The art of the scrimshanderer
Hull Maritime Museum has the largest collection of scrimshaw in the whole of Europe. But what exactly is it?
The Bowhead is one of the largest species of whale in the world. A beautiful and majestic creature, it can measure more than 18 metres and weight up to 110 tonnes.
To begin our role as the UK City of Culture, the Maritime Museum on Queen Victoria Square is hosting a special exhibition. Located on the first floor of the beautifully ornate building, Bowhead is an enormous video projection by Louise Dempsey, a Games Design student at Hull School of Art and Design.
Starting life as a side project during Louise’s second year, Bowhead grew into a multi-disciplinary research assignment. It has now extended into her third year, having received months of hard work and commitment.
The installation demonstrates Louise’s newly developed skills in 3D and digital animation. Paul Starkey, HSAD Games Lecturer, said:
“A project like Bowhead really showcases the array of transferable skills that the students can develop. For example, technology designed for creating games is being used by Louise to create an experiential museum exhibit.”
To make Bowhead a reality, Louise had to expand her skill set into new areas. For instance, rigging an animation skeleton and “weight painting”, which allows the digital flesh to be added to animated bones.
The short animation, which is played on a loop, is accompanied by a soothing soundtrack. This has been composed by Music students of the School of Arts at The University of Hull. The result of this valuable collaboration is a wonderful audiovisual treat that can be enjoyed by all.
We popped down to see Bowhead and the first thing that struck us upon entering the building was how busy it was. It really is amazing to see people flocking to the Maritime Museum, and it was clear that many visitors were making the most of their trip. With countless artefacts, paintings and exhibits to view, the building is a jewel in Hull’s cultural crown.
The space hosting Bowhead has a handful of seats, with most people standing to watch the short composition. Parents with buggies easily found space to squeeze in, and the looks on the children’s faces were priceless.
There are some moments of Bowhead that really stand out, from swooping movements across the screen, to an extreme close-up of its beady eye looking down at us.
Whilst this may be the first time that you’ve seen one up close, Hull’s ancestors of the 18th and 19th centuries hunted Bowhead whales regularly. At the time, Hull was the biggest whaling port in the UK, with Bowheads in particular providing large quantities of blubber for oil production.
With the estimated population of Bowhead whales currently standing at just 10,000, this is an opportunity to appreciate a charming beast that is still recovering from the whaling days of old.
You can view Bowhead at the Maritime Museum until 19 March, 10am-5pm Monday to Saturday and 1:30pm-4.30pm on Sundays. Hull Museums offer free entry for all, with donations greatly appreciated.