As the major Pacific port city in Canada, Vancouver has long been a hub for sailors, swashbucklers and seafaring folk of every stripe. Our city is also a haven for alternative culture, where unconventional artists flourish. You might not expect much intersection between these two threads of history, but in fact there is. It comes in a form of body modification that is enjoying unprecedented popularity, not just among punks and pirates, but even soccer moms and studious types.
We call them tattoos: a practice of self-expression that dates back thousands of years in cultures far and wide. The prominence of tattooing in the West and its association with modern subculture, however, can be traced to seamen who sailed exotic lands and used the newly discovered art form as a way of displaying their status and embracing their creative impulses.
From March 14th to October 13th at the Vancouver Maritime Museum, you can explore the colourful history of nautical tattoos at an exhibit titled Tattoos and Scrimshaw: Art of the Sailor. See a diverse and fascinating collection of images and artefacts that trace the origins of the modern tattoo to the backrooms of bars and the bellows of navy ships long since sunk. You can also marvel at some striking examples of the forgotten art of whale tooth carving, or “scrimshaw”, by which many a lonely sailor passed the time when he wasn’t decorating the flesh of his comrades.
The Vancouver Maritime Museum is located at Vanier Park, just a 5-minute drive from the Ramada Inn & Suites Downtown Vancouver. Vanier Park is also home to the Museum of Vancouver and the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, two other spectacular places to spend your day. After the museum, we suggest you continue your swashbuckling good time with some live music and a pint or two at the awesome new nautical-themed (and locally owned) Portside Pub in Gastown, also just a short distance from our hotel. And remember, there is no better hotel to experience all the excitement of downtown Vancouver than the Ramada Inn & Suites.