Pandemics and … Soupy Island?

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A boy on the dock, perhaps waiting for his turn to go to Soupy Island! July 4, 1937. Eldredge Collection, MS0091.

Updating records for our online catalog (, in case you’d like to know), I came across a curious image of an excursion steamer and a rather heartwarming story I’d like to share with you. It’s the story of how a city in the midst of the tuberculosis pandemic and periodic cholera outbreaks, came to help its poorest inner-city kids. It’s the story of a place called Soupy Island. The steamer is the Elizabeth Monroe Smith.

As you know, American cities in the 19th century and into the 20th century were often great places for communicable diseases to break out. The density of the population, the lack of medicines, the influx of immigrants from other places, all made the likelihood of outbreaks to be much higher than out in the countryside. Philadelphia was no exception to this.   Read more

The Magic of Maritime Mondays

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All ages enjoy Maritime Mondays!

The Magic of Maritime Mondays

The pandemic has changed everything. We go to work “from home” and most of our day-to-day interactions with others outside of our homes are done online via Zoom, Google Chat, FaceTime, etc. Of course there are those who are essential personnel including first responders, maintenance workers, health care providers, and all those folks who keep our cities going and our grocery stores running. Even my 20-year-old kid, who still lives at home, is working at Starbucks. But I’m stuck at home.

Connecting through the world’s waters

My job at The Mariners’ Museum and Park is programming. The Department of Interpretation is the go-to for the things that you get to experience in our galleries. Some of the programs that we present include our amazing one-day exhibits: D-Day Memorial Event last year, our annual Battle of Hampton Roads event, our Indigenous Peoples Day, and others. We also create workshops, develop and produce the lecture series, answer research questions, community outreach, host the Lifelong Learning Society, and more. We have the privilege of being in the galleries, sharing our collection with you, our visitors. After all, we are collections-based and audience-focused. The Mariners’ Museum and Park connects people to the world’s waters, because through the waters—through our shared maritime heritage—we are connected to one another.

Monday mornings with my little mariners

I really miss talking to visitors and my coworkers! As an extrovert, this is a challenging time. But one of the things I miss the very most is…Maritime Mondays.

Oh, the joy of getting to read a book to a group of kids each Monday morning at 10:30! Kids range in age from infants to about three during the winter, then the ages expand to include all ages during the summer. Normally I would be prepping to entertain, inspire, and share the love with about 50 children each week. Many of them attend each Monday. Even the kids during the winter are normally the same kids each week. They know me as “Miss Lauren” (it’s a southern thing) and my awesome helpers as “Miss Wisteria,” “Miss Greer” (awesome intern) and “Miss Heather” (another awesome intern). We often also have additional team members take part, so the “Miss” list includes Re-Re and Sara.

In addition to reading the story, we do a craft. I like interesting things that the caregivers and children can work on together. I try to make it a bit more complicated in the summer, since we have older children attending. Even if I repeat a book (I have about 80 and am always on the search for good maritime inspired or themed books), the craft is never the same. Several families have “Maritime Mondays” walls in their homes with all the crafts collected and displayed together.

Nothing is better than having 40 children repeating the sound effects in the story when prompted. Early on, you see them look at their caregivers with an expression of “Am I ALLOWED to be loud?”. With encouragement, I could have 50 foghorns blasting in the Museum. A truly lovely sound. These are our future members!

These are children who come to our Museum so often that they feel like this is a second home. They know the floor plan and lead their caregivers off to explore the Toys Ahoy: A Maritime Childhood exhibit, or to explore the International Small Craft Center.




Sharing the joy of reading

I am the parent of four children. I even homeschooled my kids for several years. Reading is so important and my older kids rejoiced when a sibling was born because it meant that the new baby could get a library card. It would add 40 more books to our library shelves for them to enjoy. It’s really common knowledge how important reading early and often to children is. It aids in developing their vocabulary, cognitive skills, attention spans, and more.

Please consider joining us on any given Monday morning when the Museum reopens. I would love to see you! The more Mariners, the better!   Read more

Happy 4th!

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"My dear Taylor, present my friendly greeting to your sons, and give them the enclosed $10, to purchase materials for a glorious noise. Your friend, John Ericsson." Recieved July 4th, 1887. From The Mariners' Museum Collection.

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the library blog. The 4th of July is a special day for all Americans: young and old, immigrant or native born, we can all share in the love of liberty that our Independence Day celebrates. John Ericsson, a Swedish immigrant and inventor of the USS Monitor, was no different. Although he was seen as by the public as veing arrogant, cold, hard edged and antisocial, Ericsson had a softer side as well. In a letter to his friend and personal secretary Samuel Taylor, Ericsson includes a gift to help Taylor’s family enjoy the festivities.


Ericsson’s letter means more than just entertainment for Taylor’s children. His kind gift and thoughtful gesture shows just that Ericsson was not the cold, haughty engineer that everyone thought him to be. He was also a man who could open his heart to others, and who felt how special our Independence Day can be. Perhaps we can take inspiration from his letter as we gather with friends and family this 4th of July to celebrate what it means to be an American. After all, what could be more American than helping kids launch fireworks?