Library receives major donation of steamship ephemera

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R.M.S. Aquitania
From a 1930 cruise, signed by a boy who was in Grade 2 that year.

Last week, a very large collection of items relating to passenger liners from the late 1800s up to the 1980s landed at the Museum.  Besides a large number of artifacts, over 14,000 archival items, ranging in description from menus to brochures to stationery to family snapshots, were donated by Mrs. Norma D. Beazley from her late husband Herbert Beazley’s collection.  Archives may have gotten the lion’s share of the gift, but the book collection too is now adorned with beautiful volumes on the Golden Age of Steamships.  By our measure, the amount of steamship ephemera at the Library (anything archival that isn’t a book or a photograph, for our purposes here) has increased by about 60%, conservatively speaking.

The long road to making this massive collection available to the public has begun, but this author cannot resist the temptation to give you a few sneak-peeks below.  These are items from the file on the beautiful RMS Aquitania, sister to Cunard’s Lusitania and the last of the four-funnelled liners to grace the ocean.  Enjoy!   Read more

Costa Concordia to be re-floated

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In news that broke hours ago, the wrecked Costa Crociere liner Costa Concordia will be re-floated and towed away, prior to being broken up.  See the news here. Stay tuned to the Library blog for more on the ultimate fate of the Carnival-owned cruise liner and on the impact the wreck is having on the cruise industry.

Australian National Maritime Museum

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I have been absent from these pages for some time, in large part due to a once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit the continent of Australia.  It was a magnificent trip, and going there is well worth your time, effort and wherewithal should you get the opportunity.

Part of the trip was spent in Sydney, the capital of New South Wales and an extraordinary city by any measure.  While there, I had the great pleasure to get a tour of the United States Gallery of the Australian National Maritime Museum. Paul Hundley, curator of the gallery, has been in Sydney for 18 years, being a native of Minnesota and having worked at a TMM sister institution, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA.  He gave me a great tour of the gallery.   Read more

Ancient Geographers and "Known Unknowns"

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“Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”  (Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of Defense)

With the news of the former Secretary of Defense’s new book appearing, entitled Known and Unknown, I was instantly reminded of the quote above. Many in the media at the time believed that this just added to a growing mountain of funny Rumsfeld quips.  I was also reminded, however, of a talk I gave here at the Library 2 weeks ago for CNU’s Latin Day to a group of young Latin students from around Hampton Roads.    Read more

Anniversaries in telephony

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Monarch encounters Hurricane Ione off Rockall Bank

I am not normally terribly interested in the workings of the telephone system.  Despite the fact that my significant other runs the phones (among other things) at a local Department of Energy facility, I find it hard to concern myself with them.  My telephone of choice at home is a black desktop rotary I bought when AT&T was dissolved and we had to buy phones instead of renting them.  I have a cell phone (grudgingly) only because my car is nearly as old as my rotary telephone.

Yesterday, it came to my attention that there was a massive Verizon wireless outage that affected both Virginia and North Carolina.  This morning, I heard that the first transcontinental telephone call occurred on today’s date in 1915.  When I looked it up in Wikipedia (I know, shame on me), I saw right next to that item that rotary phone service began only 4 years later, in 1919, in Norfolk, Virginia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_telephone).  Clearly, the universe was trying to tell me something.   Read more