This month, we have a guest blog from Jessica Willis, one of our Collections Volunteers
One of my favourite things about working in the museum’s archives is stumbling across dark, murky images of protruding beams, barely perceptible in the depths of the Solent, and realising that’s the very same ship displayed just thirty yards away. Countless times I’ve found myself studying what appears to be a ghostly, barren image, the debris of some post-apocalyptic catastrophe, before being told I’m actually looking at Tudor brick – which had informed the divers they may have found the galley and were approaching the desired strata (a term I’ve since learnt describes the different units of sedimentation in excavation – I’ve also learnt that most archaeological words sit at just above four syllables).
In the archives, as the date of the ship’s raising is drawing near, we’re coming across underwater “empty landscapes” which, to me, emphasise the sea’s mystery (admittedly, I’m sure they’re only empty to my untrained eye). Brief moments of recognition where I can confidently lean back and say “it’s a beam,” have stressed the incredibility of the ship’s current status: a coherent, appreciable artefact. Those welcomed seconds of identification have also left me wondering at the lives of objects – their absorbed history, from an existence as a series of unrelated materials to now being historical points of reference. The museum’s architecture both acknowledges and responds to its present condition, reproducing the lost port side and creating an environment geared towards improving visitor experience, thus cementing the change in the ship’s function from warfare to education. These thoughts have informed my choice of images and led to the comparison of archival photographs with the museum’s contemporary architecture.