Ick, weird but wonderful, in their own way.

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Male Luna Moth.  Luna moths have a short lifespan.  They are really big--about the size of your hand.
Male Luna Moth. Luna moths have a short lifespan. They are really big–about the size of your hand.

One of the benefits and/or curses of being surrounded by 500 acres of woods, water and wildlife is that sooner or later you come into contact with things that you haven’t seen before.  In my case, most of these things have multiple legs.  Yes, I am talking about bugs.

A few years ago, I despised bugs.  Generally, I still do.  They are small critters that can get into the museum and chew up objects or poop on them, thus causing lots of damage.  The sight of a particular one of these tiny pests can make one coworker decide to stand in her chair and scream for help. (No kidding…it’s happened twice now)  Bugs are the reason I have to do twice-monthly forced marches through all the areas of the museum with a pest control technician who diligently sprays all the doorways and windows to keep them out.  And I have never said, and probably never will say, “I love the smell of pesticides in the morning.”  We manage to keep most of the pests outside where they belong but just in case, I subscribe to a list serve site where museum people from all over the world compare notes and share bug identifications and I have at 5 different insect identification websites in my “favorites” list.  All for the cause—to keep the visitors, other staff members and the collection safe and happy and free from the sight and close proximity of multi-legged thingies.   Read more

Lizzie Borden, A Few Ships, and The Mariners' Museum

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R 27, Carpet from Fall River Line Steamship Priscilla
R 27, Carpet from Fall River Line Steamship Priscilla

Today I offer a murder mystery for your consideration. On August 4, 1892, Andrew and Abby Borden were found dead in their Fall River, Massachusetts home; a murder for which Andrew’s daughter Lizzie Andrew Borden would be charged and later acquitted. Whether or not Lizzie Borden killed her father and stepmother remains a question to this day, with scholars and armchair detectives eagerly debating their opinions. I won’t offer an opinion on her guilt or innocence here. But I will offer a connection between artifacts in our collection and the infamous Lizzie Borden.

It begins with Colonel Richard Borden from her paternal grandfather’s side of the family. Only three generations separate the two relatives. but unlike Lizzie, Richard seems to have been universally liked and respected. Accounts of his life describe him as honest, self-reliant, intelligent, steadfast in his convictions, physically strong, charitable, and possessing the highest moral standards. He also didn’t mind a bit of hard work.   Read more

Welcome to our Workroom–please excuse the clutter

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Creativity.  Rachel wrapping a canoe with blankets and stretch wrap.
Creativity. Rachel wrapping a canoe with blankets and stretch wrap.

Today I offer a true “behind the scenes” look at our museum world. Welcome to our workroom. A small, but vital area that sometimes looks as if a tornado blew through it and other times it looks so pristine that you would swear we probably don’t do any actual work here. The ambiance of this area depends on who is using it at the time, whether we are expecting a visit from a donor or researcher, and which projects are underway.

This is the place objects moving in, out and around the museum make a stop during their journeys. Shelving and closets house new artifacts, incoming and outgoing loans, and artifacts being moved on and off display. Items we are trying to identify or research will also find a temporary home here. The length of time an object will stay in the workroom ranges from a few minutes, a few weeks, months, or as long as a year (or more), depending on what needs to be done. It could take just a few minutes to replace an identification tag that was removed before exhibition and a year to complete the extensive paperwork and processing for a donation consisting of hundreds of items.   Read more

Service and Honor

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Thomas Kevill portrait, donation from The Descendents of Thomas Kevill.
Portrait of Thomas Kevill.

A couple months ago, Captain Jim Bailie of Norfolk Fire-Rescue called us to ask about items in our collection related to Thomas Kevill.  Kevill was the first paid Fire Chief in Norfolk and a Civil War veteran who served on the CSS Virginia during the Battle of Hampton Roads March 8-9, 1862 as the officer in charge of gun #9.

Thanks to the generosity of Kevill’s descendants, we have two portraits of him, his artillery belt and buckle, a certificate of his military service and a commemorative fire badge.   Read more