2016 exhibitions at Royal Museums Greenwich

2016 sees a number of exciting new exhibitions and projects launched across Royal Museums Greenwich.

At the National Maritime Museum unearth the esoteric stories of Emma Hamilton, most renowned for being Admiral Lord Nelson’s mistress but in fact a muse and celebrity in her own right; explore the latest innovations in aerospace technology with Above and Beyond; and commemorate the centenary of World War One’s major naval conflict, the Battle of Jutland. The Queen’s House will celebrate its quadricentenary following a yearlong refurbishment and reopens to the public in July 2016, while the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year returns to the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

Emma Hamilton: Seduction and Celebrity

National Maritime Museum: opens 3 November 2016

From humble origins, Emma Hamilton rose to national and international fame as a model, performer and interpreter of neo-classical fashion. Within the public mind, however, she typically continues to occupy a passive and supporting role, and is often remembered simply as the mistress of Britain’s greatest naval hero, Admiral Lord Nelson. This landmark exhibition recovers Emma from myth and misrepresentation, and reveals her to be an active and influential historical actor in her own right: one of the greatest female lives of her era.

Born into poverty in 1765, Emma’s talent and beauty brought her fame while still in her teens as muse to the great portrait artist George Romney. In her twenties she achieved still greater artistic prominence in Naples, the epicentre of the fashionable Grand Tour. Here, as the confidante of Queen Maria Carolina, she also came to wield considerable political power. Emma embarked on a passionate affair with Admiral Lord Nelson, but risked her security and social status in the process. Her fortunes never recovered from the tragedy of his death at Trafalgar and – following a period in debtor’s prison – she died in self-imposed exile in Calais in 1815.

The exhibition carries visitors through the arc of this remarkable story, revealing Emma’s driving ambition and her brilliance as a performer, and placing in sharp relief the social conventions ranged against her. In an age when people tended to remain fixed in the social categories in which they began their lives, she crossed boundaries of all kinds, broke through barriers and ultimately paid a heavy price.

Emma’s story will be told through over 200 objects from public and private lenders around a core from the Museum’s own collections. Emma’s compelling story will be explored through exceptional fine art; antiquities that inspired Emma’s famous ‘attitudes’; costumes that show her impact on contemporary fashions; prints and caricatures that carried her image to a mass audience; her personal letters and those of Nelson and William Hamilton; and finally the uniform coat that Nelson wore at Trafalgar, retained by Emma until destitution forced her to part with it.

400th Anniversary of the Queen’s House

Queen’s House: October 2016

Designed by Inigo Jones in 1616 for the wife of James I, Anne of Denmark, the Queen’s House was the first classical building in the country and is an acknowledged masterpiece of 17th-century architecture. In celebration of the 400th anniversary of its commissioning and design, the Queen’s House reopens with refurbished galleries, including the King’s Presence Chamber and the Tulip Stairs, and introduces new displays and interpretation to visitors. Focusing on the iconic people and events, artists, designers and architects key to understanding the building’s history and its significance today, the re-displays will also capitalize on the great strengths of the National Maritime Museum’s world-class art collection, along with significant loans from both public and private collections. The galleries will chart the changing relationship between the Queen’s House, the people who created it and those who lived and worked there, from royalty and courtiers to the Navy. As well as the new displays, Orazio Gentileschi’s Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife will return to this iconic building after 360 years and put on display for visitors to see in its original surroundings for the first time since 1650. The painting, generously lent by Her Majesty The Queen from the Royal Collection, was one of a sequence commissioned for the Queen’s House by King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria.

Above and Beyond

National Maritime Museum: 27 May–29 August 2016

Discover the wonder of flight and the marvels of aerospace innovation, design, and technology with the immersive exhibition, Above and Beyond. Explored through five key themes that define flight and space travel – Up, Faster, Higher, Farther, and Smarter – Above and Beyond is a hands-on journey that provides visitors of all ages and interests with both retrospective and forward-thinking views on the innovation and science behind flight. The exhibition produced by Evergreen Exhibitions in association with Boeing and in collaboration with NASA, will feature dozens of interactive experiences made possible using flight simulation, augmented reality, and virtual reality, including a simulated space elevator ride. The exhibition will also span Boeing’s centennial date of July 15, 2016, following the founding of the company by Bill Boeing.

Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Royal Observatory Greenwich: Exhibition: September 2016–June 2017

The Royal Observatory’s hugely popular Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year returns in 2016 to celebrate the very best in astrophotography from around the world. The winning images are selected by an expert judging panel, which includes the Observatory’s Public Astronomer, Dr Marek Kukula. After the awards are announced in September 2016 the winning photographs will be displayed in a special exhibition at the Royal Observatory. The 2015 contest received a record number of entries, with over 2700 outstanding entries submitted from over 60 countries across the globe. 

Jutland 1916: WW1's Greatest Sea Battle

National Maritime Museum: 20 May 2016-2018

As part of the National Maritime Museum’s commemoration of World War One, this new exhibition marks the centenary of the largest naval battle of the conflict – the Battle of Jutland.

Involving a total of 279 ships on 31 May 1916, the North Sea bore witness to ‘Der Tag’, a major clash between the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet. Both sides suffered heavy losses in ships and men, but despite being the biggest naval surface engagement to date Jutland was one of the most keenly-felt disappointments of the war, with neither side achieving a decisive victory. Jutland 1916: WW1's Greatest Sea Battle places the battle within the wider context of the war, and examines the action itself through content created with the grandson of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, the Commander of the British Grand Fleet. Visitors to the exhibition will learn of the battle and the experience of serving aboard British and German warships through objects such as paintings, photographs, ship models and plans, sailor-made craft work, medals and eyewitness accounts. The exhibition will also cover the immediate aftermath of the battle, as well as the protracted controversies it generated which continue to this day.

Notes to Editors:

Royal Museums Greenwich incorporates the National Maritime Museum, the Royal Observatory Greenwich, the 17th-century Queen’s House and Cutty Sark. Royal Museums Greenwich works to illustrate for everyone the importance of the sea, ships, time and the stars and their relationship with people. This unique collection of attractions, which form a key part of the Maritime Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site, welcomes over two million British and international visitors a year and is also a major centre of education and research.

For further information or images, please contact:

Sheryl Twigg or Rhianon Davies | Royal Museums Greenwich Press Office | Tel: 020 8312 6790/6545/6789 | 07983 512 841 | Email: press@rmg.co.uk

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