AZ Science Center/ Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah

We took a mental health day and went to the AZ Science center. My mom was visiting and I wanted the boys to spend time with her. I also love to go exploring during off-peak hours.

I had a Groupon burning a hole in my pocket for The National Geographic exhibit “Real Pirates“, I love the Science center — on a weekday. This was my first time visiting when it was not mobbed.

We parked in the parking garage adjacent to the science center (cheaper than metered street parking) and the center validates your ticket for you, so bring your ticket inside. They have a nice lunchroom if you choose to pack a lunch, you can sit in a cafeteria. Mom note: cell phone coverage in the museum is spotty. The thick walls block your signal. If you are with a group pick a meeting spot since your phone won’t work reliably.

The museum has appeal for little ones as well as older kids. They have an IMAX and a planetarium (require an extra ticket). My boys love science and engineering oriented activities, I regard this museum as better for school age kids because the concepts are more complicated. As a contrast, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix is all about “play”– diving in, touching things, sensory experiences, the AZ Science center is just as hands-on but you get more out of it if you can read or follow the ideas they are presenting.

We visited the Body Worlds exhibit last year and used a Groupon. (I wonder if they always offer Groupons when they have a traveling exhibit.) The next one is Van Gogh Alive opening in February 2012. I plan to visit this exhibit as well.

The Pirate Whydah exhibition was on the 3rd floor in a cordoned area. They monitored traffic, so no readmission. No pictures. It opened with a 4 1/2 minute video that introduced the story behind the exhibit, the dream of one man to find the pirate ship he heard about as a boy. You enter the exhibit through a raised curtain. The room is dark and draped in black curtains. I thought the presentation was cool. The first item was the Whydah’s bell, in a sea-water filled chamber, it looked dramatic and it is easy to imagine it under the ocean for a century.

You wended through rooms following a journey that established the context of the slave trade/pirate world. Lots of mannequins and signs to read with artifacts relating to slave ships. My 4 and 6 year olds were not engaged but I liked it. If you are a pirate fan it is a home run.  The rooms are arranged like dioramas (crew, cabins) some were full of artifacts cannons, guns, treasure. The end included exhibits about the nature of the recovery and their desire to keep the collection intact. They had cases showing what the artifacts looked like when they found them, you could learn about the restoration process. Barry Clifford, the intrepid treasure hunter gave a small talk on a monitor talking about the Whydah as a “Time Capsule”. I thought it was well done and inspiring–a favorite part was an exhibit with pirate treasure exposed through lucite cutouts, you could touch the actual treasure. The exit was in the gift shop. I picked up the guide-book for $19.95, don’t make my mistake you can get it used on Amazon for 4.00 shipped. If you can’t make the exhibit but love pirates, you can follow the links provided National Geographic loads up the page with information about the Whydah. I found this random post about Barry Clifford here, I like it because the writer heard him speak personally and this note includes photos of the Whydah booty that I could not take. Enjoy! I mean, Shiver me timbers!

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