The Mary Rose Museum

Photo taken during our visit to The Mary Rose Museum

After my first blog post featuring one of my favourite museums, it was really difficult to pick what to write about next. As I’m sat here writing, May 2019 feels like a lifetime ago. However, it was around the end of May last year that my better half, Dan, and I, went away for a couple of days to the incredible Portsmouth. The entire trip (of course) was focused on visiting as many of the impressive collection of museums they hold on the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. If you’re wanting to visit the Historic Dockyard when things return to normal consider buying yourself a Full Navy Ticket. These can be purchased cheaper online (https://tickets.historicdockyard.co.uk/webstore/shop/viewItems.aspx?cg=PHDTIX&c=TIX) and unlike the other tickets, the Full Navy gets you into 12 attractions -although some additional charges may apply- and your ticket lasts for an entire year! Please be aware The Mary Rose is NOT included in this.

I am a massive Tudor History geek, evident in my crafting pastime of cross stitch!

So as you may or may not know, I’m a massive Tudor History geek, demonstrated above! Because of my obvious obsession with the Tudors, I think, visiting The Mary Rose was a bucket list type of visit for me, and from start to finish I was completely mesmerised! You begin by entering the first section of the museum which focuses on what we know about the Mary Rose, featuring a display around ‘The Encampment of the English Forces near Portsmouth’. This is the image of the engraving copied from a contemporary painting depicting the attempted French invasion of Portsmouth in 1545.

Image taken from The Mary Rose Exposed guide book

I’ve often thought that your experiences with volunteers and members of staff at a museum can really make or break your visit, and I’m pleased to say that everyone at The Mary Rose was absolutely lovely! We spent a little while talking to a volunteer who explained the above image to us and what historians can gain from it. As you walk around this room there are some wonderful artefacts, beautifully lit and displayed as well as videos, information panels and some interactive experiences. The video that caught my attention was opposite the above picture. I vividly remember Dan watching me watch this screen (he had wandered off ahead of me and knew what was about to happen) and **SPOILER ALERT** before my eyes the video disappears and you get your first glimpse at the preserved remains of The Mary Rose in all its glory. At this point, I’m fairly sure my bottom jaw hit the floor!

From here you are able to walk into the Mary Rose room (although obviously the ship itself is behind glass to ensure the careful preservation of temperature and humidity). This space has been carefully curated to give visitors the feel of being inside the ship, demonstrating the separate rooms and the corresponding artefacts that were found. The smallest detail here completely captivated me, the floor is slightly bowed, which adds to the transformative experience of being in this impressive ship. There are several sections that you walk through like this as you effectively walk the different levels of the ship, but let’s tell you something about the artefacts.

Photo of the remains of a canon from The Mary Rose

So, another reason as to why The Mary Rose was on my bucket list! Dan’s Grandad (who is a complete legend) is a diver and in his youth was part of the Naval air command sub aqua club. In the early 70s the Portsmouth branch of this club had to organise a group of trained divers to volunteer to help excavate a certain wreckage. These guys had no archaeological training at all but were obviously more than competent under water. Each diver was given a square to go and excavate and yes, our Grandad was one of them. He tells a fantastic story (completely blasé about the whole experience) about him excavating his square, first off he found some twigs which were just rubbish he thought and as he continued he found a couple of arrows, turns out the previous ‘twigs’ he had thrown away, were also arrows! More than 3500 arrows were found during the excavation of The Mary Rose, so I think we can forgive my Grandad for ‘misplacing’ a few!

My Grandad John just before going on a dive, although not the Mary Rose in this case.

Of course my Grandpa was not the only person involved in the excavation of this incredible piece of history. Over 500 divers and archaeologists tackled the challenge of removing the soil, installing the grid and raising The Mary Rose after over 400 years of being under water. Follow the link to watch the nerve-racking moment of the ships first appearance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XhbXKE6aTc .

Now back to the museum, something that I really loved was the experience they have managed to create with the little touches such as the lighting and projections, which just transport you into this other world. I felt really calm and at ease throughout my visit which was really lovely, and that got me thinking as to whether other people had the same experience. One of my friends has a lovely little boy who has been diagnosed with ADHD and sensory processing disorder, they also suspect that he is somewhere on the spectrum. Just like me, the whole family are museum geeks which is fab because we talk about different heritage sites all of the time! They have also been to The Mary Rose Museum so I was keen to gather some of their feedback, especially relating to their child’s experience.

