workshops to virtual and saw participation numbers double. The programme provides public and private school educators with the historical content and the teaching methods that build comparative and critical thinking skills, nurture empathy, and promote understanding of multiple perspectives—essential skills for students navigating today’s complex world.
“Teachers are excited about the way forward, getting resources, collaborating with each other and hopeful that finally Bermuda history is considered so important.”
– Cherona Talbot, Sandys Middle School Educator
We further leveraged technology to reach people sheltered at home through At Home with History—a steady rollout of online activity-driven, interesting, and fun materials to encourage learning at home and connecting to our past. This also included ramping up blog posts, producing articles that provide historical perspective to contemporary issues as well as opening our collection and work to a wider audience. This is all part of our preparation for a new future where audiences are increasingly experiencing museums through online exchanges and resources.
Our Bermuda in the Atlantic World Lecture Series also went virtual. Our Island’s influence extends far beyond our shores, which are deeply intertwined with those of Africa, the United Kingdom, Continental Europe, the Americas, and the Caribbean. This series uncovers these links and the global forces throughout the Atlantic World that helped shape Bermuda as we know it. Lecture attendance has consistently reached 100+ people – there is a growing need to better understand Bermuda’s diverse past.
NMB’s resident sheep took over our social media while we temporarily shuttered our doors. The flock raised our reach on social media by 400%, endearing themselves to the public and providing moments of much-needed levity and distraction. They also were promoted to fundraisers and helped us cover general operating costs as the impact of cancelled tourism, lost admissions and site rental reduced our annual revenue by 67%.
Our significance as an institution now and for future generations was defined during the last year. With a growing acknowledgement of the need for the past to inform contemporary conversations, communities depend on institutions like NMB to provide invaluable perspective through programmes, exhibits, and community exchanges. Without historical perspective, it is nearly impossible to connect the dots. And without history, it becomes difficult to explain how Bermuda positions itself to the world— how this has been done in the past; in the present, and how this will be done in the future.
Our work during the pandemic has been grounded in thoughtful analysis, planning, and preparation. In so many ways, the National Museum of Bermuda was ready for this moment. Our ability to respond to a global pandemic was possible thanks to the guidance of our Board, close friends, and the support of funders committed to buttressing Bermuda’s educational resources and national cultural treasure that is NMB. Our entire team is deeply grateful to our community. The extraordinary relationships we strengthened and formed over the last year make our work possible.
We look forward to seeing you at your National Museum,