Building International Connections through the Collections

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Many museums begin with a person who has spent their life collecting something they love, which family members may jokingly refer to as “hoarding,” until they come to realize the importance of the treasures. That collection then becomes the basis for a new museum. The Mariners’ Museum and Park is different in that we started as a museum with a park, and then had to search out and build a collection. This process of purchasing objects allowed us to build a reputation for integrity and authenticity, which then built relationships that led to donations.

After receiving our charter in 1930 the Museum began work on the Park, developing the land and creating what is now The Mariners’ Lake. The focus then switched to the Museum building itself and the collection, and we sent out buyers to search for significant and representative objects to tell the story of all maritime history, not just American.   Read more

Marco Polo and the Bank of St. George

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Camogli, Italy with the Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta on the Ligurian coast. (QW 114)

Some of my most interesting research projects begin with something very minor, which leads me down a path that I never expected. This one began with a beautiful watercolor showing Camogli, Italy with a church and part of a castle behind it. That was a quick research project: get the history of the structures that are featured and the name of the body of water. Then I looked up the history of the artist, which is where it all unraveled into several days of research.

The artist is Admiral Bertram Mordaunt Chambers, a British naval official who was the principal port convoy officer of Halifax harbor during the December 6, 1917 explosion. His official reports state that he ate breakfast overlooking the harbor through his large glass windows, and then five minutes after he left the room the glass shattered into tiny shards that tore up the woodwork that had been behind his seat. He is one lucky guy!   Read more

Icebergs, Trials, and Cannonballs Make for an Adventurous Life!

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A photo of the iceberg that may have sank the Titanic.

Oftentimes when we ask a guest what ship are they most interested in learning about, their response is, “The Titanic!” It is definitely a mesmerizing and very romanticized story, but there are numerous ship tragedies with equally dramatic stories. A quick Google search turned up more than 25 ships that sank due to collisions with icebergs, and we have images of at least four additional ships in our collection. And those are just the iceberg tragedies!

One tale of a ship hitting an iceberg is particularly thrilling and made international news, which for the late 1700s is really saying something. HMS Guardian left England in September 1789 heading for Port Jackson, today known as Sydney, Australia.   Read more

Oh, the places we go – a deep dive into an air compressor!

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One of our diving air compressors, this one is from 1942 according to the date stamped on the front.

On my team, Collections Management, we tend to move objects around fairly regularly and always with great care. Most of the collection is fairly small and manageable, or maybe requires an extra set of hands like with our ship models. Some of the heavier objects we keep on dollies or pallets so we can move them more easily. But, we have a sizable portion of the collection that requires heavy machinery like a forklift, which in turn requires teamwork from staff members who are qualified to use it. I can move heavy objects but there is a limit when it comes to anchors, boats, and cannons!

The week before the museum temporarily closed due to COVID-19 (coronavirus), we needed to move several large objects so we could rearrange some of our shelving. I was amazed at how many staff members offered to help! We had people from conservation, exhibit design, buildings and grounds, facilities, and three of our volunteers who all came together. Through their amazing team spirit, we moved everything safely and now have better access to some of the objects to get a better view of them and catalog them more thoroughly. The objects we moved included two diving air compressors, ship’s bells, engineering gauges, a range finder, and a large ship’s wheel.   Read more