“We went to the museum pre-diagnosis so roughly in 2017. Like any kid there are tantrums but we were finding that these episodes were more than a kid just stamping his feet. He would bite, kick, scream, pinch, punch etc. So this day we were about to go into the museum and he has what we now know as a meltdown. I had to literally drag him to the entrance and calm him down. Eventually he is happy enough to go in but still pretty agitated. He wasn’t interested in exhibits at all, I mean he was 5, but the ship was a different thing. He was really engaged with the visuals they projected onto the ship. We noticed he was also really calm. Normally he was always pulling us to move on, couldn’t stand still. Constantly on the move. But I think the combination of a genuine interest in the ship (he was fascinated that it sunk) and the calming environment (dimly lit, sounds of the ship, rocking, ocean noises) it created a dulling on the sensory input. It is quite a narrow walk way but for us that wasn’t an issue. For us it was the start of seeing how where we take him matters. What it is going to be like because it does effect the visit for us as a family. It was also the beginning of us learning how to manage him. Plus you know why I love it, #Tudorsforever”

Although I realise the experience will of course be different for everyone I think it is so valuable to hear their feedback of how someone with ADHD and sensory processing disorder, especially at the age of 5, experienced the museum! And there are plenty of things for kids to do on your visit, as a big kid, one of my favourite aspects were the interactives they had.

These interactives give you the ability to touch and lift different objects to gain an understanding of the weight and feel of them.

As well as the many interactives the museum has on site, importantly at this time, they also have a wealth of resources for families to discover online! Under the section ‘Things to make and do’ The Mary Rose Museum provides colouring, science experiments and paper crafts all FREE OF CHARGE! Of course I had a go (please don’t laugh!)

Would you believe this is supposed to be a ‘pop up Mary Rose’

I know I know, I should stick to cross stitch! But, making my very own Pop-Up Mary Rose was good fun, and you can even colour in your own one! Follow the link to have a go! https://maryrose.org/blog/arts-and-crafts/museum-blogger/make-and-colour-your-own-pop-up-mary-rose/

We really had a wonderful time in Portsmouth and the museums, including The Mary Rose are truly incredible! Seeing as Dan is a tattoo artist we thought we would mark how wonderful our visit was in an alternative way, by supporting a local artist to the area!

Due to the pandemic the museum is still currently closed as they await guidance on how the site can be opened safely. Now more than ever, just like other businesses, our museums and heritage sites need our support. The museum are offering a range of interactive learning opportunities at your fingertips, consider exploring them, buying your ticket for when they reopen, using their shop or even donating. Museums rely on our visitors support, financially and emotionally, to continue being able to present our history and inspire our future generations.

For reference I am not affiliated to the Museum in any way, I just think it’s an incredible place!

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Natasha

The Tank Museum

Seeing as I haven’t been able to work in ages (I work at Somerset Rural Life Museum well worth a visit when this is all over) let alone visit any museums, I thought I’d take the time to tell you about one of my favourite places – The Tank Museum. 🙂

For those of you who do not know the area The Tank Museum is located on an active Army base in Bovington, Dorset. The museum is indoors so perfect for all aspects of the British weather. It also boasts a large outdoor arena to watch tanks and other amazing supporting vehicles in action! In my opinion the museum is perfect for all ages, abilities and levels of interest. You can easily spend an entire day looking around – luckily enough there is an onsite cafe and restaurant too! The museum offers an annual pass so if you don’t manage to see everything in one day, don’t panic!

A couple of years ago I thought I’d take my other half to one of his favourite museums, despite being a complete history geek, the thought of a tank museum just wasn’t my thing. I was prepared to be bored out of my mind and boy was I wrong…

From the minute I stepped inside I was completely captivated. What solidified this was the first exhibition I visited – The Trench Experience. This immersive exhibition gives you the ability to walk in the footsteps of a World War One soldier in a completely 3D rendered space. This exhibition is dimly lit with sound affects which some people may find difficult to take in. (Never fear – if this is the case it is possible to miss this exhibition). From ‘The Trench Experience’, you’ll then get to meet ‘The First Tank Men’ leading onto the fantastic ‘Warhorse to Horsepower’ exhibition. The World War One hall is crammed with vehicles, some of which you can walk right through! This is also where the Mark VI Tank is stationed, which you can have a Guided Tour within, be sure to mind your head though!

As a big kid, something that I absolutely love about The Tank Museum are the interactive activities throughout. From pull out draws showing you extensive collections of medals, dressing up clothes (are there even adults that don’t dress up at museums and heritage sites?!) and even sensory features such as things for you to smell. In writing, it seems a bit strange, but for me, that’s what makes these places so incredible and most importantly, it’s what gets you to come back!

The picture above shows Dan (my boyfriend) having a go at one of the interactive activities in the World War Two hall. Currently under development, and set to open once lockdown has eased, this exhibition space will boast a new wealth of knowledge, artefacts, walkthrough scenes, vehicles, sensory equipment and games for everyone to enjoy. I for one, cannot wait to see this!

