From Waters to Mariners’, The Making of a Lake

Did you know Virginia has only two natural lakes? The rest are man-made, including our very own Mariners’ Lake! It holds the title as the first, and the oldest, project started on the grounds of The Mariners’ Museum Park. Before the purchase of the land surrounding it, The Mariners’ Lake was a salt marsh creek called Waters Creek, sometimes incorrectly referred to as Watts Creek. You can learn more about that, here! Apart from the vision of creating a maritime museum, Archer Huntington (our founder and owner of the Newport News Shipyard) and his wife Anna Hyatt (renowned sculptor), wanted to create a wildlife sanctuary. They also wanted a place to display several of Anna’s sculptures. The rural setting and proximity to the Shipyard helped to make this spot the ideal location. You can read more about why this area was chosen, here.

Although our official birthday is June 2nd, planning for the Lake and Park began months prior. In December of 1929, internal memos show that land acquisition was already being discussed and negotiations had started. In a memo from Homer Ferguson, President of the Newport News Shipyard, to Archer Huntington:   Read more

The “Waters” in Water’s Creek

It’s been a big announcement week here at The Mariners’ Museum and Park. This will be the fifth, or sixth, English, name change for the water running through the Park. If you didn’t see the CEO’s announcement of name change earlier this week, check it out here. But today, I wanna throw it way, way back and talk about the origin of the water’s first English name (notice that I am clarifying this first name as “English” because the Native Americans living in the area most definitely had a different name for the water before English settlement in the early seventeenth century). 

In 1624, 100 acres of land around Water’s Creek, seven miles up the James River from Newport News Point, was patented to Edward Waters; although there is evidence that Waters and his wife had been living on the land for five years prior. While he was not the only Englishman granted land near this water, he was the first, and therefore, the namesake. And while calling the water “Waters lake” or “Waters water” would sound kinda silly and redundant; Edward Waters has a really cool maritime history, making him easy to interpret in relation to the Museum’s mission.    Read more

The Anatomy of a Mission

A group of 3rd grade students from L.F. Palmer Elementary School in Newport News working with Master Naturalists to build the Museum’s pollinator garden in October 2019. Photo: The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

This is my first blog for the Museum, and I intend for this to be a message of hope against the backdrop of a period of heightened pain and anxiety in our country.

I believe wholeheartedly in our team, our mission, and the fact that both are up to tackling even the toughest of society’s problems. I will do my best to explain our team’s posture and approach in a way that represents our view that we can simultaneously be clear-eyed and honest about the flaws in our communities and also be positive and optimistic about our collective future.   Read more

A Great Plan Creates Great Plants

The Mariners’ Museum Park was meticulously planned out. Early goals of the Park included a wildlife sanctuary and a tree of each species found in Virginia. Land purchases began in March of 1930 and lasted for three years until 44 parcels had been purchased, ultimately equalling over 820 acres, to make these dreams a reality. Our original Park extended from the James River shoreline to modern-day Jefferson Avenue. 

As the land purchases were completed, work began on the roads to access the Park. As you can see from the map above, all roads were on the edges of the Park except for Warwick Boulevard, then named only Route 60. Both Archer Huntington, the founder of our Museum and owner of the Newport News Shipyard, and his wife Anna Hyatt, renowned sculptor, thought to keep all roads on the exterior of the Park enhanced its beauty and created a true wildlife sanctuary.   Read more

What is the American Institute for Conservation?

The Mariners’ Museum and Park’s own Paige Schmidt (left) working as part of the Wooden Artifacts Group Programs Chairs

If you’ve ever read any of our blog posts about conservation, taken a lab tour, or talked to a conservator at any museum, you might have heard one of us mention “AIC” or the American Institute for Conservation. AIC is a national organization with thousands of members, including conservators and other museum professionals. It is a vital way for conservators to share information. So for this blog post, we thought we’d tell you a bit about what AIC is, how it helps us inform conservation decisions at The Mariners’ Museum and Park, and what we do at the Museum to contribute to AIC.

AIC holds an annual conference, which is usually located in a different city every year, giving conservators opportunities to not only attend lectures, but visit museums and conservation labs across the country. The conservation department at the Mariners’ makes an effort to present any new research produced at the annual conference. (You may have read about unique treatments we have been conducting in the conservation department in this blog before.) We make a concentrated effort to share our  results at the annual conference, so that other conservators can benefit from our research. Even if experiments do not yield the results we were hoping for, the information helps other conservators when making treatment decisions. Additionally, we often find colleagues from other museums who want to collaborate in continued research through AIC conferences.    Read more