Changing World Views – Exhibiting Our Maps Online

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Changing World Views: Maps in The Mariners’ Museum Collection

Like so many organizations across the globe, The Mariners’ Museum and Park has been closed since mid-March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, our institution’s number one priority remains: to serve the public. Everything we do is based on our being collections-based and audience-focused, and this shutdown has not changed that. Museum staff have been actively exploring, experimenting, and delivering on new ways to reach and serve our community. 

You may have seen an increased number of blogs being published on our website, and by more staff members than ever. You may be following You Tube Live broadcasts and Facebook posts. Your children may be learning through our new online education programs. All of these initiatives are based on our mission of connecting us through the world’s waterways. But for me personally, I have missed the Museum’s exhibition component.    Read more

Hail Caesars! (All Twelve of You)

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Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica Ac Hydrographica Tabula
Claes Jansz Visscher, cartographer
The Mariners’ Museum Collection: MSM 1—0400

My love for ancient Greek and Roman history dates back to my early teens. I loved the shows Hercules: The Legendary Journey and Xena: Warrior Princess. The historical and mythical characters in the shows made me curious about who they were, and what life was really like during that time. I began reading numerous books on ancient history, and my passion only grew from there. I even got my undergraduate minor in Classical Studies which covers languages, literature, history, art, and other cultural aspects of the ancient Mediterranean world. So anytime I come across items in our Collection related to the ancients, I completely nerd out and delve into researching them as much as possible. My most recent find is a 17th-century map titled Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica Ac Hydrographica Tabula. That’s the fancy Latin translation for “New Geographic and Hydrographic Map of the Whole Earth.” But this map also has another name which I will reveal momentarily.

Created in 1652 by Claes Jansz Visscher, this is one of four world maps with decorative panels issued by Visscher between 1614 and 1652. The map itself is fairly accurate for its time. Five out of the seven known continents are represented. (Australia and Antarctica would not be fully “discovered” until the late-18th and -19th centuries.) But it’s not the map itself I’m drawn to. It’s the upper and lower border illustrations. The right and left border scenes beautifully represent allegorical depictions of the known continents, various cultures, and several notable cities. But, my favorites are along the top and bottom — embellished scenes of the first 12 Roman emperors, atop horses, dressed in their battle armor. Thus, this piece is often called “Twelve Caesars Map.”   Read more

Catalpa Rescue: One of History’s Most Daring Prison Breaks

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ORNAMENT STERN CARVING, CORNUCOPIA, FROM BARK CATALPA ca. 1844 1934.0495.000001

In the mid-nineteenth century, if you are planning to pull off a major heist that starts in Australia and ends in New York City, what might you use as a getaway vehicle? How about a whaling bark named Catalpa? When combing the Museum’s Collection one day, I came across a stern carving with a cute cornucopia design. Curiosity got to me about where it came from. That’s when I learned about the bark Catalpa. I was more surprised to learn that the ship’s story actually had less to do with whaling, but was part of what became an adventurous prison break! The story of six Irish prisoners being freed from an Australian prison and brought to America sounds more like fiction than factual events. But it’s true, and here’s how it went down.

WHY AUSTRALIA?   Read more