New Mary Rose Museum opens revealing all her secrets 500 years after she sank
The new Mary Rose Museum opens to visitors today at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard – the very same dockyard at which the great Tudor warship was built over 500 years ago. Supported by a Wellcome Trust Capital Award, the new museum reunites the ship with many of the 19,000 artefacts recovered – and with her crew, in a unique journey through Tudor life.
The ship captured the world's imagination when she was raised from the Solent in 1982; the excavation and salvage 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 ongoing.
John Lippiett, Chief Executive of the Mary Rose Trust, said: "The new Mary Rose Museum marks a new and exciting chapter in the history of the Mary Rose, providing an astonishing resource for the world to learn about the Tudors and a centre of excellence for maritime archaeology and conservation. The museum is testament to all those who have worked so hard on this remarkable 42-year project to locate, salvage and conserve the ship and her contents. We look forward to welcoming the first visitors through the door on 31 May."
Sir William Castell, Chairman of the Wellcome Trust, said: "The new Mary Rose museum, which unites the ship with her extraordinary collection of artefacts, demonstrates how contemporary science can be used to reconstruct the past in an exciting and detailed way. A state-of-the-art visitor attraction and a rich educational and research resource of Tudor life, this treasure trove encompassing history, science and medicine will inspire visitors of all ages, from schoolchildren to academics."
The museum sets the historical context behind the ship and explores Tudor life. Artefacts are displayed to give visitors an insight into what the decks would have looked like moments before the ship sank in 1545, in full view of Henry VIII, while leading the attack on a French invasion fleet during the Battle of the Solent.
The science behind the ongoing conservation work and underwater tales of salvage are highlighted, detailing the world-leading archaeology pioneered through the care of the ship and the painstaking work to discover more about Tudor life. For the first time, using forensic science, faces of some of the crew members will be re-created, giving visitors the chance to come face-to-face with the carpenter, cook, archer and even the ship's dog, Hatch!
Clare Matterson, Director of Medical Humanities and Engagement at the Wellcome Trust, commented: "The Mary Rose presents a stimulating opportunity to engage young people with modern biomedical science as well as the medicine practised on board in Tudor times, as seen through the eyes of a barber-surgeon.
"Out-of-school, informal settings can truly enhance learning, bringing to life teaching from the classroom. The Mary Rose Museum has great potential to complement both history and science lessons whilst being a fascinating visitor experience. It has a strong track record in informal learning and we are pleased to have supported the new museum."
Conservation work on the hull is in its final phase in a 'hot box', with fabric ducts directing dried air at precisely controlled temperatures in a highly sophisticated pattern 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, the internal walls will be removed and visitors will be able to see the hull directly - giving them a more vivid experience and making a more direct connection between the hull and the artefacts.
The ongoing £35 million heritage project to build the new museum and complete the current conservation programme on the ship and her contents received £23m from the Heritage Lottery Fund.