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 Nov. 27, 2015
On a recent Friday afternoon, we stopped in for lunch at Liquid Johnny's in West Allis. No, we did not have a "liquid lunch," despite the name of the bar and restaurant, but we certainly thought about it.
Published Nov. 26, 2015
The Black Friday shopping experience is a big, mixed bag of savings and safety issues. Milwaukee's Melanie Rice and Bryan Zysk know this first-hand. One even suffered a broken foot in a brawl over a DVD player.
Published Nov. 25, 2015
Recently, OnMilwaukee's Molly Snyder went to the Brew City Bruisers Boot Camp to test her roller skating skills and bad assery. Turns out, she spent a lot of time on her bad ass.
Published Nov. 24, 2015
Candy Cane Lane will celebrate 30 years this season when it plugs in the lights on Friday, Nov. 27. They will stay aglow through Sunday, Dec. 27.
Published Nov. 22, 2015
Children's Hospital of Wisconsin offers an array of social services, including The Robyn's Nest, run by Lona Long and a team of volunteers to provide clothing and other items to kids and foster families.
Published Nov. 20, 2015
Earlier this week, after looking at tragic photos of Syrian refugee children on Facebook, Gretchen Mead decided she was going to invite refugees to stay in extra rooms in her bungalow-style home in Shorewood.
Published Nov. 20, 2015
Suddenly, the warm-and-comfy factor in bars is a big deal, and so OnMilwaukee stepped up and went out on a couple of windy, chilly nights last week to scout out some of the city's coziest bars.
Published Nov. 19, 2015
Recently, we posted a story about the now-defunct Captain's Steak Joynt chain of restaurants and many readers remembered its famous cheese fondue. We got the recipe and last night we made it.
Published Nov. 19, 2015
Anyone who likes sipping, shopping and indulging should head over to Brady Street tomorrow - that's Friday, Nov. 20 - for the block's Holiday Open House.
Published Nov. 18, 2015
Anyone who's lived in Milwaukee has heard chatter about Summerfest caring more about beer sales than live music. However, local musician Eoin McCarthy has a story about how the Big Gig rallied around his music.