A Look at the Unknown and Hope for the Future: The Artwork of Shipyard and Museum Staff Artist Thomas C. Skinner

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CRUISER USS PORTSMOUTH AT PIER, oil on canvas 1945, by THOMAS C. SKINNER 1956.47.04

Thomas Catlett Skinner’s office was a loft overlooking the dry dock at the Newport News shipyard.  Frequently he would gather his tools and wander through the yard, stopping to observe and document the many scenes unfolding before him.  A vat of molten steel.  Red hot metal beams being bent into shape.  Yards of canvas transformed into sails.  The welcome respite of a lunch break.  The intensity of a foreman’s face.  A ship being refitted for the next voyage.  Scenes that were rarely seen by anyone outside the shipyard and activities that many people never knew existed.

Skinner’s tools were paint, pencils, canvas and paper.  His loft workspace shook with the unending pounding from riveting hammers and vibrations from heavy machinery.  And when he set up his easel beside the piers, dry docks and workers, he was surrounded by noise and dirt and exposed to the fickleness of the weather.   Yet despite the adversity, he created amazing drawings and paintings that transport the viewer back in time.  His body of work contains striking, colorful images that make it easy to imagine all the noises in the shipyard, the sound and feeling of waves acting on a ship and the harsh sounds of battle. Today, as part of our 90th Anniversary celebration, we take a look at the Mariners’ Museum staff artist, Thomas Skinner, some of his work, and its importance.   Read more

The Bathing Girl

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The Bathing Girl, Catalog #2000.0031.000002

Every so often, in a collection as large as that of The Mariners’ Museum, an item surprises you. You see something so strange or unique that you can’t help but fall down a research rabbit hole in a desperate attempt to figure out what exactly you are looking at. 

Thanks to Erika Cosme, Content and Interpretation Developer and Lauren Furey, Manager of Visitor Engagement, such an item came to my attention.    Read more

Artifact of the Month – dredged anchor watercolor

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14-40-01

For December, our artifact of the month is a lovely watercolor of a dredged anchor, the sea life growing on it almost making it look like a holiday wreath.  This piece is new to our collection and the staff were all pretty excited about it as it.  That excitement grew as the piece was further researched.

The image is supposed to be a depiction of an anchor dredged up in 1885 off Cape Ann by Alpheus Hyatt.  To anybody with some knowledge of our institutional history, the name Hyatt should sound familiar.  Alpheus was the father of our founder, Anna Hyatt Huntington.   Read more

Copper, Corrosion, and Craftsmanship

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Rivets 2

These are some detailed photos of copper and copper alloy artifacts recovered from USS Monitor‘s engine room in 2001. We are currently mitigating the effects of corrosion. We continue to marvel at the amazing level of craftsmanship and detail that went into each object. These humble, industrial artifacts are works of art.

The art of the tattoo

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P873ColemansPlace

We have many collections to be proud of here at The Mariners’ Museum, but one of our most popular, which also happens to be one of my favorite, is the collection of tattoo pieces that belonged to the famed August “Cap” Coleman.  Coleman opened shop in Norfolk in 1918, but was forced out after WWII due to a law was passed in Norfolk making tattooing illegal.

Our collection of Coleman objects came to us through the years, with the bulk being purchased directly from Coleman in 1936.  Two of my favorite pieces are sheets of tattoo designs that were both signed by Coleman, making them extra special (pictured below).  The designs are are very colorful and showcase Coleman’s artistic ability.   Read more