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Professor Elisa Serrano, from Cuba, responsible for the conservation of the historic wall writings.

Old Gaol (Jail)

With the “Old Gaol” as its flagship, the Museum Buildings’ historical importance is poised for international promotion. Informed, though as yet unconfirmed, sources hypothesize that the Old Gaol (a early modern English spelling for Jail),, believed to have stored armament and other military supplies, may have been a part of the 18th Century Fort George defensive system.

Historical graffiti, discovered in the Old Gaol during the post-Ivan restoration work, has brought “heightened associative values” to the buildings, says consultant Historical Preservation Architect Patricia Green. This essentially earmarks the Old Courts Building (the main building of the three) as a “superb candidate for international status” as a national heritage site. Demonstrating how integral these buildings were to the Islands’ and people, “walking the twelve steps” was a prominent local aphorism. The expression related to being taken to court, 12 being the number of rungs on the stairs leading to the second floor Old Court House. That bit of vernacular history gives an insight into the profound role that this rare building of its era played in the lives of the people of the Cayman Islands: Among the many government services, justice was dispensed and laws were made at the eminent second floor accommodations for more than a century.

So, though ranking with Pedro St. James Castle (built in 1780) in pedigree and vintage, the complex distinguishes itself in terms of versatility. In addition to the critical functions of adjudication and lawmaking, in the height of the complex’s ascendancy the buildings served as the operating base for police, post office, gaol, library, customs, and auditing. To add to its versatility, it was the home of the Islands’ first secondary school and, more latterly, the then newly inaugurated Lands and Survey Department. The building also served as offices and (likely) residence for the earliest Commissioners, the forerunners of today’s Governors.

As part of the process of more firmly establishing the historical authenticity of the complex, the National Museum is continuing the work of two architectural research and conservation consultants. They are, respectively, researching the historical importance of the building and working at conserving the Old Gaol graffiti.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the hours of operation at the National Museum?

The National Museum is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm and on Saturdays from 10am to 2pm.

Is there available parking at the Museum?

There is limited street parking or paid parking at Bayshore Mall.

How much does it cost to enter the Museum?

Please see our Visiting page for more information.

How long does it take to go through the Museum?

It takes about 45 minutes- 1 hour to go through the Museum - this includes a 20 minute introductory video. 

How long will this exhibition be on for?

This exhibition is permanent. 

Can I walk to the Museum from the Cruise Port?

The National Museum is located within walking distance of the Port.


Are there guided tours?

Guided tours are available by appointment. Please see our Visiting page for more information.

Are audio headsets with different translations available?

There are no available audio headsets, but we are working on getting those very soon. 

Is the Museum accessible by wheelchair?

The National Museum is housed within a historic building with limited accessibility; however, our ground floor and bathrooms are accessible. 

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