Pirates call truce at Rockwell Museum

Sunday August 5, 2012

STOCKBRIDGE -- A group of pirates put aside plundering to instead enjoy a day of play at the Norman Rockwell Museum.

On Saturday, the museum presented a family festival called "World of Adventure: Arthurian Legends and Gold Doubloons" to celebrate American illustrator and storyteller Howard Pyle.

Visitors to the grounds were greeted just outside the museum entrance by members of the 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 4th regiment, Irish brigade who seemed freshly plucked from a Pyle painting. The re-enactors nobly braved the nearly 90-degree weather in traditional woolen Civil War-era uniform.

Inside the museum, four men and women of the East Hampton, Conn.-based group Free Men of the Sea posed for portraits and displayed wares and weapons, while Columbia County band Ampersand played tunes on the terrace from the eras of the Revolutionary and Civil wars. Director Paul Mento presented a talk on his documentary, "Howard Pyle & the Illustrated Story."

Pyle is best known for his widely circulated images of pirates, knights and historical figures which were featured in dozens of publications and admired by such artists and authors as Vincent Van Gogh, Mark Twain and Norman Rockwell himself.

‘Pirates are in our everyday lives, from Johnny Depp to the warning at the beginning of a video to what's been happening on the coasts of Africa," said Tom Daly, curator of education at the Norman Rockwell Museum.

Neal J. Kirk, whose Free Men of the Sea group studies and re-creates the lives and ways of pirates and privateers, said he and his crew don seafaring costumes and cutlasses "to have fun and to educate the public."

He said unlike as is frequently portrayed in films, the pirate life was not as romantic as it was brutal. But Kirk also described it as a democratic society.

"They were probably one of the first republic organizations in the new world. They didn't discriminate because of race, creed or background. Everyone had the right to vote on what was going on," Kirk said.


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