Museum of Belize – a former prison that has turned its life around
Visiting a stuffy museum isn’t near the top of most people’s lists when they come to a country like Belize, but there is an interesting spot in Belize City that should be of interest to culture vultures or visitors who care a bit about their host country, even for only an hour or two.
One of the more fascinating aspects to the Museum of Belize is that the two-story building was constructed as Her Majesty’s Prison back in 1857, and only opened in its current form in 2002. The official tourism board article boasts, “With all the rich Belizean heritage inside, it would be a crime to miss it.” See what they did there? A former prison and it would be a crime to miss it? Hilarious.
But seriously, the permanent collection in the Museum of Belize contains Mayan masterpieces that range from 600 BC to AD 1500, so it’s easy to get some perspective on the ancient local culture that mysteriously disappeared a few centuries ago. While the original artifact lives in a bank vault, an amazing replica of the largest carved jade head ever found in the Maya world (discovered in 1968 in Altun Ha) is on display here. Other jade items, intricately crafted pottery, and flint weapons are also parts of the popular permanent display.
Other wings in the museum house the official Belize stamp collection, and a display of photographs of old bottles (seriously). You can also have a look at displays highlighting local insects, but the piece de resistance might be the 3D model of the reef, cayes, atolls, shells, corals, and fish, which opened here in 2007. Prison buffs and museum completists will be happy to hear that one of the previous 19th Century cells is restored so visitors can get a glimpse of prison life from a bygone era.
Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (closes at 4 p.m. on Fridays)
US$5 for adults, free for children under 10
Gabourel Lane, Fort George, Belize City, it’s about 400 meters northeast of the Swing Bridge in the heart of the city.