Appeal to serving personnel and veterans for stories behind their tattoos

  • In the past sailor’s tattoos mapped journeys on the sea and through life.
  • They symbolised to others where you have travelled, your job and who you love- a walking biography on your body

On the eve of a major new temporary exhibition Tattoo: British Tattoo Art Revealed which opens on 30 June 2018 at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, The National Museum of the Royal Navy want to see if the traditional symbols of anchors, swallows and more are still being used. 

The exhibition is on a national tour and was curated by the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.

Research published almost 50 years ago by Naval Surgeon Captain R.W.B. Scutt “Tattoo History and Information from Art, Sex, and Symbols: The Mystery of Tattooing”  suggested that the catering arm of the navy was the most tattooed. Is this still the case?

Tattoos tell a story about the person; where they've been, what or who they love/hate, it is a map of who you are and who you want to be.

Joanna Valentine, community outreach officer at The National Museum of the Royal Navy explained:

Do the people wearing them have a naval connection and are they aware of the symbolic meaning behind the image?

“We want serving personnel and veterans to tell us their tattoo stories and send us photographs. It doesn’t matter how long ago the tattoo was made. We would love to hear why they got their tattoo? Why it is important and what do you think is a traditional navy tattoo?”

The images and tales will build on research collected at naval family fetes and will be used as part of the exhibition outreach sessions working with community groups talking about the custom. It will also be included as part of the interactive part of Tattoo: British Tattoo Art Revealed exhibition in the Historic Dockyard and will be shared on an online gallery on Facebook.

Please contact us on tattoo@nmrn.org.uk

  • Tattoo: British Tattoo Art Revealed offers a genuinely ground-breaking and comprehensive history of British tattooing, featuring cutting-edge designers, leading academics and major private collectors to tell a story that challenges long-standing myths and pre-conceptions about tattooing when it comes to class, gender, and age, whilst at the same time giving a voice to and celebrating the astonishingly rich artistic heritage of tattooing as an art form in the UK.
  • Showcasing the work of major tattoo artists from George Burchett, via the Bristol Tattoo Club, to Alex Binnie and Lal Hardy this is the largest gathering of real objects and original tattoo artwork ever assembled in the United Kingdom.
  • The exhibition features items from three of the most important private collections of tattoo material in Britain, belonging to Willie Robinson, Jimmy Skuse, and Paul ‘Rambo’ Ramsbottom, providing a rare opportunity to display original artwork and artefacts not otherwise on public display. The exhibition also delves into previously unseen private archives that reveal hidden histories, including the incredible real story of Britain’s pioneering female tattoo artist, Jessie Knight.
  • • Featuring over 400 original artworks, photographs and historic artefacts, the exhibit will feature the work from cutting edge designers, leading academics and major private collectors. Developed by the National Maritime Museum, Falmouth, this is an opportunity to see the popular exhibition as it goes on tour across the UK.

To find out more and book tickets for this exhibition visit: Tattoo: British Tattoo History Revealed

HMS Hermes returning from the Falklands