By SAMANTHA STANFORD
“Real Pirates: The Untold Story of The Whydah Galley” is a touring exhibition organized by National Geographic, Premier Exhibitions, Inc. and Arts and Exhibitions International LLC. Held at the Milwaukee Public Museum,“Real Pirates” explores early 18th-century piracy with more than 200 artifacts recovered from the ocean floor near Cape Cod, Mass.
While growing up on Cape Cod, Barry Clifford, underwater explorer and discoverer of the Whydah Galley, heard many stories of this great ship captured by pirate Sam Bellamy and his crew. Wrecked in a storm in 1717, its precious cargo of gold and silver from more than 50 ships sank to the bottom of the sea near Cape Cod and lay undisturbed for more than three centuries.
After many years of searching, Clifford and his project team made headlines with the discovery of the Whydah Galley in 1984, the only “fully-authenticated pirate shipwreck discovered in American waters,” according to the Whydah Museum of Massachusetts.
“I see this exhibition as the culmination of my many years of work,” Clifford said. “Most importantly, it is a chance to bring the real story of pirates
to the public as it’s never been told before — through real objects last touched by real pirates.”
Patrons of the museum will be taken on a voyage through time, seeing The Whydah Galley’s dark beginnings as a slave ship on her maiden voyage with a hull full of men and women. Visitors will see the shackles the slaves wore and the inhumane way they were stacked on top of one another.
Painted canvases show the story of how the ship was captured by Sam Bellany, “Prince of the Pirates,” and transformed from slave ship to pirate ship.
Visitors will hear tales of life on a pirate ship from “real” pirates who wander the exhibit with sharpened swords and even sharper wit. They will also go below deck of a partial replica of the Whydah Galley and see and touch for themselves the treasure pulled from the depths of the ocean.
The Whydah’s bell is a focal point drawing patrons into the exhibit. It appears to float in midair accompanied by surreal harmonious music that will make many stand in awe.
“Real Pirates” will be at the Milwaukee Museum through May 27. This interactive exhibit is a must-see for any lover of history, storytelling and adventure.