James Cook: The Voyages opens at the British Library
- New major exhibition marks 250 years since James Cook’s ship Endeavour set sail from Plymouth
- Featuring original maps, artworks and journals alongside contemporary films, the exhibition allows visitors to follow the course of his voyages and consider their legacy
- Accompanying website and events programme further explore the different perspectives and competing narratives surrounding the voyages
Marking 250 years since James Cook’s ship Endeavour set sail from Plymouth, James Cook: The Voyages (27 April to 28 August 2018) explores Cook’s three world-changing voyages through stunning artworks, original maps and handwritten journals.
From iconic depictions of people and landscapes by expedition artists Sydney Parkinson, John Webber and William Hodges to an evocative collection of drawings by Polynesian high priest and navigator Tupaia, which are going on display together for the first time, James Cook: The Voyages will take visitors on a journey of discovery, from the Pacific Ocean to the Antarctic.
The exhibition will chart Cook’s three voyages, from the Endeavour setting sail from Plymouth in 1768 to the Resolution and Discovery returning to Britain in 1780 after Cook’s death in Hawaii. It will explore different perspectives on the voyages, from those on board the ships to those who saw them arrive on their shores, and will consider their legacy and relevance today.
Exhibition highlights include:
- Paintings depicting Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia by the Polynesian high priest and navigator Tupaia, which are going on display as a group for the first time
- The first chart of New Zealand by James Cook
- The first artworks depicting the Antarctic by William Hodges on loan from the State Library of New South Wales, which will be reunited with James Cook’s handwritten journal entry describing the first crossing of the Antarctic Circle, for the first time in 100 years
- Specimens from the first voyage, including the mouth parts of a squid, on loan from the Royal College of Surgeons
- Expedition artist John Webber’s watercolour landscapes, including the first European illustrations of Hawai’i
- Jewellery and musical instruments, including a necklace from Tierra del Fuego, ceremonial rattle from Nootka Sound (Vancouver Island) and bamboo flute from Tahiti, on loan from Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge
- Natural history drawings, including the first European depiction of a kangaroo by Sydney Parkinson on loan from the Natural History Museum
The British Library holds pre-eminent collections from the voyages, including many original maps, artwork and journals produced on board ship, which will be displayed alongside films exploring contemporary views on Cook’s legacy in Australia, New Zealand and other places visited by the expeditions. Contemporary perspectives on the voyages, including people from the Pacific communities Cook visited, will also be explored through the Library’s accompanying web space (www.bl.uk/the-voyages-of-captain-james-cook) and public events programme.
William Frame, co-curator of James Cook: The Voyages at the British Library, said:
‘The British Library holds many iconic artworks, charts and handwritten journals from James Cook’s voyages and the exhibition displays the most famous of these together, alongside key loans, for the first time in a generation. Through the exhibition and accompanying public programme visitors will be able to consider different perspectives on the voyages and to reflect on their meaning today.’
Laura Walker, co-curator of James Cook: The Voyages at the British Library, said:
‘In the exhibition, visitors will be able to follow the course of each voyage through eyewitness accounts, hand-drawn charts and stunning artwork created on board ship. Alongside these sources, recently commissioned films allow visitors to consider contemporary perspectives on the voyages and to examine their legacy, much of which remains highly contested today.’
The accompanying web space, which will be added to throughout the exhibition run, hosts a range of newly digitised collection items, audio-visual content and articles by academics, artists, journalists and community historians who present their views and responses to the Library’s exhibition and collections.
The British Library will also be hosting a series of photographs by Crystal Te Moananui-Squares, which present a contemporary encounter with Pacific communities in the United Kingdom as a creative response to the exhibition. The free display, entitled Tūhuratanga – Voyages of Discovery, will be located in the Library’s Second Floor Gallery from 6 July to 23 September 2018.
There will be a full programme of events, including talks, discussions and film screenings, inspired by the exhibition. April to June events can be found on the British Library’s What’s On pages, with a full programme of events available on request. Highlights include:
- Keynote lectures by Professor Nicholas Thomas, Director of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, and Dame Anne Salmond, Distinguished Professor of Māori Studies and Anthropology at the University of Auckland
- New Zealand Poet Laureate and Pasifika poet-scholar Selina Tusitala Marsh, curator, writer and artist Ahilapalapa Rands and Dame Anne Salmond discussing James Cook: Legacies and Controversies
- Digital Conversation: Empowering Technologies, a discussion on how indigenous communities use new technologies to preserve and promote their way of life
Unless stated otherwise, media content on the press area of our website, including images, is protected by third-party rights such as copyright or trademarks. The British Library is permitted to make the content available to you for promoting associated British Library’s exhibitions, events or activities. If you are not using images to promote a British Library activity, you must clear all rights for your use of any in-copyright material beyond uses permitted under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.
'A View of the Endeavour’s Watering Place in the Bay of Good Success’ by Alexander Buchan, 1769 (c) British Library Board
6487 × 8299, 5.1 MB
Banks and a Maori by Tupaia (c) British Library Board
8840 × 4817, 5.4 MB
A Canoe of Tongatapu by William Hodges, 1774 (c) British Library Board
6472 × 6490, 4.0 MB
Cook’s Chart of New Zealand (c) British Library Board
Cook's journal entry describing first crossing of Antarctic Circle, 17 January 1773 (c) British Library Board
Entertainments at Lifuka on the reception of Captain Cook by John Webber, 1777 (c) British Library Board
7139 × 5349, 3.7 MB
Copies of Harrison's chronometer made by John Arnold (c) Royal Society
‘Inhabitants of the Island of Terra del Fuego in their Hut’ by Alexander Buchan, 1769 (c) British Library Board
3335 × 4861, 12.7 MB
Kangaroo by Sydney Parkinson © Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London
Kula from Fiji, 1875 on loan from University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge (c) Jon Ellis
886 × 1240, 94.2 KB
Mouth parts of a squid, specimen from first voyage (c) Royal College of Surgeons
4785 × 6962, 19.1 MB
Portrait of Captain James Cook (1728-79) (c) British Library Board
6328 × 8555, 6.2 MB
‘Portrait of a Woman of Unalaska’ by John Webber, 1778 (c) British Library Board
Rattle from Nootka Sound, c. 1778 (c) Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, 1922.948
Reflecting telescope, James Short c.1770 (c) Whipple Museum of the History of Science, Cambridge
8555 × 6319, 3.5 MB
Tahitian musicians by Tupaia (c) British Library Board
Three Paddles from New Zealand by Sydney Parkinson, 1769 (c) British Library Board
8826 × 6278, 5.7 MB
‘View of the harbour of Huaheine’ by John Webber, 1777
Notes to Editors
A-roll and b-roll footage of James Cook: The Voyages at the British Library can be downloaded from here: http://wearetnr.isebox.net/james-cook-exhibition
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