Sex & The Sea
(This entry talks about sex in a historical and cultural way. If you don't like that, stop reading here.)
The answer is no, and luckily, the Dutch and Swedes don't have as much of a problem with sex as we do in the puritan legacy of the United States. (Fun fact, while doing a presentation on sex education way back in high school, I learned that the Netherlands starts sex education in preschool. You can read more about global comparisons of that here.)
The result at the Swedish Maritime Museum (Sjöhistoriska Museet) is an exhibit by multimedia artist Saskia Boddeke and film director Peter Greenaway about "identity, longing, and man's sexuality at sea."
The seamen (and one woman) who are featured in the films recount experiences with sex, venereal diseases, and longing - never for home they say, but for a companion. The creators of the film are drawn to the question of whether it is cultural norms or laws that say what sexual culture should be.
The rest of the exhibit space is filled with items that have significance in the history of sea-faring men. While some objects had really good interpretation (like the coconuts and the porcelain dogs) others did not (like all the awesome stuff in suitcases below).
These suitcases were filled with everything from women's clothing, pin-ups and pornography, a medical kit to treat sexually transmitted diseases, and drawings of sailor stories and myths. This section begged for more interpretation - What was the provenance of these items? What years were they from? Do Swedish sailors have stories about this? My assumption was that these were from the Sjöhistorka Museet's collection, but it should be noted that the original exhibit was at the Maritime Museum in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
This exhibit was a great follow-up to the tattoo exhibit we saw last year called "Faith, Hope, and Love," which featured old tattoo flash, photographs of seamen and their tattoos from the 1950s, good history on tattoo culture, and modern interpretations from sailors and merchant seamen.
Sex & the Sea is on display until April 6th, 2016, and I can't wait to see what they come up with next.
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Come in, the stacks are open.
Away from prying eyes, damaging light, and pilfering hands, the most special collections are kept in closed stacks. You need an appointment to view the objects, letters, and books that open a door to the past.