La Isabel Project: Part 3

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Fibers used for caulking between two strakes. Image courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

Hello again and happy November!

I’m back for another installment of La Isabel project and this week we’re talking about one of my favorite parts of conservation: science! Conservation is an interesting field because it’s highly interdisciplinary. One week I’ll use skills I gained from history courses to research an artifact (check out my 2nd blog post), another I’ll be using technical photography skills for documentation (see my 1st blog post), and then on a week like this I may be using my chemistry and biology knowledge to analyze an artifact!   Read more

The Tales Candy Can Tell

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Riley’s Rum and Butter Toffee, QB68.

In the spirit of Halloween I searched the collection looking for something unique to share. I came across a small candy tin with two ships on the lid. The name across the front said Riley’s Rum and Butter (Flavoured) Toffee, which sounded fun so I started to research.

The British company had fairly humble beginnings on a mother’s dining room table. Ellen Riley was born in 1848 to William and Mary Ann Bates. She worked as a dressmaker until she married John Henry Riley on August 7, 1872. John Henry was a woolstapler, meaning that he sorted and traded wool between the producers and the manufacturers. It kind of sounds like he was a middleman to sort out the details and grade the wool for sale. They had two sons, Frederick William and John Herbert Riley. John Herbert became a bank clerk and Fred initially followed in his father’s footsteps working as a woolstapler by 1901. Those career plans changed a few years later.   Read more

La Isabel Project: Part Two

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“Año 1925” carved into a board at the boat’s bow indicating the year she was constructed. Image courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

Hello again, everyone!

I’m back for my second installment discussing La Isabel project and I can’t wait to tell you about all the progress we’ve made and things we’ve learned! In my first blog, I talked a bit about the plan for this project and starting the first step: documentation. Since then, I’ve been able to transition into the next steps of the project which involve looking more closely at La Isabel’s history, structure, and condition.   Read more

La Isabel Project: Part One

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La Isabel (starboard). Image courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum and Park

Hi everyone!

Last time I wrote on our blog, I was discussing my work with Princess Carolina (i.e. Ronson) as a graduate conservation intern. Well, since then, I’ve finished up my graduate program and have started an exciting new project working with another one of our amazing vessels: La Isabel!   Read more

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