30 October 2020
The National Museum of the Royal Navy has stepped forward to lead the campaign to stop the export of the Armada maps to an overseas buyer.
These unique hand-drawn maps were sold earlier this year for £600,000 but the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport imposed an export ban whilst a last-ditch campaign was mounted to keep them in Britain.
Dominic Tweddle, Director General of the National Museum said, “The Armada maps represent a defining moment in England’s naval history and speak directly to our identity as an island nation. They depict a Navy and country that defended our shores against a world superpower and are a milestone in the story of England. This has been an incredibly tough year for the Museum, with our COVID enforced closure and loss of revenue. However, when we learned that the maps could be lost abroad into private hands we decided we were honour bound to step in and lead the fight to save them for the nation.”
Andrew Lambert FKC, Laughton Professor of Naval History at Kings College London said, “Not only were these maps critical to the first attempt to record and publish English naval history as part of the national story, but they have influenced every subsequent account of the Armada Campaign, in text, charts and tapestry.”
The National Museum has laid down £100K from a ring-fenced annual purchase grant from the Royal Navy and as a result has secured the rollover of the export ban until January 2021 but to prevent their export the Museum needs to urgently raise the remaining £500K.
Whilst application to funders of the last resort, including the National Lottery, are being made there is no guarantee of success. The Museum is therefore seeking support from all those who care about the creation of England’s complex identity as it developed into the modern age. The defeat of the Armada and the 16th century’s super-power was a turning point in forging that identity. It was also the turning point at which England, and shortly afterwards Britain as a whole, launched itself as a major naval power that was the foundation for an Empire that stretched around the globe.
It is believed that the drawings are based on a set of engravings by Elizabethan cartographer Robert Adams who was surveyor of the Queen’s Works. Whilst the draughtsman is unknown, it is thought that the maps were drawn shortly after the battle in 1588 in the Netherlands. They were also used as models for tapestries that hung in the House of Lords for nearly 250 years.
The Museum firmly believes that the acquisition of these incredible items provides an important opportunity to explore the history of England and the influence of that history on the present day. By bringing the maps into public ownership and placing them on display for the first time the Museum will open debate and dialogue with all those who wish to share and reflect upon England’s identity.
Anyone wishing to support the campaign should visit nmrn.org.uk to find out more.
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