Creative Writing History Assignment – Captain James Cook Exhibit


I really enjoy taking classes like this, where the professor gives you a subject and you write about it. It is fictional. The assignment was : This paper covers the time period 1775 to 1800.  You will imagine that you are a museum curator who needs to secure funding for a new exhibit.  You already have in mind an exhibit on some aspect of American history during this time period, but you need to “sell” your idea to the museum’s director.

Write up a proposal to get your idea funded.  Explain what aspect of history you want represent in your exhibit and then explain, in detail, what your exhibit will look like.  Make sure to be clear on why the topic you picked is important by describing the history associated with the topic. 

For me this is the kind of assignment I shine on .. Creative Writing. Here is the piece I did.

Of course I got a 75/75 .. full credit. YAY!

Dear Gentlemen,

I am one of your Curators in the Museum. My name is Jade Coulson. You may have seen me in one of your visits to the Fine Art section of the Museum. I currently am looking forward to making a few changes in display’s at the Museum for my Department.  In order to do that I must tell you of a wonderful find that I have come across and would like to tell you about it.

I would like to replace the current display with this new subject matter.  It is a collection of Art by John Webber, and a few others who have done artwork of the famous explorer and navigator James Cook or Captain Cook as he is referred to.  In John’s work he is a depicting that of the last voyage of Captain Cook, the famous explorer and geographer.  Along with more art I will tell you about, and about his history in what I would like to tell the story of for this display.

I will need to procure a few of the paintings and the sum of this could amount to 1.5 million in the purchase of 2 of the paintings of John. In addition to this we will be displaying costume and artifacts from this period, such as cartographer’s tools.  I will give you more details to the visual display after I tell you about the great voyages of James Cook.  These voyages were very significant to the exploration of waters in the Pacific, in the late 1700s and early 1800s, which also contributed to the history of our America.  The views of this project will no doubt bring questions and excitement of the history of these times.

Here is a little about James Cook.  He was a great explorer and navigator and was in service to the British Navy. Prior to his greatest voyages to the Pacific, he had already charted an entire detailed map of Newfoundland, as well as making first contact with the shores of Australia, as well as the Hawaiian Islands.  He was also credited for sailing around the entire island of New Zealand.  His perseverance of circumnavigation around many islands helped to map and document many of the great land finds of exploration in the 1700’s.

From 1766 to through 1779, he had been commissioned by the British to command ships that were research vessels for further exploration of the Pacific.  The First of these ships was the HMS Endeavor, in which he claimed 3 new Islands for Great Britain; Huahine, Borabora, and Raiatea.  He also sailed through the treacherous Great Barrier Reef off of the Australian coast, in which he narrowly escaped certain death, to the ship and crew.

By 1770, he embarked on a second voyage in the vessel known as HMS Resolution. This ship was the fittest ship he had ever had the fortune to travel upon. It took him into his third voyage as well.  In the second voyage he sailed to the Antarctic and was the first to cross the Antarctic Circle. On this voyage his companion ship was the HMS Adventure.  These two ships sailed the waters of the area of Tahiti.  One of the paintings I have procured depicts this journey into Matavai Bay painted by William Hodges in 1776.  This painting shows the fishing boats going out to meet the great vessels in Matavai Bay, in Tahiti.  After this voyage he was promoted becoming a “Fellow of the Royal Society”, as well given the award Copley Gold Medal, which was for not losing a single man to scurvy on his second voyage.

James Cook’s third voyage was his greatest accomplishment for the United States. He sailed to the Pacific once more upon the Resolution and was accompanied by the ship called HMS Discovery.   His Pacific journey took him along the West Coast of America up to the Bering Straits which he mapped the area along the coast of Alaska.  As he traveled up to Alaska after his initial goal, he mapped Alaskan coast as mentioned and had an Inlet named after him “Cook’s Inlet”.  His initial goal was to locate a Northwest Passage around the American continent.

His great accomplishment was establishing contact with the Hawaiian Islands.  In 1778 he made landed at Waimea harbor in Kauai.  He named the group of islands the “Sandwich Islands” after the 4th Earl of Sandwich who was the acting First Lord of the Admiralty.   He returned to the Hawaiian Islands, to Kealakekau bay the largest of the Islands.  It happened at the time of the Islands celebration of a harvest festival. This was the worship for the Polynesian god Lono.  Some Hawaiians treated Cook as an incarnation of Lono.

In year of 1779, quarrels had begun between the Europeans and Hawaiians at Kealakekua Bay. Cook was forced back on to his ship as he had attempted to take the King of Hawaii hostage.  I have procured a picture painted by Johann Zoffany done in 1795 of Captain James cook death in Feb 1779, in a skirmish with the chief Kalaimanokaho’owaha or Charles Kana’ina.  This was all seen from spyglasses upon the ship by crew members who had stayed aboard to maintain the ships security.  The painting is a very good depiction of his possible last moments.  Unfortunate for Cook after all his achievements it is said that his body was treated grossly by the Islanders but his bones were sent back to the ship for burial at sea.  During his return to the Island after a mast broke, he encountered, the tribe’s people during the festival. It is speculative about the reason for his death but it is said he was killed because of the islander’s traditions of sacrifice for the god Lono. As I mentioned they seemed to think Cook was the incantation of Lono to them.  It is very intriguing and a puzzle that historians ponder often, which could also be intriguing to our patrons visiting the museum.

The speculation of how he ended up dead, seemed to have a connection to the festival and the gods of the people of the Islands.  We could present this in one display as an interactive choice after presenting what we know about the stories of his death, allowing the patrons to read and hear and the stories of his death.  We could then have a visual appear on a screen of the votes of what people think happened.  A consensus screen of votes would be a great way for the information to stay within a person’s knowledge of history.

The story of Cook is intriguing and magnificent it is not something many museums have on display and it would be honoring the great explorations of these times, while bringing to light one of the world’s greatest explorers so seldom thought of.   The fact that he had so much to do with our Hawaiian Islands in itself really is of such historical value.  Having the display will enhance many history students’ knowledge as well as countless visitors who come to our wonderful museum.

The display will have several of the paintings that show him on his voyages and to include the final photo of his demise, in the Hawaiian Islands.  These will line the walls while small kiosks in front placed every 5 feet apart would be enclosed cases with artifacts, about waist high for people to see and admire. We could display them with lighting above that would enhance the sparkle and glow of many objects.  The cases would be thick poly glass that would be un-breakable. Each of the cases would include descriptions of the artifacts. The wall of paintings would be viewable from behind the corded off roping.  Each painting would be encased with this same poly glass that would protect from any intrusions beyond the roped barrier. The interactive display could be on the adjacent wall and adding the computerized theories on computer screens to explain each theory and then  patrons will see a screen that will give the current consensus of how people think Cook died.  Also upon the wall with interaction we could place some encased costumes.  Attire such as that of the crew members or what they may have been wearing on voyages of this nature could be on display.

Some of the paintings I have procured are on loan for a small rate of payment. While a couple of the artifacts will take up some of the cost in which I will submit to you for approval the main costs will be for the few pieces we actually purchase and the new display cases and lighting.

I hope this proposal will meet your expectations of my work as Curator of Historical Art.  Let us bring James Cook story to the Museum.  Thank you.


Jade Coulson