Tattoo Tales

The following is an appeal for help from the NMRN:

National Museum launches appeal to serving personnel and veterans for stories behind their tattoos

  • In the past sailor’s tattoos mapped journeys on the sea and through life.
  • They symbolised to others where you have travelled, your job and who you love- a walking biography on your body

On the eve of a major new temporary exhibition Tattoo: British Tattoo Art Revealed  which opens on 30 June 2018 at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, The National Museum of the Royal Navy want to see if the traditional symbols of anchors, swallows and more are still being used.

The exhibition is on a national tour and was curated by the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.

Research published almost 50 years ago by Naval Surgeon Captain R.W.B. Scutt “Tattoo History and Information from Art, Sex and Symbols: The Mystery of Tattooing”  suggested that the catering arm of the navy was the most tattooed. Is this still the case?

Do the people wearing them have a naval connection and are they aware of the symbolic meaning behind the image?

Tattoos tell a story about the person; where they’ve been, what or who they love/hate, it is a map of who you are and who you want to be.

Joanna Valentine, community outreach officer at The National Museum of the Royal Navy explained:

“We want serving personnel and veterans to tell us their tattoo stories and send us photographs. It doesn’t matter how long ago the tattoo was made. We would love to hear why they got their tattoo? Why it is important and what do you think is a traditional navy tattoo?”

The images and tales will build on research collected at naval family fetes and will be used as part of the exhibition outreach sessions working with community groups talking about the custom. It will also be included as part of the interactive part of Tattoo: British Tattoo Art Revealed exhibition in the Historic Dockyard and will be shared on an online gallery on Facebook.

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