The National Maritime Museum in Falmouth has a major new temporary exhibition for 2017: Tattoo: British Tattoo Art Revealed.
Derryth Ridge, fellow Curator of the exhibition, said: “We feel this is a really important story that is an important part of our social history. I feel this is the perfect place to tell that story.
“One of the myths we are trying to bust through the exhibition is that tattooing is not gender or era specific and women have been tattooed throughout the years. I really like tattoos, sometimes its just because I like the look of them, sometimes its because of the meaning behind them.”
It is estimated that about one in five people in the UK have a tattoo. However, many still believe tattoos remain a taboo subject for many people. Whilst the visibility of tattooing in contemporary culture may feel like something new, tattoos and tattoo art have always held a significant place in Britain’s history.
The exhibition explores this rich history in depth and shows that while the word tattoo may have come into the English language following Captain Cook’s voyage, this was not the start of the story of British tattooing.
Fredrick, volunteer at the Maritime Museum, said: “I’m slightly biased because I have a tattoo myself, of a butterfly. I haven’t seen all of the exhibition yet but I think it’s excellent and it’s been really popular.”
While showcasing the heritage of tattoos, the exhibition also shows how people from all areas of society have tattooed using different technique. From ruffians to royalty; from sailors to socialites; from pilgrims to punks: tattoos have been etched into bodies throughout British history as a means of expressing both individual and group identity.
The exhibition provides a fantastic insight into a part of British history, which has had little coverage. To find out more follow #notjustforsailors or visit the National Maritime museum website for ticket prices.
Video produced and edited by Emily Furness and Amy Wall