m-bathmuseum-012309 Museum sets sail with 'Sea Within Us' exhibit
BATH — Even if you're an irrepressible landlubber, chances are that much of your life has been influenced by the sea.
That is the point the Maine Maritime Museum is trying to get across with its new exhibit, "The Sea Within Us: Iconically Maritime in Fashion and Design," which continues at 243 Washington St. through April 19.
"The essence of this exhibit is really to figure out what it is within our own selves that drives us to connect with our maritime heritage," museum curator Christopher Hall said last week. "We tend to take out of the history what we want, and we adapt that in all kinds of different ways."
For instance, a display that greets visitors points out the many sea-inspired sayings in everyday language: "know the ropes," "under the weather," "lose your lunch," "coast is clear" and so on.
"There's a phrase ... you've used all your life but it actually happens to be derived from earlier maritime usage," Hall said. "The obvious things are often the surprising things. It's nothing complicated, but it's just an underlying filter that's part of our culture."
Another section of the exhibit might look like the seaman's version of The Gap, showing off land-based clothing styles based on original Navy uniforms. Children's sailor suits, striped sailor shirts worn by modern models that stem from 1850s French naval designs, and a "Jill Tar" Ralph Lauren design giving a nod to Jack Tar English seamen exemplify the clothing connection between land and sea.
The exhibit also shows off a variety of business cards boasting nautical themes, along with historic liquor bottles, matchboxes, dolls and dining plates, magazine covers and classic advertisements that make a day by the sea look like a sojourn in paradise.
"Most people don't even have sea-going lives," Hall said. "It's the old armchair sailor thing. It's what most of us do."
There is even a gallery of sea-based tattoos, featuring photos culled from submissions to the museum in anticipation of the exhibit. While tattooing began in Polynesia and the South Pacific, the trend spread into Western culture as the mark of a seaman, Hall explained.
Along with typical adornments along the arms and legs is one on the inside of a man's lip. Each photo comes with a testimony by each submitter, and the man – whose lip reads "ROCK" with a tiny skull between the O and C – explains that he "got it when I was pretty young from a friend who was apprenticing tattooing and had never done a lip tattoo."
Whatever floats your boat.