New exhibition at the National Maritime Museum Greenwich

Skin Deep - 200 Years of the Tattoo Did you know that King Harold had a girl's name on his chest and Churchill's mother had a snake on her wrist?

The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, is pleased to announce a major exhibition on tattooing running until 30 September 2002.

Captain Cook's voyages to Tahiti first brought the word 'tattoo', as we know it, to the English language. Taking these Pacific voyages as its starting point, Skin Deep - a history of tattooing will trace the history of tattooing through its use among seamen in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, to its status as a fashion accessory in mainstream society today. The exhibition will display important objects from the National Maritime Museum's collections, from original paintings from Cook's voyages by Hodges and Webber, to items from the Museum's rare books collection that have never been on public display. Skin Deep will also show a number of key objects on loan from other public and private collections.

Skin Deep Banner

The exhibition is divided into three sections. The first will focus on the Europeans encounters with tattooing in the Pacific, including the first descriptions of it, the significance of the tattoo in Polynesian societies and the response of British sailors to different types of tattooing. The second section will examine the way in which tattooing became popular among merchant seamen and Royal Navy sailors and eventually with groups on the fringes of society, as well as sailors' traditions and commercial tattoos. The final section will look at the tattoo as an increasingly acceptable fashion statement, and at the contemporary vigour of the Pacific tattoo traditions that first inspired Europeans more than two hundred years ago.

NOTES TO EDITORSTo discuss a feature and for jpegs, transparencies, prints or an interview please call (020) 8312 6545/6790/6732.

Exhibition dates: 22 March - 30 September 2002Admission: Free

Issued 21 March 2002. For more information please contact the National Maritime Museum Press Office on: 020 8312 6545/6790/6732 or email