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14th March 2022

A changing patchwork of imagery from the Hull Maritime Museum’s scrimshaw collection will bathe key buildings in Queen Victoria Square, as part of the Hull Maritime project’s cultural programme.

These detailed, sometimes minute images, scratched into whalebone and teeth by bored sailors hundreds of years ago will be exploded into huge detail across the buildings in Queen Victoria Square. Scenes with tall, traditionally rigged whaling ships in all their glory navigating calm and often turbulent seas, including insightful images of whale hunting and how sailors risked their lives on a daily basis to bring home a highly valued commodity.

Whalers often spent long periods of time at sea with very little to occupy them, so crafting scrimshaw became a popular activity to pass the time. Memories of home and loved ones, magical and imaginary creatures from myth, scenes of exotic animals seen on foreign travels often coupled with bold images of maritime insignia often adorn Scrimshaw, conveying an intimate portrayal of their creators.

From 14 March and running until 20 March, you can step into the tales told by these drawings in detail, before they retreat as small, intriguing and exquisite specimens in glass cases within the refurbished Maritime Museum.

Councillor Daren Hale, Leader of Hull City Council, said: “The museum’s scrimshaw is regarded as the best collection in the UK and Europe and presenting them in new and different ways will enable people to discover the story behind them.

“You will also have the opportunity to see them again, with additional imagery, in the coming months as part of larger scale event in Hull city centre.”

These images have been presented by internationally renowned and award-winning artist Katayoun Dowlatshahi, who has also been commissioned to create bespoke pieces of art for the Queen’s Gardens refurbishment.

Contemporary artist, Katayoun Dowlatshahi, said: "Like many visitors to the Maritime Museum, I was immediately drawn to the extensive scrimshaw collection, fascinated by the craftmanship and sometimes childlike record of a unique period in history.

“Today, we rightly conserve and protect all species of whales globally, but it is still important to acknowledge the undisputed contribution whale hunting made to the wealth and growth of Hull as a maritime city and how whale products fuelled the nation's Industrial revolution.

“I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to bring the Scrimshaw out from the museum cabinet and into the city, to momentarily experience them as huge scale drawings in light and projection."

The Hull Maritime project, funded by Hull City Council and The National Lottery Heritage Fund, encompasses the redevelopment of five historic sites in Hull city centre: the transformation of the Grade II* Hull Maritime Museum and the Dock Office Chambers, the creation of a new visitor attraction at the North End Shipyard and the restoration two historic vessels, the Arctic Corsair and Spurn Lightship.