Captain Ahab, Ishmael, and Starbuck, Oh, My! 

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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

Remembering D-Day 76 Years Later

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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

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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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