Press Contacts:
Heather Hope, Denver Museum of Nature & Science, 303-370-8372,
Laura Calliari, Arts and Exhibitions International, 424-247-8619,

DENVER – Pirates will invade the Denver Museum of Nature & Science in Spring 2011 when the blockbuster exhibition Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship opens on Friday, March 4. The world’s first exhibition of authentic pirate treasure, organized by National Geographic and Arts and Exhibitions International, explores early 18th-century piracy and boasts more than 200 artifacts recovered from the first fully authenticated pirate ship ever discovered in U.S. waters. Denver is one of only 10 cities the exhibition will visit.

From the organizers of Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs, now in Denver, Real Pirates tells the true story of the Whydah — a real pirate ship that sank off the coast of Cape Cod nearly 300 years ago — 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.

The exhibition provides visitors with an unprecedented glimpse into the unique economic, political, and social circumstances of the early 18th-century Caribbean. It is highlighted by the compelling stories of the diverse people whose lives converged on the vessel before it sank in a fierce storm on April 26, 1717.

“Real Pirates explores the exciting science of nautical archaeology and the technologies that allow scientists to unlock the clues embedded in these 300-year-old treasures,” said George Sparks, President and CEO of the Museum. “It brings to life the stories, adventures, and hardships of an era in American history in a way that captivates the imagination of the whole family.”

Underwater Discovery
The Whydah was located by underwater explorer Barry Clifford in 1984. Clifford is still actively excavating the wreck site and continues to bring treasures to the surface every year.

“Discovering the Whydah was the most exciting moment in my career,” said Clifford. “The sheer volume of artifacts the Whydah carried, from more than 50 other ships captured by the pirate captain Sam Bellamy and his men, provides a rare window into the otherwise mysterious world of 18th-century pirates. This exhibition is the culmination of my many years of work. Most importantly, it is a chance to bring the real story of pirates to the public as it's never been told before — through real objects last touched by real pirates.”

Exhibition Highlights
Real Pirates features a dozen multimedia galleries that showcase the reality of the slave trade in West Africa and the economic prosperity in the Caribbean in the early 18th century, the Whydah’s journey, the ship’s capture by Bellamy, the violent storm that sank the ship, its discovery by Clifford, and the recovery and conservation of its artifacts.

Artifacts include pirate dress items, daily objects used aboard the ship, weaponry, jewelry, and treasure from all over the world, including authentic coins that visitors can touch. At the core of the exhibition are items that have been painstakingly removed from the ocean floor. One of the most striking artifacts on view is the ship’s bell, inscribed “Whydah Galley 1716,” which was used to authenticate the shipwreck site as that of the Whydah.

Throughout the immersive 13,000-square-foot exhibition, visitors will experience the perils and privileges of life during the “Golden Age of Piracy.” Interactive activities include hoisting the skull-and-crossbones, tying pirate knots, learning how to fire a cannon, taking home a pirate hat, participating in a treasure hunt, and even speaking with a “real” pirate enactor.

Additional Details
Information about run dates, extended hours, media previews, and ticket prices will be announced in early 2011. Museum members receive first access to Real Pirates tickets, beginning February 1, 2011, and tickets for the general public go on sale February 14, 2011, at More information about the exhibition is available at

Whydah History
The three-masted, 300-ton galley Whydah was built as a slave ship in London in 1715 and represented the most advanced technology of her day. She was easy to maneuver, unusually fast and, to protect her cargo, heavily armed. She was built to transport human captives from the West Coast of Africa to the Caribbean, but made only one such voyage before being captured by pirates.

In February 1717, after the slaves were sold in the Caribbean, the Whydah was captured off the Bahamas by Sam Bellamy, one of the boldest and most successful pirates of his day. Bellamy and his crew hoisted the Jolly Roger — the slave ship was now a pirate ship.

Just two months later, on April 26, 1717, in one of the worst nor’easters ever recorded, the Whydah, packed with plunder from more than 50 captured ships, sank off the Massachusetts coast. All but two of the 146 people on board drowned.

In 1984, some 270 years after the Whydah sank, Clifford found the first remains of the ship. In a recovery operation that spans more than two decades, Clifford and his team have documented the wreck site and artifacts with digital camera equipment and brought up thousands of artifacts, not only gold and silver, but everyday objects that shed light on this tumultuous period of American and world history.


The Denver Museum of Nature & Science
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is the Rocky Mountain Region’s leading resource for informal science education. A variety of engaging exhibits, discussions and activities help Museum visitors celebrate and understand the natural wonders of Colorado, Earth and the universe. The Museum is located at 2001 Colorado Blvd., Denver, CO, 80205. To learn more about the Museum, check, or call 303-322-7009. Many of the Museum’s educational programs and exhibits are made possible in part by generous funding from the citizens of the seven-county metro area through the Scientific & Cultural Facilities District.

About National Geographic
The National Geographic Society is one of the world's largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to "increase and diffuse geographic knowledge," the Society works to inspire people to care about the planet. It reaches more than 375 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and other magazines; National Geographic Channel; television documentaries; music; radio; films; books; DVDs; maps; exhibitions; live events; school publishing programs; interactive media; and merchandise. National Geographic has funded more than 9,400 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program promoting geographic literacy. For more information, visit

About Arts and Exhibitions International
A division of Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), AEI was founded in 2003 by president John Norman and international vice president Andres Numhauser. AEI currently produces the award-winning exhibition “Diana: A Celebration” in association with the Althorp Estate in the United Kingdom as well as the traveling blockbuster exhibition Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs. Norman and Numhauser have nearly 40 years’ combined experience in the entertainment and exhibition business, working over the years on such projects as Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit, hosted at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science in 2006, and Saint Peter and the Vatican: The Legacy of the Popes. The company has relationships with the most important museums in the world and has presented traveling exhibitions on four continents. For more information, log onto AEG is one of the leading sports and entertainment presenters in the world. AEG, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Anschutz Corporation, owns or controls a collection of companies including facilities such as STAPLES Center, Kodak THEATRE (as operator) and The Home Depot Center, numerous sports franchises throughout the world including the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings in addition to AEG LIVE and its live entertainment affiliates and subsidiaries. The company recently was selected to fully develop the 28-acre Millennium Dome and adjacent property located in the eastern part of London along the Thames River and will create new arenas within the Millennium Dome, on a 50-acre site in the heart of Berlin and in Kansas City, Mo., as well as stadium projects in Bridgeview, Ill., and New Jersey.