John Sunderland

The curated works of the author & artist

1994-1996 Quest for a Pirate

An International Traveling Exhibit

Client: Barry Clifford and Co.


Project concept, design, script, art direction, production design, audio-visual script


The exhibit was based on the discovery of an authenticated Pirate Vessel, The Whydah, originally a converted ship used in the slave trade. She sank during a storm off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The Captain, ‘Black Bellamy’ as he was known, was originally from Bristol. He captured the ship and used her successfully as a pirate vessel in the Caribbean and on the East Coast of America, where he, his crew and the ship finally met their fate. Excavation was undertaken of the site, which produced a wonderful array of artifacts allowing for a comprehensive and unique reconstruction of everyday piratical life. But how to present them in a traveling display?


Project Designer


The exhibit design used a story-narrative video sequence presented by the treasure hunter himself on a walk through “Quest” to discover the real nature of Pirates and life onboard a pirate ship. The original exhibit used a top-down flow ending with the treasure chest in the basement. However, by the time visitors came across the huge pile of silver and coins, they realize the real treasure is the knowledge that has been gained through conservation and study. The exhibit was first shown in Edinburgh and then was taken on by National Geographic Magazine, which after its’ run in Scotland and world tour, transported it to Washington where it was the Magazines’ most successful exhibit to date.

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