THE Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney will open its latest exhibition “Bligh – Hero or Villain?” tonight (2 August) with an event that is open to the public.

For the first time in the Museum’s history, the general public will have an opportunity to attend the grand opening gala that has a limited number of tickets on sale.

The event will feature a rum garden by Sydney’s only rum distiller Brix, live traditional Polynesian tattooing, live music by popular Sydney band The Bottlers, tours with the curator and more.

The exhibition is a radical new take on one of Australian history’s most divisive characters. It tells two very different sides of the same story – Bligh as hero, and Bligh as villain – asking the visitor to decide by casting their vote at the end of the exhibition.

“History is generally written by one side, and usually the victors. Many historians are now attempting to rectify this by interrogating our old versions of the past in new ways,” Dr Stephen Gapps, Australian National Maritime Museum curator said.

“It’s particularly unusual for a major museum to portray history in such a manner – to question it and present two quite different narratives in the way we have done.”

Almost universally portrayed as a villain in movies and books, does this view of William Bligh stand up to scrutiny today?

What’s not in doubt is that Bligh’s life was extraordinary – he caused controversy on land and sea. He was an officer of the Royal Navy, a survivor of a mutiny at sea, and a governor of NSW who was overthrown in a military coup, which became known as the Rum Rebellion.