The Museum has a rich collection of material relating to Captain Cook and those who sailed with him on the voyages - not forgetting his wife Elizabeth and those who stayed at home!
The collection contains original artwork from the official artists on the voyages, William Hodges on the Second, and John Webber on the Third. These include pencil sketches and watercolours of the places they visited. They are complemented by numerous prints which were published in the official accounts of the voyages, and provided the 18th century version of mass communication (see South Seas).
Equally you may find Thomas Gainsborough's evocative portrait of Lord Sandwich, First Lord of the Admiralty, supporter and patron of Cook. There is a wonderfully vivid pastel portrait of William Bligh, who served under Cook as Master on the Resolution. Alongside him is his adored wife Elizabeth, or Betsy as he called her.
When not with our co-owners in London and Cardiff, William Parry's large portrait of Omai, Sir Joseph Banks and Dr. Daniel Solander hangs in the Orientation Room.
The collection also contains maps, charts and documents, including letters between Cook and Captain Walker (see Cook's Letters). Maps show the world as it was drawn and understood in the years before Cook's voyages, and how these changed the map of the Pacific. There is, for example, one of Cook's finished charts of part of the coast of Newfoundland, showing how exact and painstaking a work it was charting unknown coasts.
There are official papers and letters relating to the voyages, in particularly the dispute at the start of the Second Voyage about accommodation for Sir Joseph Banks and his party. In the end Banks withdrew and was replaced by the German man of science, Johann Reinhold Forster. We hold a collection of Forster's letters to Lord Sandwich after the voyage was over.
Over 90% of the collection is on display. If there is an item about which you are interested, please get in touch (Contact Us)
John, Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich (pictured right by Thomas Gainsborough), was an ambitious politican and able diplomat. He was First Lord of the Admiralty for three periods, and a great supporter of voyages of exploration. He was fascinated by objects brought back on the voyages, and enjoyed the company of the Polynesian Omai (brought to England on the Second Voyage). He was particularly interested in music, both European and Polynesian.