100 Journeys

100 Journeys

Journeys from Plymouth have changed the world. Explore momentous and notorious voyages that began here.

See The Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I on display throughout 2023.

People travel for different reasons – from exploration and scientific discovery, to trade and colonial exploitation. Some choose to travel as tourists, others are forced to migrate. The gallery features breath-taking original artefacts from the voyages of Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, Captain James Cook, Charles Darwin, Gertrude Benham, Scott of the Antarctic and many others. A stunning animated globe highlighting key journeys forms the gallery’s spinning centrepiece. Interactive touchscreens let you explore dozens more surprising journeys that began in Plymouth.

A shrinking world

For more than four centuries, Plymouth’s strategic position has made it Britain’s last port of call for ships set to cross the Atlantic Ocean, or to sail around the globe. As English colonies spread and the British Empire grew, the world seemed to shrink. The story of Sir Francis Drake, the first Englishman to circumnavigate the world, is echoed by that of Sir Francis Chichester, the first to sail solo around the world almost 400 years later. Drake’s journey took almost three years; Chichester’s, nine months and a day. In 100 Journeys you can see an original charter granted to Drake by Queen Elizabeth I, and a replica of the sword used to knight both Drake and Chichester.

drake document 100 journeys the box plymouth

Colonial journeys

The darker stories of colonialism, slavery, the work of missionaries and forced emigration also feature. Drake accompanied his cousin, Sir John Hawkins, on England’s first Trans-Atlantic slaving voyages. It is shocking, now, to see an enslaved African man featured in Hawkins’ coat-of-arms. England’s first American colonies, most famously those founded by Sir Walter Raleigh and by the Mayflower emigrants, laid the foundation for Europe’s North American colonies, displacing its original inhabitants. 100 Journeys features letters written by Raleigh, and archival material from Plymouth’s anti-slavery movement.

drakes cup 100 journeys the box plymouth

Scientific journeys

Seemingly innocent journeys of scientific discovery were steps on the road towards our globalised world. On display you will see an original page from Captain James Cook’s log-book in his own handwriting, together with stunning original maps and charts from the explorations of Cook, Charles Darwin and Scott of the Antarctic, on loan from the UK Hydrographic Office. An interactive touchscreen lets you flick through Cook’s incredible journals from our Cottonian Collection.

Imperial journeys

Masses of objects from our world cultures and archaeology collections are on show, reflecting how journeys boomed between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. Objects from Ancient Egyptian excavations flooded British museums. Star objects on show include an Egyptian mummy sarcophagus. Missionaries and military men brought back objects from their work around the Empire. Here, we highlight the missionary Harry Moore Dauncey’s Papua New Guinean collection, as well as Nigerian spoils of war brought back by Lieutenant Francis Pye. From the ‘Grand Tourist’ Sir Joshua Reynolds to globetrotter Gertrude Benham, tourists travelled Europe and the globe, bringing souvenirs home with them. Many of these ended up in museum collections like ours, where they can be seen in 100 Journeys.

More permanent galleries

Mammoth Gallery | Discover | The Box Plymouth


Naval Figureheads | The Box Plymouth


Historic Port of Plymouth | Discover | The Box Plymouth

Port of Plymouth