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Santa Barbara Maritime Museum Debuting ‘Tattoos & Scrimshaw: the Art of the Sailor’

The opening reception for a new exhibit, Tattoos & Scrimshaw: the Art of the Sailor, is planned for Thursday, Jan. 14, at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.

The reception is free to the public, and will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the museum, 113 Harbor Way in Santa Barbara.

The exhibit is sponsored by the George H. Griffiths & Olive J. Griffiths Charitable Foundation, the Outhwaite Foundation, Mimi Michaelis, the Alice Tweed Tuohy Foundation, and the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation.

People planning to attend are asked to RSVP at or call .805.962.8404 x115.

Tattoos & Scrimshaw: the Art of the Sailor celebrates the long history of nautical tattoos and sailor art, with a blend of historical artifacts, archival photos and contemporary photography, and features Santa Barbara local tattooist Sebastian Orth 

The museum's newest traveling exhibit, features exciting information about tattoos throughout maritime history.

Learn how contact between early British sailors and the Tahitian people brought forth the origins of Western tattooing culture, and how sailors used tattoos to document their own histories.

For example, sailors received certain tattoos for crossing the Equator or the International Date Line.

U.S. Navy sailors tattooed the bald eagle on their skin to keep from being conscripted into the British Navy in the early 1800s, and sailors tattooed chickens and pigs on the feet, believing these tattoos would save them during a shipwreck. 

Visitors will enjoy a gallery of sailors’ tattoos from the lens of photographer Kathryn Mussallem, along with video clips featuring the work of famous American tattoo artist Sailor Jerry.

A special segment of the show will feature local tattoo artist Sebastian Orth from Otherworld Tattoo. Orth, has been tattooing for over 20 years, and his art and photos of him tattooing will be featured in the exhibit to give it a local flavor.

In addition, a coloring book featuring “flash” tattoo drawings will be available for children to take home.

Interactive elements for this exhibit include a short video and a tattoo machine with audio that will project the creation of a tattoo onto the arms of visitors while describing the significance of the chosen design. 

The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is the home of the First-Order Fresnel Lens from Point Conception Lighthouse. 

The 7,825-square-foot Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, located at the Santa Barbara Harbor, opened to the public in July 2000. Today, the museum is a vital part of the community, offering educational programs, interactive displays, and both temporary and permanent exhibits, attracting thousands of visitors each year.

To date, more than 81,000 schoolchildren from 140 area schools have participated in the Maritime Museum’s educational programs. 

The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is at 113 Harbor Way, Suite 190, Santa Barbara, California 93109. Please visit for more details.

Dennis Schuett is marketing coordinator for the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.


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