Many piqued by the Field’s latest exhibit are devotees of Disney-themed cinematic swashbuckling. These guests will not be disappointed by “Real Pirates, ” which includes wax dummies, games and references aplenty to the squeaky clean facts from Gore Verbinski’s whirling dervish of a trilogy. However, these same guests may be taken aback by the Golden Age of Piracy, made golden only from pilfering the loot, ships, sailors and former slaves of the transatlantic slave trade. The exhibit delves headfirst into this bleak truth with walls the color of old blood and firsthand accounts from the slaves bound for Caribbean sugar plantations. The traveling exhibit is co-founded by the National Geographic Foundation and Barry Clifford, a marine salvager who has spent the last twenty years recovering the world’s only verified pirate wreck, the Whydah. A former slave galley, the Whydah was captured by the notorious pirate “Black Sam” Bellamy. The artifacts on display—cutlasses, sawn-off muskets, clothing and actual pirate treasure—were brought up from the depths of the deep, and are punctuated with tales of Bellamy and his pirate crew. “Real Pirates” successfully walks a fine line, catering to the whims of guests looking to be entertained by adventurous pirate fare, as well as the dark truths of a sinister trade rooted in humanity’s greatest atrocities. (Laura Hawbaker)
“Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship” runs through October 25 at Field Museum, 1400 South Lake Shore, (312)665-7100.