The “Waters” in Water’s Creek

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It’s been a big announcement week here at The Mariners’ Museum and Park. This will be the fifth, or sixth, English, name change for the water running through the Park. If you didn’t see the CEO’s announcement of name change earlier this week, check it out here. But today, I wanna throw it way, way back and talk about the origin of the water’s first English name (notice that I am clarifying this first name as “English” because the Native Americans living in the area most definitely had a different name for the water before English settlement in the early seventeenth century). 

In 1624, 100 acres of land around Water’s Creek, seven miles up the James River from Newport News Point, was patented to Edward Waters; although there is evidence that Waters and his wife had been living on the land for five years prior. While he was not the only Englishman granted land near this water, he was the first, and therefore, the namesake. And while calling the water “Waters lake” or “Waters water” would sound kinda silly and redundant; Edward Waters has a really cool maritime history, making him easy to interpret in relation to the Museum’s mission.    Read more

Why Newport News? Why 1930? Building a Museum and Park

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Today, Newport News is over 119 square miles and has a population of over 179,000 people, making it the fifth most populous city in Virginia. That is certainly nothing to sniff at, but, in 1930, Newport News did not extend southeast from Skiffes Creek. It was a concentrated area – only 4 square miles – centered around Newport News Point. The rest of the area that is now Newport News was various villages in Warwick County. Personally, I care most about Morrison (the area where the Museum and Park are), but Hilton, Stanely, Denbigh, ya know all those neighborhoods that still exist, were there, too   Read more

Happy Birthday to The Mariners’ Museum and Park!

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Did you know that our most beloved Museum and Park were incorporated, born, let’s say born, on June 2, 1930? We’re old. 90 years old, next week, to be exact! Our body – buildings and grounds – may be a little worn, but they’ve been well taken care of over the years by our loving Museum team. Our inners – our object and living collections – are strong … and maybe growing a bit (our trees are definitely taller!). Our brain – the staff and volunteers – is sharp, and our heart – our fantastic communities, members, donors, and YOU! – could not be stronger, healthier, or more supportive. 

Upon incorporation, our charter stated that we were to be:   Read more

Archaeological implications of Monitor’s cannon boring project: Part II – Cats

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Cat-o’-nine-tails, from the Mariners’ Museum collection

In the last archaeological blog about the cannon boring project, I focused on why coal is cool. This was probably disappointing for some readers who hoped to read that we found the remains of a cat in one of the cannons. I skimmed over this because I wanted to focus on the cool things we did learn from the cannon boring, but I think it’s time to talk about whether there is ANY evidence, other than Francis Butts’ 1887 sinking account, that there was a cat on USS Monitor or other ships, for that matter

A SUPER brief history   Read more

Coal is cool: archaeological implications of Monitor’s cannon boring project

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The archaeological conservators boring one of the two Dahlgren guns. 

The Conservation team recently bored USS Monitor’s 2 XI-inch Dahlgren cannons. This was a huge step in the objects’ treatment. It came from a need, but also required the right expertise, a TON of planning, donor funding, and specially crafted parts to make it happen. This task was completed for absolutely no archaeological reason. It needed to happen to conserve the artifacts and, therefore, it happened, but that doesn’t mean that archaeological interpretation didn’t benefit from the project.

So, here is my tale of why coal is cool…

To accomplish “archaeological investigation” of the concretions which came out of the guns’ bores, we set up a screening station at which the screeners – me, and the poor fools I tricked into helping me (our CEO Howard, our intern Christy, and our volunteer Heidi) – broke up the concretion into smaller bits of concretion until it fit through the screen and we could say with fair certainty that there were no artifacts left inside. This is a standard archaeological practice called sifting. What is maybe unique about our situation, is that since everything belongs to NOAA, we don’t get rid of the dirt and rock after its sifted, we bury it and save it in case there are techniques that it will be useful for in the future. No, I won’t tell you where we bury it. Actually, even I don’t know where, so I couldn’t tell you if I wanted to.   Read more