Oh, the places we go – a deep dive into an air compressor!

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One of our diving air compressors, this one is from 1942 according to the date stamped on the front.

On my team, Collections Management, we tend to move objects around fairly regularly and always with great care. Most of the collection is fairly small and manageable, or maybe requires an extra set of hands like with our ship models. Some of the heavier objects we keep on dollies or pallets so we can move them more easily. But, we have a sizable portion of the collection that requires heavy machinery like a forklift, which in turn requires teamwork from staff members who are qualified to use it. I can move heavy objects but there is a limit when it comes to anchors, boats, and cannons!

The week before the museum temporarily closed due to COVID-19 (coronavirus), we needed to move several large objects so we could rearrange some of our shelving. I was amazed at how many staff members offered to help! We had people from conservation, exhibit design, buildings and grounds, facilities, and three of our volunteers who all came together. Through their amazing team spirit, we moved everything safely and now have better access to some of the objects to get a better view of them and catalog them more thoroughly. The objects we moved included two diving air compressors, ship’s bells, engineering gauges, a range finder, and a large ship’s wheel.   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

The Tale of a Whale, or rather the Teeth. . .

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Pocket Knife with Baleen (suspected) handle
ca. 1878-1882
Credit: The Mariners’ Museum and Park

Hello! As this my first blog at The Mariners’ Museum and Park I will introduce myself.  My name is Molly McGath and I’m the new Analytical Chemist here at the museum.  I imagine some of you might be a bit surprised at the idea of a chemist  working in a museum.  I do many different kinds of chemical analysis of museum objects, including chemical identification and characterization, exploring deterioration mechanisms of objects, and studying the short-term and long-term behavior of conservation treatments.   To give you a better idea of what my job is like, I’ll share a project I worked on right after starting.

First the Tale. . .

Conservator Paige Schmidt brought me a question about an object she was treating.  She wanted to know whether the handle of this knife (see image below) was made from baleen.  So I started the process of chemical analysis.   Read more

Puerto Ricans and Hampton Roads

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L-13256
U.S. Army Signal Corps. Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation Collection, L-13256.

Today there are more than 4 million Puerto Ricans living in the United States, making them one of the largest distinct ethnic groups in the U.S. and the second largest subgroup of Hispanics. While the Puerto Rican population in America is largely concentrated in New York City and Florida, Hampton Roads is home to one of the most substantial populations of Puerto Ricans in the south. This is to be expected as our community’s strong ties to the military brings in people from all over their world and Puerto Ricans have served proudly in the U.S. armed forces since at least World War I.

The Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation Collection gives us an important reminder that not all of our Puerto Rican neighbors are recent arrivals. Indeed many have been in Hampton Roads for generations. For example, in a series of seventeen photographs the U.S. Army Signal Corps documented servicemen returning to the mainland after being stationed in Puerto Rico. When the S.S. Fairfax docked in Newport News, March 29, 1945, it was also carrying their Puerto Rican wives and children.   Read more

Hal Clement, noted author of "hard" sci-fi

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L-12586
L-12586, HRPE, Army Signal Corps Collection

Here we have a typical photo from the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation collection, it depicts a group of soldiers debarking. Specifically this is a group of Army Air Corps bomber pilots arriving on the transport ship “General John R. Brooke,” its February 1945 and they are coming home on rotation. From the photo print’s caption we know that one of these men is Lt. Harry C. Stubbs.

In completing authority work on Lt. Stubbs, the Library of Congress tells me that this is the birth name of an author better known by the nom de plume, Hal Clement. But which one is our guy?   Read more