Arts and Culture 2011

Amy Holtcamp



Ahoy, Matey! Pirates exhibit extended at the S.C. State Museum

Posted 11/22/2010 12:13:00 PM

By popular demand, the Pirates, Privateers and Buccaneers exhibit at the S.C. State Museum has been extended and will now be on display through Jan. 3.

The exhibit uses a combination of genuine artifacts, reproductions, and multi-media displays to bring the golden age of piracy (1600-1718) to life.

I have to admit, the kid in me thrilled at seeing actual pirate’s booty: the exhibit includes pieces-of-eight, Spanish reals and doubloons that were plundered by pirates. The display of 17-18th century weaponry conjured images of romantic swashbucklers, swinging from bow to stern on ropes. Although I felt a little too grown up to join the kids who were dressing up like a pirate at one hands-on station, I did indulge my inner-privateer by firing a virtual cannon at a ship.

The exhibit doesn’t just play into our romantic visions of pirates. The museum also includes artifacts like the gibbet, an iron cage hung from a pole in which the bodies of executed pirates could hang as a deterrent to other criminals. There is also a section on modern day piracy, and the grenade launcher and AK-47 in that display are far less romantic than the pistols of the “golden age,” and makes real the violence and danger at the heart of all piracy.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of the exhibit is the artifacts that are believed to be from Blackbeard’s ship, The Queen Anne’s Revenge. Blackbeard was said to have gone aground near Beaufort Inlet, N.C., in 1718 and in 1996, a private contractor, Intersol, discovered the remains of a ship there. Artifacts from the wreck included in the exhibit include cannonballs, ballast stones, lead shot, tiny grains of gold, and in true pirate style, fragments from a bottle of rum.

Pirates, Privateers and Buccaneers is on view now through Jan. 3. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for ages 3-12 in addition to regular museum admission. Click here for more information.