In mid-December, Bobby Tanzilo wrote a great preview piece about "Real Pirates," the current temporary exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum. I returned yesterday with three kids in tow â€“ ages 10, 10 and 9 â€“ to get their perspective.
The show focuses on the Whydah, a real pirate ship that sunk in 1717 and remains at the bottom of the sea. In 1984, explorer Barry Clifford fulfilled a childhood dream and found the wreckage. He excavated many artifacts which are on display in the exhibit and he continues to return to the site to search for more.
The most fascinating aspect of the show for the kids, as the name reminds, is that these pirates were real. Prior, they believed pirates were fictitious characters in movies or cartoon people that appeared on lunchboxes, stickers and T-shirts.
Learning that pirates actually existed paved the way for the debunking of myths and stereotypes, which is always a good thing. They learned that most pirates didn't match the patch-eyed, stripey-shirted chaps with a parrot on their shoulder that they were familiar with.
They also became aware that it wasn't customary for pirates to bury their treasure or have their captives walk the plank.
The interactiveness of the exhibit was particularly appealing to them. They enjoyed tying knots, boarding the rocking recreation of the Whydah and playing dice atop a barrel with a couple of pirate actors hired to add another dimension to the exhibit.
For obvious reasons, they were also fascinated by the story of John King, a 9-year-old boy who was part of the crew â€“ led by Captain Samuel Bellamy â€“ and the youngest pirate on record.
King demanded to sail with Bellamy and said if he wasn't allowed he would kill himself or harm his mother.
The exhibit opens with a four-minute movie, which could be too dark for younger kids. There's also realistic lighting flashes and thunder in the theater at the end of the short film.
A recreation of a man getting his leg cut off, complete with bloody rags on the floor, was fascinating to my almost tween-aged kids, but might be a little scary to some.
One aspect of the exhibit that was harder for my kids to grasp was how the Whydah was connected to the slave trade. Bellamy and the crew captured ships transporting slaves from Africa to Europe and often allowed the Africans "freedom" if they signed their articles and became a pirate.
The difficult and potentially morally challenging question of whether a life of piracy is better than a life of slavery was an interesting one to ponder â€“ once we fully explained the situation in 10-year-old speak. They still want to categorize everything as "good" or "bad" and once again, with the legacy of the pirates, they were forced to acknowledge the complexity and gray areas of existence.
It was also a timely conversation to have on Martin Luther King Day.
Afterward, we went to AJ Bombers for burgers â€“ I'll blog about this later this week â€“ and the kids shared with me their thoughts and notes while throwing peanut shells on the floor. (One of the beauties of Bombers.)
I asked them whether or not they would have liked to have been a pirate, and they had three different answers.
Levi: "No. I would not like being almost killed every day."
Olivia: "Maybe just for one day."
Kai River: "Yes and no. Yes because I could have the most ultimate battle but no because I could get shot."
I then asked them what they liked the most about the exhibit.
"I liked learning how to fire a cannon," said Levi.
"I liked getting to go on the ship. I liked everything," said Olivia.
"I liked learning about what they ate on the ship," said Kai. "Salted pork sounds gross."
olderwiser | Jan. 23, 2013 at 11:04 a.m. (report)
Thank you for this. Much appreciated. We were considering whether we should take our grandsons to see this and now I am pretty sure that we will.
1 comment about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Molly Snyder
Published July 23, 2016
OnMilwaukee recently asked La Perla's co-owner what happened to the pepper now that the restaurant was sold.
Published July 22, 2016
Every time we visit "Kosy" we wonder why we don't stop by more. It's peaceful, accessible and a great way to take a quick break from the city bustle and take in some serenity for five minutes, 10 minutes or more.
Published July 21, 2016
Award-winning musician Evan Christian plans to open a Walker's Point jazz and acoustic live music boutique called Gibraltar in the former Felipe's Place, 538 W. National Ave.
Published July 21, 2016
Yesterday, OnMilwaukee got a super early sneak peek of Vue, the new rooftop patio and venue coming to Old World Third Street. Watch the Facebook Live video here.
Published July 20, 2016
Here are 10 ways to stay cool on a hot summer night.
Published July 20, 2016
The Bristol Renaissance Faire - which runs weekends through Labor Day - is one of the most earnest, genuine, non-ironic places, populated with some of the most earnest, genuine and non-ironic people. It is, for many, a place of joy.
Published July 18, 2016
DJ Grand Master O is one of Milwaukee's busiest DJs, with multiple standing weekly gigs including Fridays on the Edelweiss Boat Line's late night cruises. We recently caught up with Grand Master O and chatted about his music, family, goals, hair and more.
Published July 15, 2016
In 2013, brother and sister Dave and Juliet Popovic opened Rusty Sprocket Antiques, a corner antique shop located at 3391 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. in Bay View. By the end of the summer, they will open the Sprocket Cafe in the space next door.
Published July 14, 2016
After 21 years of offering Mexican food and mechanical pepper rides, La Perla, 734 S 5th St., will close on Saturday, July 16. La Perla opened in 1995 with just 10 tables and later expanded to occupy three buildings with two outdoor patios.
Published July 13, 2016
Bay View's Bounce Milwaukee is as much of a grown-up destination as it is a kid zone. Adults can jump, slide, laser, climb, box, play video games, sumo wrestle and more, in between drinking beers or cocktails and eating healthy (or not healthy) food.