Women’s Magic of the Arctic

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Picture of Inuit family from
Inuit Family Portrait, ca. 1890, gelatin-silver print, Archive # P0001.021/01-#PW81 C47-part of ser

As we come to the end of Women’s History month, it seems appropriate to write about the magical and mystical powers of women. This may not seem all that surprising – many of us can still remember the eyes that our mothers possessed in the backs of their heads, their incredible ability to know everything, and the special skill that mothers have to always make us feel better when we are sad, sick, or lonely. Even a woman’s ability to multi-task can seem quite magical – and this is only amplified by the current pandemic that has asked women to take on an even heavier burden. But for indigenous circumpolar people of the Arctic, “women’s magic” is actually key to their survival.

For most indigenous groups around the world, there are gender-based roles and skills, and these skills are taught by their elders in order to pass on their traditions from generation to generation. The same is true for the Inuit-Yupik of the arctic. There are numerous indigenous groups in the arctic, and to be completely correct, we would name them all by their specific linguistic group. However, it is generally accepted to call circumpolar indigenous people by the name Inuit-Yupik.   Read more

A World War II Camp Hill Mystery…

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S/Sgt. John B. Dyer, Jr., 34327356, Rockwood, Tenn., 3164th QM Company, Camp Hill, congratulates Mrs. Anna B. Palmer, Newport News, Va., who was just named the mother of Camp Hill, HRPE, Newport News, Va. (Archive #P0003/01-#E-13990)

Dearest Mariners’ Blog Readers, I need your help with something. A short while ago, I was perusing our collection as I often do, in search of an interesting February lecture topic. Each month, I meet with the docents (at present, this is done virtually), and give a short presentation on an object in our collection. And for February, I was on the hunt for something relating to World War II and Black History – I was hoping we maybe had an object belonging to Francis Wills or Harriet Ida Pickens. Alas, I had no such luck. But what I did happen upon is actually far more intriguing and exciting.

The initial object that caught my eye was the above photo that has the catalog title Anna Palmer, mother of Camp Hill. I instantly had many questions: Who was Anna Palmer? What is a Camp mother? And what is this Camp Hill? To my knowledge, Camp Hill was abandoned after World War I – could this be the same camp? Although, to be completely honest, I am far from an expert on the Hampton Roads Ports of Embarkation. As it turns out, this photo is one of over 600 in our collection that include some variation of “Camp Hill, HRPE”  in the inscription on the reverse – the Army Signal Corps was diligent in their accurate labeling of photos.   Read more

Money Makes the World Go ‘Round: Ancient Greek Coin

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Obverse of Ancient Greek silver coin
Obverse side of Silver Phoenicia Aradus, 4th C BCE, silver, Accession #1937.0483.000005

At the beginning of this year, I came across an article in the Virginian Pilot that discussed a coin collection held at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras, NC. All of the coins, 55 in total, were found on the beaches of the Outer Banks by a couple who visited the barrier islands starting around 1940. Impressively, some of the coins are over 2,000 years old and come from Ancient Greece and Rome. My mind raced – I immediately wondered if our own museum held similar coins.

To say I was surprised would be an understatement. We have more than a few coins from the ancient world, some of which are in excellent condition like the silver piece above. On this coin that is well over 2300 years old, we see a floating galley on the reverse and a curious figure on the obverse. Some records of similar coins from the Phoenician city of Arados label their male figure as Poseidon, or sometimes Zeus, but these are Greek deities.   Read more