our new museum

A Year at the Mary Rose – 2016




2016 has been in interesting year, for many reasons both bad and good, depending on your point of view. For the Mary Rose Trust, though, it’s mostly been positive


January, as those of you who’ve been with us a while will know, is usually a fairly quiet month.


While this year hasn’t really been much of an exception, especially as we were closed for our Phase 2 works, we did take advantage of this to do some work on our museum shop, replacing the front desk and building some new shelves.



More interesting, though, was our project with Micropasts to get the Mary Rose ship’s bell turned into a 3D model. This was done with such speed, we were able to post the finished model by the end of the month!



February saw a lot of work taking place within the museum, as the hotbox walls were removed. Progress from that time can be seen in our project blog.


It also saw the filming of the projections, which you can see on the ship during your visit. The story of the filming can be seen in a documentary made by University of Portsmouth students.

Finally, we posted a blog about toilets on the Mary Rose, which went on to be one of our most read blogs ever! Shows you what our followers are really interested in, we suppose…



March saw a few things happening inside the museum, such as the start of the glazing going in. Well, it takes a while to install 80 panes of glass, some of which were 4 metres tall!


March also saw the formalisation of a long-term cooperation between the Mary Rose learning team and Portsmouth High School with the Mary Rose Partners in Education Programme.


April saw the glazing completed in the museum, so we were getting closer to opening. Of course, there was a lot of testing to do, ensuring that humidity levels were easily maintained, and that there were no leaks.

Cluedo Day

April also saw our mini museum fill with unsavoury characters, as we brought our Mary Rose Cluedo to life! The characters in our special edition of the popular mystery board game were based on our staff and volunteers, so we got them all together for the first time to play Cluedo with our visitors!


Sadly, we’ve now sold out of our Cluedo, but you can probably still find a few copies out there.


bell-of-HMS-HoodMay saw the opening of 36 hours: Jutland 1916, The Battle That Won The War, an exhibition in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, featuring the bell of HMS Hood. The bell had been found in 2008, and was brought to the Mary Rose Archaeological Services for conservation.


Meanwhile, one of our longbows and an arrow went on a European tour, going on display at the Charles IV exhibition in the National Gallery, Prague, before moving on to the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg in October.


Staying closer to home, our popular “Pop-Up Museum” had a last hurrah, as we took over Southsea Castle for the May bank holiday weekend, giving talks and generally letting people know that the museum was coming back!



June saw our conservation team head off to sunny Italy for WOAM, the Waterlogged Organic Archaeological Materials working group conference (Yes, such things do exist!), where they talked about our work to the gathered crowds. It’s far more interesting than it sounds, honest!


Henry in the shiphall

Finishing touches were being made to the museum at this point, with deep cleaning, the removing of  protective boarding and dismalntling of several tonnes of scaffolding. During this, the Weston Ship Hall saw a visit from Henry VIII, in the form of our Visitor Operations Manager James, as part of the preparations for our launch. We actually had to buy in a 6XL hi-vis vest to fit over the cloak!



July is most notable for the unveiling of the Rose emblem, the figurehead of the Mary Rose which had been undergoing study to determine what it looked like before the Mary Rose sank. A 3D model interactive model was made, which you can see here, and the emblem was unveiled to the public on 20th July.

The Mary Rose Emblem


Also on the 20th, we unveiled the rest of the ship. You may have seen that on the news. 😀

Unfortunately, July also brought that sad news that John Towse, who alongside Alexander McKee identified the Mary Rose wrecksite in 1966, passed away.


August saw us attending the Victorious Festival once again, with our stand in the family section bringing in hoards of young and old wanting to play Splat-a-Rat, Henry Duck fishing and getting some of our new temporary tattoos!


We also went online to celebrate #MuseumCannonDay, an event we created almost by accident during a Twitter discussion, but became very successful, was trending on Twitter for hours and had interactions from across the world. See how it went at https://storify.com/MaryRoseMuseum/museumcannonday-2016, and we’ll probably be holding it again in 2017 – Watch this Space!




September saw the Mary Rose working with Swansea University to create Virtual Tudors, a website featuring a number of 3D models of our artefacts, as well as a special academic area for scientists to see how 3D models can be used instead of handling human remains. They proved very popular, and the skull of the Carpenter is now the third most viewed object on Sketchfab, ahead of such scans as the remains of Richard III and the Roman Coliseum!


September also saw our Head of Interpretation, Chris Dobbs, go to the 2016 Forum on Underwater Museums, to share his experience of creating the Mary Rose museum. Rather ironically, the forum ended up being cancelled due to a typhoon causing flooding!


Radzi meets the Mary Rose conservation team!October was another busy one, with the anniversary Lectures, and also we had a return visit from our old friends at Blue Peter! Current presenter Radzi Chinyanganya met with our Conservation manager David Pearson, who allowed Radzi to have a go at opening up a Concretion, which we believe contains one of the only Tudor cathooks (part of the ship used to raise the anchors) anywhere in the world!


Mary Rose Cake by Kate Shuttleworth

Mary Rose Cake by Kate Shuttleworth

We were slightly caught off guard this month too when the Great British Bake off announced it was holding a Tudor Week, so naturally we were inspired to hold our own Museum Bake Off, with our staff baking cakes, flans and biscuits with a Tudor theme. You can see the contestants, and the winners in our Storify of the event.


Speaking of random surprises, National Poetry Day came around, so we reused our tweets from World Poetry day, which resulted in a phone call from local Portsmouth newspaper The News, who wanted to feature it on their website! Shame they got the writers name wrong…


November saw the Mary Rose Museum at the Beautiful South Awards, walking away with a Silver award, beaten only by Waddesdon Manor, in Buckinghamshire.

Chief Executive of The Mary Rose Trust Helen Bonser Wilton (centre) and her team receive award from Tourism South East

Chief Executive of The Mary Rose Trust Helen Bonser Wilton (centre) and her team receive award from Tourism South East

In other award news, our Learning department went to a ceremony at Lincoln Cathedral to pick up the Sandford Award for education programmes at heritage sites, museums, archives and collections across the UK and Ireland.


There was some excitement in the Dockyard in November, as during dredging to deepen the harbour for the HMS Queen Elizabeth, the new Royal Navy carrier due to make Portsmouth her home port next year, a 500lb unexploded German bomb was found. It was later taken out to sea and destroyed in a controlled explosion, unlike most recovered ordnance, such as the iron cannon recovered in February, which was brought to the Mary Rose Trust for passive preservation until it can be identified.


Meanwhile, Chris Dobbs was at IKUWA6, the sixth International Congress on Underwater Archaeology in Western Australia, chairing a session about presenting maritime and underwater archaeology in 21st century museums. This one managed to stay dry, fortunately!


December was the launch of the Three Ships Light Show in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, with HMS Warrior, HMS Victory and the Mary Rose taking part in races to be raised the height of Action Stations, the winner getting a short film about part of their life. Of course, the first time it was done, we won; we do have experience of raising ships, after all! The Three ships show started on December 1st, and is running until December 5th.


As things got quieter, we also launched our new Mary Rose App, a reworking of our previous one with an audio tour in multiple languages. You can download it and have a play at maryrose.org/app.

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