Pirates to drop anchor at MOSI

The new exhibit won't include the slave ship that sank plans for a show five months ago.

Published May 2, 2007

TAMPA - Five months after the Museum of Science and Industry shelved plans for a pirate exhibition that disturbed black community members, museum officials have announced the coming of another pirate exhibit.

But it will not include artifacts from the Whydah, a 1700s hijacked slave ship turned pirate vessel, which was the centerpiece of last year's proposal.

Black residents, including the NAACP, opposed the display because they feared MOSI would downplay the ship's role transporting slaves.

The new exhibit, Odyssey Marine Exploration's "Shipwreck! Pirates & Treasure," will open June 22 and run until January.

"Our exhibit has nothing to do whatsoever with the Whydah, " said Natja Igney, spokeswoman of Odyssey Marine Exploration.

The exhibit will feature historic bottles, beads, porcelain angels, candles and thousands of other artifacts recovered from the SS Republic, a sidewheel steamer that sank off the coast of Georgia laden with gold and silver intended to help rebuild the South after the Civil War.

The interactive exhibit will also focus on how shipwrecks, such as the Republic, are recovered from the deep sea. It's something Odyssey Marine Exploration knows much about since the Tampa-based company specializes in marine exploration.

This is the second stop of the exhibit, which opened in New Orleans the day Hurricane Katrina struck. It closed down two hours later, and finally reopened last February before closing again in November because it wasn't making money.

The pirate aspect of the exhibit is new and features an interactive display presenting stories, facts and other information about pirates. Odyssey Marine Exploration added the offshoot, which coincides with the expected summer release of the third sequel in the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean series.

Tampa is also home to the Gasparilla pirate festivals and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"It's quite certain the community is going to embrace it all the more because there will be a pirate component to it, " MOSI spokeswoman Shani Jefferson said. "But that's not our reason for bringing it to the museum."

Justin George can be reached at 813 226-3368 or jgeorge@sptimes.com.