Mariners’ Collection of Curiosities: Spooky and Peculiar Artifacts from the Archives

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Lady Figurehead – The Mariners’ Museum and Park – Accession Number: 1937.0487.000001A

Fear Not! For I have scoured The Mariners’ Collection, walked the dark storage rooms, and gotten up close and personal with five of our creepiest and most mysterious artifacts, so you don’t have to. I’ve listed the following artifacts for their varying levels of creep-factor or for the fascinating or mysterious stories behind them. All just in time for spooky season! 

The Lady

In her heyday, the Lady figurehead sailed the open waters on a European vessel and arrived at the Museum in January 1982. She graced the walls of what was once The Great Hall of Steam until the Museum opened the Speed and Innovation exhibit. She’s not currently on display; however, her glass eyes and blank stare haunt our Collections Specialist from the workspace storage room. There’s just something unsettling about her…   Read more

A Mindful Walk in the Park

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Trees in the Park from a bridge
Autumn in the Park. Photo courtesy of Brock Switzer/The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

Mindfulness. What comes to mind (no pun intended) when you hear this term? Some might think of certain religions, or yoga, maybe meditation. For some, when this term gets thrown around, the first reaction is groaning and a roll of the eyes. For others, this term is like an unfathomable goal – something that they think they can never achieve.

But why is this? I asked myself this question while taking a walk in the Park during my lunch break one day. My coworkers and I had been working on the content for our new outdoor educational enrichment program where students practice mindfulness in the Park, and I needed a change of scenery to help spark some creativity. As I walked along the path of the Noland Trail pondering this stigma around mindfulness, a million other thoughts popped up in my head. “I wonder if I have any new emails waiting for me at my office.” “What updates do I have for everyone for our department meeting later?” “What am I going to cook for dinner?” And of course, “Man, it is SO HOT outside, I should head back to the AC before I start sweating.”   Read more

Make Like a Tree and Leaf!

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Chlorophyll absorption
Tree leaves absorb all wavelengths except green. Green is reflected, which is why leaves appear green to the human eye! Courtesy of The Encyclopedia for the Environment.

Today is the first day of autumn! We’ve finally made it to the best season! The weather is cooler…or it will be, and the leaves will soon start to show off on the trees! Here in the Park, we have some gorgeous fall colors that you can’t miss. But, when is the best time to come? Well, it just so happens that a lot of people get FOMO (fear of missing out) over fall leaves! There are a ton of fall foliage maps online that you can check out. Below is a great example!

As a comparison of what those seasonal changes in the landscape might look like throughout the weeks, below are a few photographs from the Park in those different stages.   Read more

What Makes a Champion Tree?

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Infographic on how to measure a tree's height
An infographic on how to measure the height of a tree. Courtesy of The Virginia Big Tree Program.

Did you know Mariners’ Park is home to a national big tree? This tree is the biggest of its kind in the NATION! Right here in Newport News! You may be thinking about all the largest trees you’ve seen in the Park, wondering which one it might be. But, I bet, if you walked by it you wouldn’t even notice it! Our champion tree, which proudly sits on The National Register of Big Trees as designated by American Forests, is an evergreen bayberry that stands tall at a whopping 14 feet tall. You might be wondering, how did our tree get discovered? How did The National Register of Big Trees find out about it? Or that’s not that big!

As with any story, we have to start at the beginning! Our tree was originally added to The Virginia Big Tree Program website in 2015. But the Program itself began in 1970! You can check out all of the trees in the database here. The Program, run by Virginia Tech, “maintains a register of the 3 largest specimens of over 300 native, non-native, and naturalized tree species…The Virginia Big Tree Program is affiliated with the National Register of Champion Trees, which is administered by American Forests.” according to their website.   Read more

Make a little birdhouse in your….tank farm?

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Photo of an Eastern Blue Bird in The Mariners’ Park. Photo courtesy of Rand Milam/The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

We’ve had our fair share of animal interactions in the Conservation Lab. With the Park surrounding the Museum, and the tank farm (outdoor tanks for storing large objects) so close to the woods, we expect to get the occasional turtle, goose, or squirrel coming to inspect our work. What we didn’t expect was to have a several-year-long battle with….bluebirds.

For anyone who doesn’t know, bluebirds are small, brightly colored birds that nest in tall trees, and have 2-4 broods (times they lay their eggs) each summer. My stepmom loves bluebirds and sets up a birdhouse for a bluebird family in the backyard every year, so I’m always keeping an eye out for these feathered friends.   Read more