National Maritime Museum Cornwall

    With over 15 galleries, the National Small Boat collection, a boatbuilding workshop, exciting exhibitions, artworks, maps and charts, memorabilia and other objects, there’s plenty to explore!

    The Flotilla

    Your voyage of discovery begins in the Main Hall, where you can orientate yourself in the building, admiring the hanging flotilla of small boats on display over your head.

    Flying across the top of the Main Hall is our flotilla of small boats from The National Small Boat collection. Preserving a collection of international importance, including craft used for survival, work, competition, leisure, pleasure, exploration and war… from the Inuit kayak, a deadly hunter’s tool of skin and driftwood with an unbroken pedigree stretching back 10,000 years to the Mirror dinghy, as much a part of the ’60s social revolution as the Mini car. The museum doesn’t just tell the story of inanimate objects – it relates the tales of the lives and the times of those who made and used them.


    Dashing and daring or bloodthirsty and greedy – were pirates of the 18th century heroes of the age or nothing more than callous cut-throats? For generations, pirates have been portrayed in fiction, film, art and fashion as symbols of freedom, adventure and transgression. Despite the often-brutal reality of pirate life, they are still celebrated. But how and why has this image been created?

    From the perceived ‘Golden Age’ of piracy through to the myriad of ways that pirate identity has been consumed and appropriated through the years, PIRATES asks audiences to jump on board and uncover how a small group of robbers became the most unlikely of folk heroes.

    From the Pirates of Penzance and Captain Hook, through to LGBTQ+ interpretations of pirates and piracy-inspired catwalk collections, audiences will be invited to meet the man who inspired Long John Silver, land on Treasure Island, and dance a hornpipe with Horatio Pugwash, before discovering the dark world of the real pirates of the Caribbean. Spanning from the 17th century to the present day, the show will also feature an immersive experience of the Sea of Thieves game, specially created for NMMC by Microsoft development studio, Rare.

    Co-produced in association with Royal Museums Greenwich (where the exhibition will open in 2025), the rich array of objects on display at NMMC will include costumes, weapons, globes, maps, telescopes, first edition publications, film posters and illustrations. Highlights include original artwork from Captain Pugwash, a reproduction of the very first costume for Captain Hook and real ‘pieces of eight’ on loan from the British Museum.

    Filled with fascinating facts and sensory experiences, this major exhibition explores how popular culture has shaped how we think of pirates today, diving beneath the surface to uncover the timber-shivering truth. An accompanying events programme including cultural talks and a Skull Island play zone will be presented alongside the main exhibition.

    This major exhibition runs from April 2023 - December 2024.

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