As visitors to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard have the unique opportunity to witness the restoration of HMS Victory, the oldest commissioned warship in the world; they will also have the chance to see how the great sailing warship of the 18th century was built and maintained at battle readiness in a brand new exhibition at the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN).
The interactive exhibition – Bones of Oak & Iron – Beneath Victory’s Skin - will explore how HMS Victory was originally built in 1759, how she was preserved and cared for in war and peace and the restoration process that will cover the next ten years.
This unique opportunity to get beneath the skin of Victory will open to the public on Monday 12th September 2011 and will be FREE to enter. However, it is advised that to get the most from a visit a site ticket must be purchased from the Visitor Centre on arrival to visit the ship herself, the magnificent Trafalgar Sail, the Nelson and Sailing Navy galleries in the NMRN and the rest of the attractions at the Historic Dockyard to put the story into the wider naval historical context.
The National Museum of the Royal Navy’s Director General, Professor Dominic Tweddle explains: “HMS Victory is a national icon. We are determined that by opening this unique exhibition and keeping Victory open to the public throughout the restoration work, visitors can share in the excitement and even thrills of this continuing story."
Visitors will be able to explore through computer generations, footage, display panels, ‘did you know’ facts and various tactile displays, the way that this remarkable 250-year-old ship is looked after to safeguard her for future generations. They can discover the amazing story of her survival and the hard work that ensures this incredible piece of living history makes it through the next quarter of a millennium.
Victory has reached an astonishing age for a ship made almost entirely of wood. In her time she has sailed the high seas, fought major battles, been rammed by iron warships, bombed, eaten by gribbles, nibbled by beetles and rotted by fungus.
She is currently undergoing a major programme of maintenance and repair. Her topmasts and rigging have been struck, or taken down, and her planking is under investigation. This is nothing unusual as wooden ships like Victory needed constant care and attention from the day they were launched. These repairs are simply the latest in a long tradition of regular upkeep.
Jacquie Shaw, Head of Communications and Operations at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard adds: “Our visitors are always fascinated by the conservation of HMS Victory and we are keen to demonstrate that the work involved in looking after the most famous ship in the world is ongoing and vital.
Visitors are intrigued to realise that ships like Victory were regularly refitted and this is just another phase in her life. The maintenance work becomes part of the visitor experience and we will do our very best to ensure that disruption is kept to an absolute minimum and to interpret the work being done so visitors appreciate the considerable skill and effort which is required to keep her ship-shape!"