PIRATES, a major new exhibition exploring the history and cultural impact of pirates, opens at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall on 31st March 2023. Dashing and daring or bloodthirsty and greedy – were pirates of the 17th & 18th centuries heroes of the age or nothing more than callous cut-throats? For generations, pirates have been portrayed in fiction, film, art and fashion as symbols of freedom, adventure and transgression. But how and why has this image been created?
Journeying from the perceived ‘Golden Age’ of piracy through to the many ways that pirate identity has been consumed and appropriated over hundreds of years, PIRATES invites you to jump on board and uncover how a small group of robbers became the most unlikely of folk heroes. Incorporating everything from the Pirates of Penzance and Captain Hook, through to LGBTQ+ interpretations of pirates and pirate-inspired catwalk collections, audiences will meet the man who inspired Long John Silver, land on Treasure Island, and dance a hornpipe with Horatio Pugwash, before discovering the dark world of the real pirates of the Caribbean.
Spanning from the 17th century to the present day, the show will also feature an immersive experience of the Sea of Thieves game, specially created for NMMC by Microsoft development studio, Rare.
Co-produced in association with Royal Museums Greenwich (where the exhibition will open in 2025), the rich array of objects on display at NMMC will include costumes, weapons, globes, maps, telescopes, first edition publications, film posters and illustrations.
Highlights include original artwork from Captain Pugwash, a reproduction of the very first costume for Captain Hook and real ‘pieces of eight’ on loan from the British Museum.
Filled with fascinating facts and sensory experiences, this major exhibition explores how popular culture has shaped how we think of pirates today. An accompanying events programme including Cultural Lates and a Skull Island Play Zone will be presented alongside the main exhibition.
PIRATES is curated by guest curator Dr Eric Kentley and the NMMC curatorial project team: Dr Helen Doe, Andrew Motion, Alexis McDavid, Dr Rebecca Simon, and Stuart Slade.