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About the Museum

Welcome to the Mayflower Museum

This is a journey through our building and through time. There are four floors and four centuries to explore. This is a shared history and we look forward to sharing it more widely.

 

The exhibition explores the Mayflower story in new ways. It begins with Wampanoag history and culture thanks to an on-going partnership with members of the Native American tribal nation. Their insights are shared alongside the stories of earlier English voyages to America, which shaped histories and legacies on both sides of the Atlantic. The exhibition considers the impact of English colonisation on indigenous communities – then and now. It also reflects on commemorations through time, and England’s changing, and enduring, relationship with America. 

 

An animation – Turtle Island – which was created for children and young people, is also being shown publicly for the first time within the exhibition. Using period objects, maps and music, it tells the story of the emergence of America.

 

The exhibition features the faces of contemporary Mayflower passenger descendants as well as the descendants of the Wampanoag people who met them 400 years ago. The photography is the result of partnerships with the New England Historical Genealogical Society in Boston, and with SmokeSygnals, a Wampanoag cultural development organisation which led a tribal elders’ image project with us.

 

The Mayflower Museum also reflects on the Mayflower 2020 year and the range of exhibitions and events, which did go ahead despite the pandemic. These included the No New Worlds light installation, The Hatchling and the Mayflower Autonomous Ship. It also includes new material from the Indigenous Plymouth trail, which reflects on new research into five centuries of Native American arrivals into Plymouth.

 

During your visit you will travel over three floors experiencing history and encounters, exploration and impacts, and commemoration and legacies. There is also a new children’s trail encouraging younger visitors to learn more about Wampanoag life and culture, as well as the Mayflower and its passengers.

 

A recent refurbishment of the Mayflower Museum has brought together the learning from the Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy exhibition, shown at The Box during 2020/21, and Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America, which toured nationally over the same period. Both shows were created by The Box in partnership with members of the Wampanoag Nation. The on-going collaboration, and the new exhibition at the Mayflower Museum, are both legacies of the 400th anniversary. 

 

What will you see?

 

Third floor – Introduction and encounters

This floor introduces visitors to the personal and political legacies of the Mayflower story. It also considers the historic context – on both sides of the Atlantic.

 

The balcony considers geography and the relationship between Plymouth and America, or Turtle Island as many Native American creation stories call it.

 

The ‘faces’ room has 338 images. These are pictures of people – those who claim to be descendants of the passengers of the Mayflower, historic descendants, and modern-day Wampanoag tribal elders. The ‘forest’ room uses images of the ancient eastern woodlands of America to explore Wampanoag history and culture before the arrival of the Mayflower’s passenger. This area also looks at early English attempts to create colonies in America – and their consequences

The forest room also showcases the Turtle Island animation. This film was made by Carbon Pixel for The Box Plymouth. It’s an animation made for children and young people to explore the history of America

 

Second floor – Exploration and impacts

This floor considers the passengers of the Mayflower, their journey and the impact on colonisation on Wampanoag people, land and culture.

 

This area introduces visitors to the 102 passengers – men, women and children – all of different ages, classes, birthplaces and beliefs. There is also a specific space dedicated to the children who travelled – more than 30 were on board. Maps of the journey are shown alongside maps of Wampanoag land and settlements. The gallery also includes a timeline of Wampanoag history and considers the impact of English colonisation on their society

 

First floor – Commemoration and legacies

This floor looks at how Mayflower history has been commemorated over time in Plymouth. It also explores the history of Native American arrivals in the city over five centuries.

 

*There is an illustrated timeline of the Anglo-American relationship through time, an illustrated timeline of Native American arrivals into the city. Four display cases show the material culture of commemoration and how differing anniversaries shared the story. This gallery also includes the 1970 commemorative model ship =, along with details of what is known and not known about the 1620 Mayflower and its 1957 replica. 

 

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