Museum Quality Pirate Exhibit
Seafarer’s Exhibit on Colonial America Piracy
The exhibit brings the visitor to 1716 Nassau on New Providence Island in the Bahamas. English privateers are unemployed and many turn to piracy. No longer welcome in Port Royal, Jamaica, Nassau becomes the “Pirate Republic.” It offers a good port and plenty of fresh water; neighbor to the American Colonies and their trade routes; and entrance to the Caribbean with the rich Spanish treasure fleets – truly a pirate’s paradise.
Pirates played an active part of early Colonial America, from selling the colonists inexpensive untaxed goods to the start of the first North American College. The privateers brought their skills and experience to the fledgling American Navy keeping supply’s from reaching England, and pirate Captain Jean Lafitte sided with the Americans to deal the British a scathing defeat at the Battle for New Orleans.
From Robert Louise Stevenson’s Treasure Island, to movies with Errol Flynn and Johnny Depp, all have captured our imagination of freedom and adventure, the raw abandonment of civil society. However romanticized these pirates of the past are, they were bloodthirsty villains who captured or killed sailors and passengers with no remorse. The pirates’ life usually ended violently as the career they choose. From battles, storms at sea, sickness, or a “short drop and sudden stop” on the gallows, death was never far behind.
Included with the exhibit:
- 30ct - 3’ x 4’ label and graphic panels on naval tactics and weapons; navigation; pardons and punishment; entertainments; food; clothing; monetary and mundane treasure; discipline on board; biographies on select pirates; Spanish silver fleets; Spanish silver mining and minting
- Two exterior banners
- Costume trunk and mirror. Costumes for adults and children include: waistcoats; sashes; jackets; full length skirts; bodices; ruffled shirts; frilly blouses; hats; bandanas
- Touch-screen selection of popular period music with permission and performed by “Bounding Main”
- Scents and scent boxes
- 24’ deck of the Pirate ship Fortune. Accessible to the visitor by gangplank: 3 onboard cannons, 2 interfaced with screens for firing; swivel guns; ship’s compass; hourglass; bell; windlass; chart table; wheel
- King William’s Publick House with a view inside
- Hawkin’s Gunsmith with reproduction hand weapons
- Ship’s Chandler with reproduction navigational equipment
- General Mercantile Shop with mundane merchandise, the real treasure colonists wanted
- Assayer’s Office with reproduction coin of the realm
- Adult and children friendly stocks
- Visitor friendly gaol (jail) with shackles
- Tent for signing articles with Pirate Captain Edward Low
- Tent for signing pardons with Governor Woodes Rogers
- Gibbet with “Whiskey Pete,” executed felon
- Yardarm with noose
Exhibits are modular and easily adapt to a variety of gallery sizes and shapes. 5 stand-alone shops - 8’ in height, 8’ in width and 6’ in depth (3’ for shop and 3’ for plank sidewalk); roofs and plank sidewalk are removed for ease of shipping and assembly; each unit has track lighting built in; each interior is loaded from the back for security. Objects displayed are reproduction or lesser artifacts. We have had loaned artifacts of value displayed and are on good terms with lending institutions for the future. Construction is current with AAM standards for safety and security.
The Fortune is made of 8 sections interlocking both structure and electric; mast, bowsprit, and figure head securely set in place after assembly; mast and rigging are designed for a 12’ ceiling; reproduction cannons are of cast iron and set upon wooden carriages with appropriate iron hardware; two cannons may be wired to computers and screen for digital firing (software developed by Digital Design of Green Bay, WI); materials for ship’s construction include wood, canvas, roping, iron, steel, with bright work of brass. Site amenities are likewise of rusticated wood and roping.
The gaol (jail) is 6’ x 6’ x 8’ with ceiling; it has lighting and sound effects; steel door and shackles.
Other elements include two stocks - one for adult and one for children - oversize head holes eliminate the need to raise and lower stock; a costume trunk for dress-up with mirror; a writing station with 8’ x 8’ canvas tent for signing articles; a writing station with 8’ x 8’ canvas tent for issuing pardons - both articles and pardons are reproduction 18th century versions and go home with the visitor.
The complete exhibit fits a 2500 sq ft space with store front components against a wall or exhibited back to back. The Fortune may be displayed in the round, but to use cannons with screen, the starboard side should be near a wall. Shipping weight is approximately 5 - 6 tons and breaks down to ship in a semi trailer.
“Pirates!” was created for the 2007 and ’08 seasons at the Door County Maritime Museum of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Jack Moga was the curator and Jon Paul VanHarpen was hired as consultant.
After closing at the DCMM, parts of it gained new life in 2009 as “Pirates of Colonial America.” This was a traveling exhibit for the National Marine Manufacturers Association to tour 3 states in 2010. It included two new stand-alone shops, stocks, gibbet and costumes. It was presented in Kansas City, Chicago’s McCormick Place and the Minneapolis Convention Center. Also in 2010, presented at Detroit’s Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.
By 2011, Moga had taken a curatorial post in Florida. The DCMM wanted to reprise the theme in a new larger exhibit and hired Jon Paul as curator to create “Pirates Ship to Shore.” The new exhibit includes a street of shops, jail, and the interactive 24’ pirate ship, Fortune, featuring a complement of weaponry and navigational equipment. It opened in 2012 and ran through January of 2015.
Upon the 2015 closing of “Pirates Ship to Shore,” Mr. VanHarpen shipped and warehoused the project to its current location of Ft. Myers, Florida.