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Temporary exhibitions

Faith, Hope, Love - Sailor Tattoos

13.5.2016 – 13.11.2016

Matters close to the heart were immortalised on the skin.

The Faith, Hope and Love exhibition explores the history of sailors' tattoos through a unique tattoo design collection. What do these old designs tell us? Can they help us to experience what it was like to work on the frequently dangerous seas

Many tattoo designs are symbolic and expressive of hopes and fears that were perhaps never uttered aloud. They communicate the fear of death, longing for home and the hope of reuniting with a much-loved fiancée. Matters close to the heart were immortalised on the skin. Tattoos of dragons and tigers, on the other hand, represent power and danger.

Sailors' tattoos are more than mere decoration – they reveal the hidden depths of those who bear them. Tattooed skin tells a range of stories about gender and sexuality. Why have so many men had tattoos of women made on their skin throughout the decades? Why are pictures of men almost entirely missing from tattoo designs?

Nowadays, many people decorate their skin with traditional tattoos similar to those which once adorned sailors. But is their meaning the same? Who opts for a butterfly, a pin-up girl or a sailing ship? What kind of tattoo would you choose?

Created by the Maritime Museum of Sweden, the exhibition was brought to the Maritime Centre Vellamo by the Maritime Museum of Finland.

Tatuerade sjöman

Sjöhistoriska, Stockholm.