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The 16th-century ship that captured the world’s imagination when she was raised from the seabed in 1982 now has a museum built around her, reuniting the ship for the first time with all its contents and crew.
The most comprehensive collection of Tudor artefacts in the world will be showcased, from personal belongings such as wooden eating bowls, leather shoes, musical instruments and even nit combs complete with 500-year-old lice, through to longbows and two-tonne guns.
For the first time crew members are being ‘brought to life’ through forensic science: visitors can come face to face with a carpenter, cook and archer and even ‘Hatch’ the ship’s dog.
The new Mary Rose Museum will open to visitors tomorrow, 31 May 2013, at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard – the very same dockyard at which the warship was built over 500 years ago.
The new museum, led by Wilkinson Eyre Architects (architect) and Pringle Brandon Perkins+Will (architect for the interior), was built around the hull of the ship. The building takes the form of a finely crafted wooden ‘jewellery box’ with the hull at its centre and galleries running the length of the ship, each corresponding to a deck level on the ship. Artefacts are displayed in such a way to provide visitors with an insight into what these decks would have looked like moments before the ship sank.
The historic opening today (30 May) is marked by a symbolic event, following the journey of the ship’s bell – the last artefect to be installed – into the new Museum. Highlights will include a wreath-laying ceremony at the wreck site, a flaming arrow volley by period-costumed Tudor archers from Southsea Castle (the place where Henry VIII watched the sinking of the Mary Rose) and a Tudor festival, culminating in a revealing of the new Museum from behind a giant Tudor Standard flag, set to a fanfare from the Royal Marines Band.
Located just metres from Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory and the ships of the modern Royal Navy, the new museum provides one of the most significant insights into Tudor life in the world and from the new centrepiece to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
The Mary Rose is the only 16th-century warship on display anywhere in the world. The £35 million heritage project to build the new museum and complete the current conservation programme on the ship and her contents has received £23m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The HLF has been an long-term supporter of the Mary Rose and, in addition to its £23m investment, has awarded a number of other grants totalling £9.5 million over the past 18 years.
The opening marks 30 years since the year the hull of Mary Rose was raised from the Solent in 1982 and 437 years after she sank on 19 July. The ship sank in full view of King Henry VIII while leading the attack on a French invasion fleet during the Battle of The Solent.
The new museum finally reunites the ship with many thousands of the 19,000 artefacts raised from the wreck. The excavation and salvage of the Mary Rose created a milestone in the field of maritime archaeology and remains the largest underwater excavation and recovery ever undertaken in the world. Each object in the new museum – from human fleas to giant guns – was raised from the seabed and carefully conserved through a groundbreaking process that is still in progress.
For the first time, visitors will be able to see the facial reconstructions of seven members of the ship’s crew based on forensic science and osteo-archaeology on their skulls and skeletons found at the wreck site. Faces will be displayed beside the crew members’ personal belongings, providing an insight into their status, health and appearance.
The science behind the conservation work and underwater tales of salvage is highlighted, detailing the world leading archaeology pioneered through the care of the ship and the painstaking work to discover more about Tudor life.
The groundbreaking building design has created a special environment to protect the unique and priceless 16th-century artefacts and hull, and also displays them in a manner that enables visitors to experience the ship in the best possible way. Conservation work on the hull is in its final phase in a ‘hot box’ with fabric ducts directing, in a highly sophisticated pattern, dried air at exact temperatures across all parts of the hull. Visitors will be able to see the hull through a series of windows giving different aspects over and around the ship. Once drying is complete in four to five years’ time the internal walls will be removed and the hull will be viewed through nothing but air – further enhancing the visitor experience and the connections between the hull and the artefacts.
Ticket information is available on the Historic Dockyards website