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A Year at the Mary Rose Museum – 2015

A Year at the Mary Rose Museum

A review of 2015 by our blogger, Simon. All opinions are his, and don’t necessarily reflect those of the Mary Rose Trust.

So, another year over, and it’s time for another look over the last twelve months! You’d think after being open eighteen months things would quieten down, but they haven’t!


January was fairly quiet, but we did host the Bohunt Education Trust Teachmeet, where Schools from around the Solent region learned about how to use technology in the classroom. We even picked up a few things ourselves, such as Tagxedo, which lets us make stuff like the Mary Rose-shaped word cloud on the right!


February saw us take part in the British Museum’s Knowledge Exchange programme, with our Learning Officer Clare Barnes spending a week at the British Museum, finding out how they do educational programmes there, while we had a visit from Stacey Addison, their external events manager, who spent the week with our events team.


We were also pleased to be accepted into ALVA, the Association of Large Visitor Attractions, which puts us on a similar level to the British Museum!


We also got a boost from being featured in the first in a new series of BBC Timewatch Guides, where Dan Snow presented a look back over the last 50 years of the Mary Rose project. This proved hugely popular, and even managed to crash our website!


March saw us take part in Twitter’s #MuseumWeek again, albeit in a somewhat reduced capacity on last year. We still managed to produce a fair amount of content, thanks to the assistance of the Mary Rose Content Creation Team, a group of museum staff and volunteers who help with all things digital. They include Jonathan David Collins, who shared some of his huge collection of Mary Rose paraphernalia (including TWO of these replica lion heads!);


Wendy Pyatt, one of our museum staff, also wrote a history of the Mary Rose Museum buildings, including some which were the workplace of some very special people (and their dads!)


We also got the special honour of being the subject of a story in the Sampad Creative Writing competition, which was included in a published collection! Well done to Lucy Jackson who submitted the story, we’re glad you found us so inspiring!



April saw the 50th anniversary of the first dives searching for the Mary Rose.


However, it was also sad month, as it saw the loss of Margaret Rule, who oversaw the recovery of the Mary Rose as archaeological director.


It also saw our director of the Mary Rose Trading Company, Paul Griffiths, speaking at the Museum Stores Association conference in the US about merchandising in UK museums. The talk was later adapted into an article in the Summer edition of the Museum Store Magazine (which I should mention features my wife on the cover! – Simon)


We also saw our museum mascot, Hatch, depart on HMS Duncan as they set off on their maiden voyage to the Middle East. He sent back a number of postcards from his travels (subject to vetting, of course!), which we plotted onto a map!


Our Environmental Analyst, Alex Stoeckle, joined in with Museums at Night as an Officer!

May saw us take part in the Culture24 Museums at Night programme for the first time since Tours By Torchlight in 2010. Hundreds of children took part, wandering the galleries and meeting some of the crew! In fact, we had so much interest we had to hold a second one a few months later!


We also got into the world of 3D modelling, as we started our association with Micropasts, who used special software to turn photographs of our artefacts into 3D models. This involved a lot of digital ‘cutting out’, which was handled through crowdsourcing, and ended with three printable replicas!


Finally, as you may remember from last year, we were nominated for the European Museum of the Year awards, one of only three UK museums to be considered. While we didn’t win (The amazing RijksMuseum took that honour!), we did receive a special commendation!


June saw the Mary Rose go on the road with the latest addition to our display arsenal, with the arrival of our pop-up museum, a tent designed to resemble our full museum, but be portable, going out on the road. It had its first outing in June too, heading off to the Chalke Valley History Festival, where it proved an instant hit with the teenage audience!


Who knew that the court of #HenryVIII was so gangsta! #LoveHistory #CVHF #Tudor #dressingup @chalkevalleyhistoryfestival

A photo posted by Mary Rose Museum (@maryrosemuseum) on


June also saw National Volunteer Week, a celebration of all the wonderful volunteers that make the Mary Rose Museum, as well as the rest of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, a success. Naturally, as the best party venue in Portsmouth, we hosted the celebration!


We also hosted a performance of HMS Pinafore in our Admiral’s Gallery (the big one at the end!), which proved very popular.


July saw us announce that the museum would be closing (although only partially – we still have the Mini Exhibition)


It also saw the America’s Cup World Series come to Portsmouth, with the racing yachts being housed in No. 1 basin, just outside our museum, which gave us some wonderful views of the boats!


“Sir Barry” and his horse “Dobbsin” enjoy the Victorious festival!

August saw us tale the Mary Rose Pop-up Museum in a whole new direction, as rather than attending a history event, we went to a rock festival! Well, we were at the Victorious Festival in Southsea, and we were in the family area, but it still counts, right? Our Have-A-Go Archery was very popular, as was Hobby-Horse jousting, let’s hope we get to go again next year!


September saw us reach our 1,000,000th visitors, Peter and Cathy White, who were presented with a Mary Rose decanter by Rear Admiral John Lippiett, the then-Chief Executive of the Mary Rose Trust, and given a special tour of the museum including the secondary collection.


We also welcomed our new Chief Executive, Helen Bonser-Wilton, who came to us from the National Trust. She’s brought lots of new ideas with her, and has even started tweeting!


The Mary Rose also hit the news as five of our volunteers picked up the South East regional prize in the prestigious Marsh Award for Museum Learning Volunteers.


Finally, and probably less excitingly, our collection hit the headlines as it turned out that some of the cod bones recovered from barrels on the Mary Rose may have originated from Newfoundland.


October, as always, saw our annual Anniversary Lectures, although these were special ones marking 50 years since the search for the Mary Rose began. We live-tweeted the talks, so have a look if you missed out!


The same day saw the unveiling of a bust of Margaret Rule, which is now housed in the gallery that bears her name.


This month also saw us hosting the International Peer Learning in Museums Seminar, or #IPLIMS, where heritage attractions from around the south of England were able to ask for advice from museums around the world


November saw us out and about, not only with the Pop-Up Museum going to Stansted Park and Dinosaur Isle on the Isle of Wight, but also to Sweden, where our museum team got to experience the Vasa Museum in Stockholm! Not only that, but while they were there they got to meet the UK Ambassador to Sweden, as well as take in the sights of our Head of Operations dancing to ABBA in the Abba Museum (he won’t let me share the video, sadly…)


This month also saw Tony and Barry, two of our volunteers, take part in the Lord Mayor’s Show in London!


Staying in, we also held our first wedding at the museum, Tracey and Jon Clarke-Sullivan tied the knot on the Friday of the Festival of Christmas.


Finally for November, we closed our doors for the last time on November 29th, so we could start the work on Phase 2. We spent most of the 30th moving replicas and artefacts down into our foyer to form a mini-exhibition. We also took the opportunity to “Ring in the changes” with the original ship’s bell!



December was quiet, what with everybody being at the shops rather than museums, but there was still plenty going on!


We took advantage of the museum being empty to move one of our bronze demi-cannons, which had to make way for the airlock that will feature on the upper deck.


We also began a new Micropasts project, photomasking the ship’s bell. As of when we wrote this, it hadn’t been completed, so there’s something for you to do once you’ve finished reading this!


So, what does next year hold? Well, apart from our grand reopening in late summer, probably a fair bit, you’ll just have to wait and see!

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