A Toy’s Surprising Maritime Connection

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Slinky
Image credit: Roger McLassus

A lot of the research that is done to create an exhibit never makes it into the final product that visitors see in the museum.  The research eventually gets whittled down and fine-tuned until final decisions are made on the subject matter, story lines, artifacts, text and labels.  Many times the finished exhibit has very little in common with the original idea. So what happens to all that beautiful research that didn’t end up being used? It is saved in digital and paper files that are used to answer inquiries, create educational events and presentations, and as a starting point for other possible exhibits.  And in the case of our Toys Ahoy: A Maritime Childhood exhibit, the research files provides some great content for a blog post.

Initially some of the exhibit research looked for toys that were, or might have been, used on ships. As it turns out, Slinkys have ended up on military ships, private yachts and possibly even in the children’s nurseries on cruise ships. And the Slinky has another surprising maritime connection.   Read more

Iceberg, Milk and Moos

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Parka shirt and pants sewn by the tailor on Admiral Byrd’s second Antarctic expedition. Made from a thick blanket material while enroute on board the BEAR of OAKLAND 1936.23.01

The mysterious continent of Antarctica has fascinated explorers and dreamers for centuries. Through the possibilities of scientific discovery or just the challenges that come with the hardship of survival there, the siren call of the ice has beckoned many. But there were four intrepid explorers who never asked, or even wanted, to go there. From January 1934 to February 1935 they braved the cold, storms and whims of their fellow explorers while doing their part to support the expedition.

In 1928 when Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd, Jr. announced his intention to go to Antarctica and explore the continent by airplane, he quickly found financial backing for his quest from wealthy Americans and private citizens. Among his many accomplishments, Byrd was famous as the navigator on a 1926 trip that he and pilot Floyd Bennett claimed was the first airplane flight over the North Pole. This trip to Antarctica would now make him the first American explorer there since Charles Wilkes’ U.S. Exploring Expedition in 1840. The successful 1928-1930 expedition launched a public revival of interest in Antarctica and more interest on Byrd. Along with the scientific research, the team established Little America base on the Ross Ice Shelf and Byrd made the first airplane flight over the South Pole.   Read more

A View Outside The Hold Of Our Ship…..Actually, Outside Our Collections Office

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A beautiful Autumn afternoon view outside our Collections Offices.
A beautiful Autumn afternoon view outside our Collections Office.

Being a Collections staffer means you spend a large part of your day indoors and inside windowless rooms.  Just as the wrong kind of light can damage artifacts in the galleries, it can also affect items as we are working with them in our offices and prep areas.   So any objects being cataloged, researched, cleaned, moved, numbered, etc.,  have to be protected from damaging light, no matter where they are in the museum.

All our storage areas and workrooms stay dark unless we need to access them.  And of course, no windows.  Research has shown that even limited amounts of light can have a cumulative effect on some types of artifacts.  So we store those objects in cabinets and boxes to help minimize exposure.  All the light tubes and bulbs are also covered with UV filters.   Read more

A True Tale of Loss, Return and Thanks

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Welcome back Blackfish Dart, object number WH 38!!   Returning to the museum after a 58 year vacation that had you traveling from Newport News, Virginia to Tennessee and then back again!!!

In 1957, WH 38 left the museum by hiding in the pants pocket of a young boy who visited the facility with a scouting group. The child accomplice assisted the dart’s escape by removing the piece from a display. In those days, the museum exhibits consisted of items spread across tables and pieces of plywood that were held up by wooden sawhorses. So escape was easy, and in the case of a number of artifacts, inevitable.   Read more

A Valentine For Our Readers

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A bit of Valentine’s Day fun for this blog post which looks at artifacts in our collection that are cataloged with the words valentine, love, darling, chocolate, candy,  kiss and heart in either the name or description fields in our collections database.

VALENTINE   Read more