Rum, Buggery and the Lash

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For Pride Month, I wanted to think about the countless hundreds of unnamed gay and lesbian sailors who lived and worked on board Navy ships in the days before our rights were broadly recognized and respected. I owe them so much as an out and proud American citizen! Their honorable service and their refusal to stay silent anymore contributed heavily to the ultimate court decision that gave us our rights.

Most of us are familiar with the story of Winston Churchill’s quip that British Royal Navy tradition consisted of nothing but “Rum, buggery and the lash”! It appears that Sir Winston himself denied he ever said it, saying when asked about it that “I wish I had said it!” It also appears that the origins of the expression itself are lost in the annals of naval lore.   Read more

Remembering the end of a world war

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Deck scene, Sept. 2, 1945, when Japanese signed surrender documents aboard USS Missouri (BB-63). Courtesy of the Daily Press.
Deck scene, Sept. 2, 1945, when Japanese signed surrender documents aboard USS Missouri (BB-63). Courtesy of the Daily Press.

Today I am thinking a great deal about the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. My father and millions of other men and women fought in this conflict that re-shaped the psyche of the entire nation. To me, the photograph below, formalizing world peace, is the most inspiring photograph of that war.

I am grateful that we have been able to move on in international relations, embracing both Japan and Germany as strong allies who have turned their backs on war-making against their neighbors. I am also glad that President Truman learned the lessons from the end of World War I and chose to help rebuild Japan and Germany.   Read more

Library receives major grant!

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CLIR logo
CLIR, the Coucil on Library and Information Resources

After a long hiatus from this blog, the Library is back! We want to announce here to those who don’t already know that the Museum has received a $325,500 grant to catalog several of our negative collections in cold storage. This is big news, and we are so grateful to the Council of Library and Information Resources (CLIR) for funding our proposal.

The three-year grant is part of an initiative CLIR developed with the Mellon Foundation to give museums and library funding to hide deeply hidden collections. The collections we proposed for cataloging are indeed very deeply hidden! They are collections of negatives, over 48,000 of them, that the Museum has accepted into its collections and that are now stored for their longevity’s sake in our Cold Storage unit. Some of the negatives are printed, but by far not all. In some cases, such as the Edward Hungerford Photographs, not even staff knew what these images looked like! Now we are making a concerted effort, not just to catalog, but also to digitize negatives that haven’t been examined for a very, very long time.   Read more

10,000 Items Catalogued (Cont.)

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John Taylor Wood search
Searching for John Taylor Wood in the Archives catalog

Well, now that the Library has catalogued all these items pertaining to Monitor and Virginia, how do you the reader search for them? Let’s start out by talking about the Archives catalog at You can search here for anything that we as a museum care for. But if you want to search for these newly-catalogued Monitor and Virginia-related items, click on the “Archives” link. Once you’re there, I really recommend you read the Help. It can truly improve your searching.

Let’s say you’re interested in anything we catalogued about John Taylor Wood, who served aboard CSS Virginia. Now, I like the keyword search, but I like to limit the number of bad hits I get, so I will find a short and uncommon couple of words that go together and enclose them in quotes, like “Taylor Wood”. Select the Item Level, and hit the Search button.   Read more

Got a Maritime Research Question? Ask Us!

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The Mariners' Museum Library, circa 1944. We have come a long way since then!
The Mariners’ Museum Library, circa 1944. We have come a long way since then!

This past weekend, a reader who follows this blog wrote in a response to a blog post that was in itself a great research question.

I’m happy he asked it! We might very well have what he is looking for.   Read more