The museum currently has 9 exhibition halls, including those already mentioned. You can also see The Tank Story, Battlegroup Afghanistan, Vehicle Conservation Centre, The Tank Factory, and RAC 80: Long After the Battle; which details the story of many of the men who were a part of the Royal Armoured Corp. Recently removed from the World War Two Hall to make way for this large-scale renovation, was The Tiger Collection Exhibition. This was The Tank Museum’s longest running temporary Exhibition by popular demand. A previous exhibition at the museum focused around my favourite tank the Sherman ‘Fury’.

Now, if you haven’t watched Fury, you’re missing out. The 2014 film which stars Brad Pitt takes you on a journey with a U.S tank crew fighting across Nazi Germany. The Tank Museum was heavily involved in the making of this film, utilising their extensive knowledge, expertise and two of their tanks, the Sherman M4 (Fury) and the Tiger 1 (well known as Tiger 131). By this point, as I’m sure you can tell, I am obsessed with this museum and therefore have gone back many times. One such occasion was for a special event where we went to a showing of the film next to the Fury tank! If that wasn’t already amazing, beforehand we had dinner and a talk from Mike Hayton, the Workshop Technical Advisor and Jonathon Kneebone, Workshop Team Leader, about the logistics of making Fury and the Tank Museums involvement. What could be better?

So, the museum puts on some incredible events each year, aside from the Fury screening. We, as often as we can, attend TANKFEST, an annual 3 day event held in June. This brings together the RAC Corp, private collectors and fanatics from across the globe, to celebrate and present ‘the story of Tanks, Tank Crews and soldiers to life’ in this epic display of historic moving armour! Be warned, you need to get your tickets in advance! https://www.tankmuseum.org/whats-on/events/tankfest

However if you can’t make this, Tiger days (held twice a year in Spring and Autumn), half term and summer activities and model shows as well as the Tank in Action Display Days, will be sure to keep you busy!

The Museum also has a fantastic YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChl-XKVVBAzoEVsnbOfpcqw) where they upload Tank Chats and Workshop Diaries, so you can stay up-to-date with all their latest projects! As well as this, which is particularly useful during this period of lockdown, the museum has a ‘Museum Online’ section to their website. This gives you an in-depth look into a selection of these impressive vehicles. For example, Tiger II pictured below was in production between January 1944 and March 1945, its combination of devastating firepower and thick sloped armour plate, made it a formidable weapon. My memory is shocking, particularly for specific details, therefore without their online museum, I wouldn’t have had a clue about that. Why not take a look? https://www.tankmuseum.org/museum-online/vehicles/object-e1994-81

If you’ve got kids interested in the museum and you’re desperately trying to keep them entertained, The Tank Museum also has a range of FREE downloadable resources that might take your fancy. https://www.tankmuseum.org/schools-and-research/kids

Seeing as I’ve accidentally gone on for quite a bit, I will finish by telling you two more things. The Museums shop is remaining open online (https://the-tank-museum.myshopify.com) and sells some great things from clocks to models, and they make perfect presents. You are also supporting the museum with any purchase you make and every sale is a donation to the Museum, its endeavours and conservation efforts. Another way of showing support would be by becoming a Friend of the Tank Museum. Shock horror, Dan and I are friends and have badges to prove it! The Tank Museums Friends provide financial support to the Museum, it is a fundraising scheme and not-for-profit. Many of the Friends are volunteers, guides or patrons of the cause (who are heavily relied upon for events such as TANKFEST). Their support ensures the restoration, conservation and preservation continues. There are also great benefits to becoming a friend of the museum, for example 10% discount in the cafe and shop and 10% off tickets for special events. Follow the link to find out more https://www.tankmuseum.org/support-us/friends.

For reference I am not affiliated to the Museum in any way, I just think It’s fab and I hope to see you there soon! 🙂

Thank you for reading

Natasha

Here we go!

I’ve been contemplating writing a blog for a long time, I guess today is the day I start eek!

My name is Natasha and i’m currently studying for my Masters Degree in Heritage and Interpretation. Before I did this I somehow managed to get a 1st class Honours in History Heritage and Archaeology! I have loved history for as long as I remember and i’ve always known that this was the path intended for me, although it has most certainly not been an easy one.

The idea behind my blog was to write ‘reviews‘ on heritage sites i’ve recently visited. As someone who wants to make a career out of all things heritage learning the scope of these reviews will be how accessible, enjoyable and educational these places are. I’ve often found that a visit to a historic site could be straight forward for me or a ‘normal‘ person, but anyone who has a difficulty or even a lack of interest may need the history to be displayed in a more quirky way and why isn’t it?! This is our history, our heritage and everyone should be able to access it.

I’m going to aim to post a new review once a month – but be aware I start my Dissertation in a couple of weeks!! If you have any feedback I would really appreciate it, I hope you enjoy reading my blog!

Natasha x

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