Exhibit Showcases Library's Hill Collection

The Untold Story of the WHYDAH From Slave Ship to Pirate Ship.

The UC San Diego Library's prestigious Hill Collection of Pacific Voyages and its treasure trove of original texts about piracy is featured as a local component of the theNAT's (the San Diego Natural History Museum) current exhibition, Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship.

Organized by National Geographic and Premier Exhibitions, Inc., the traveling Real Pirates exhibition opened on February 8, 2014 and will run through September 1, 2014 at the museum in Balboa Park. The exhibit tells the story of the crew of the Whydah, a pirate ship originally intended to be a slave ship, and showcases treasure chests of gold coins, jewelry, cannons, pistols, knives, and a life-size replica of the ship's stern that visitors can board.

Augmenting the traveling exhibition is a special bonus exhibit, Pirates: Unnatural Naturalists, featuring materials from the Library's Hill Collection. The items on display are from the Library's own recent exhibition, Pirates in Print: Seafaring Treasurers of the Mandeville Special Collections Library, which drew from the 2,000-plus works in the Hill Collection of Pacific Voyages. Considered one of the world's most extensive collections of books on early voyages of exploration and discovery to the Pacific, the collection was donated to the UC San Diego Library in 1974 by Kenneth E. and Dorothy V. Hill.

Image from A New Voyage Round the World, by William Dampier, one of the books in the Hill Collection.

Pirate Coins

Pirates in Print was curated by Mark Hanna, a UC San Diego historian who served as an adviser on theNAT's Real Pirates exhibition. Hanna earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2006 and completed his dissertation on "The Pirate Nests: The Impact of Piracy on Newport and Charles Town, 1670-1730." Hanna teaches a class, "The Golden Age of Piracy," which traces the role of sea navigators in transforming global politics and commerce.  

The Hill Collection holds first editions of every significant work on piracy from the 17th and 18th centuries. These include Alexandre Exquemelin's 1684 Bucaniers of America, William Dampier's 1698 A New Voyage Around the World, and Captain Charles Johnson's 1724  A General History of Pyrates, the collection's most important holding and Hanna's personal favorite.

Real Pirates features a dozen multimedia galleries that explore the nature of the slave trade in West Africa and the economic prosperity it brought to the Caribbean in the early 18th century. The Whydah was located by underwater explorer Barry Clifford in 1984. The exhibit relates details about the ship's journey, its capture by Sam Bellamy, one of the boldest and most successful pirates of his day; the violent storm that sank the ship; its discovery by Clifford, and the recovery and conservation of its artifacts.

TheNAT's announcement notes that the loan from Mandeville Special Collections "includes some of the most important rare books documenting the 'Golden Age of Piracy' in existence, dating from the late 16th to early 18th century." Other local contributors to the exhibit include gem collectors Will and Carl Larson of Fallbrook and the Maritime Museum of San Diego, which loaned authentic rigging, sails and other items. For more information about the exhibition: http://www.sdnhm.org/

Exhibits & Events

"National Poetry Month Exhibit."

  • April 1 - April 30
  • Seuss Room foyer, Geisel Library.
  • For more information:
  • Webpage.

"Library Chimes Exhibit."

  • April 28 - June 30
  • Geisel West, 2nd floor.
  • For more information:
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"San Diego Book Arts Exhibit."

  • May 4 - June 22
  • Seuss Room, Geisel Library.
  • For more information:
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"Porrajmos: The Romanies and the Holocaust with Ian Hancock."

  • May 4, 5:00 to 6:30 p.m.
  • Holocaust Living History Workshop.
  • Seuss Room, Geisel Library
  • For more information:
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Domain Editor

Dolores Davies

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