We here at The Mariners’ Museum and Park take pride in our mission which states that we connect people to the world’s waters, because that is how we are connected to one another. On our website, museum president Howard Hoege III emphasizes that, “We strive to provide an intellectual and emotional experience that is shared by generations, across cultures, and without barriers or judgment.”1 The museum would like to take this opportunity to share that May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. As May draws to a close, please take a moment to reflect on the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have contributed to our understanding of the Pacific Ocean, ocean navigation, and maritime knowledge in general.
In Memoriam – A Loss to the Maritime and Polynesian CommunityRead more
So far, world events of 2020 and 2021 have been interesting, to say the very least. In the maritime world, a unique event occurred on March 23, 2021. If you watched the news that day and for many days following, you most likely heard about and saw how it unfolded. Can you guess what I’m talking about? I’ll give you a second before I reveal the answer.
Karavakia! What is this you may ask? It is a Greek word meaning “little ship” or “small boat.” The Greek tradition of Karavakia is the decorating of small boats during the Christmas season. It dates back to Greece’s ancient seafaring days. Greece is settled along the Mediterranean Sea. Much of its culture involved fishing and trading throughout this region. Thus, sailors were often gone for extended periods while trying to earn a living. In those days, sailors were often the heads of their households. While they were away, the women and children took care of the home until their husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers returned. When Greek women saw their men’s ships return safely to harbor, they would welcome them home with a celebration, festively decorating small wooden boats. This became a joyous maritime custom that became ingrained in the holiday season.
In the 19th century, new customs, such as decorating Christmas trees became more prominent in the Christmas season. However, over the years, the Karavakia tradition began to make a comeback, and the practice of decorating boats was once again seen throughout Greek cities and homes. St. Nicholas in Christian faith is the patron saint who watches over and protects sailors. The Feast Day of Saint Nicholas takes place on 6th December. This is the day boats are decorated, and they are displayed until 6th January, Epiphany. In the ancient days, the boats would have been painted or decorated in a similar fashion. Today, the boats are more ornate, often still painted, but also draped in strings of lights and garland, and trimmed with ornaments. Larger Greek cities like Athens and Thessaloniki light up beautiful Christmas boats in their public squares. If you get the chance to see these boats, you may notice that the main holiday colors are blue and white, the national colors as seen on the Greek flag, rather than red and green.Read more
One of the best things about working at a museum with such a vast collection is that I get to work on a variety of projects about so many different topics. I have had the opportunity to be involved with large, long-term exhibits; one-day exhibitions; outreach activities; and educational programs. It’s hard to choose which one is my favorite, because each provided different experiences and interactions with our visitors. But as I have been reminiscing recently, there is one event that prominently stands out, making it one of my favorite days at the Museum thus far.
Such a Great Day!
In March 2019, a school group asked to use our Museum to host a 24-hour read-a-thon of Moby Dick. Yep, you read that right. A class of juniors and seniors spent a full 24 hours (supervised!) at The Mariners’ Museum, camping out overnight, taking turns reading out loud passages from Herman Melville’s classic novel, first published in 1851. This event was led by a wonderful group of AP English high school students of the Norfolk Academic Guild. They came up with the idea and contacted the Museum; and we were all eager to be involved. Read more
Normandy, France, is filled with beautiful beaches and small, bustling towns. Seventy-six years ago, however, a different scene would be witnessed. World War II was in full rage. France was under Nazi Germany’s suppressing occupation. Its grip on Europe was strong, relentless, and seemed almost impossible to break. It would take an assault unlike any the world had seen in order to penetrate their defenses, weaken the German forces, and liberate the French nation. And that assault is exactly what would come on June 6, 1944. D-Day would begin the downfall to the tyrannical European oppression of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party, and become a defining moment of the 21st century.
In June 2019, The Mariners’ Museum and Park commemorated the 75th anniversary of D-Day. It was a huge success. More than 1,100 visitors came to the Museum to hear about the actions that took place. It was an emotional day as visitors shared personal stories or stories about their loved ones who had served that day. We brought out several images and objects from our Collection. We created a hand-drawn and painted 14’ x 20’ map showing the shores of Normandy and the five beaches of the assault – Gold, Juno, Sword, Omaha, and Utah. We labeled pieces of the different Allied Forces divisions and moved them throughout the map to show the scale of the assault and the amount of area that needed to be captured. Lyles Forbes, Vice President and Chief Curator has had the opportunity to visit Normandy. He created several pictures, many seen in this post, that blend images from present day scenes and photos from the past, so that visitors could see a correlation of what the places look like today versus when the invasion was taking place.Read more