A New Exhibit Washes Ashore!

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This life vest is representative of the first ever commercial version, and is now on display in the exhibit. From The Mariners' Museum Collection.

Hello again readers, and welcome back to the library blog! I have some exciting news for you today – there’s a brand new exhibit in The Mariners’ Museum Library, and it’s FREE to come look at!

The new exhibit is called “Illustrating the News: Shipwrecks in the Popular Press.” It follows the history of shipwreck imagery in newspapers and periodicals from the 1830s through 1912, a time before the widespread use of photography. Before this period, most publications didn’t have much imagery to accompany their stories. This exhibit covers the era when publications began using illustrated images to showcase the shipwrecks of the time, and didn’t always stay true to the reality of the situation. One can see dramatic illustrations of shipwrecks, rescue attempts and survivors, and the display includes panel text describing the artistic techniques the artists used to convey their message. There’s even a display with old lifejackets from the time period, one of which is made of cork!   Read more

S.S. United States: Looking to the Future

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William Francis Gibbs
William Francis Gibbs, designer of the steamship United States, stands in front of the ship at a Hudson River Pier in New York. Mr. Gibbs wears his trademark fedora hat.From the Library collections.

I left you in my last post with the purchase of the S.S. United States by the SS United States Conservancy in the summer of 2010.  The Conservancy had saved the historic vessel from the scrapyard, but what do they plan to do with the ship?

The donations from the “Save Our Ship” campaign allowed the Conservancy to purchase the ship and to pay the costs of keeping the vessel as it is today.  However, like so many of the United States‘ previous owners, the Conservancy has big plans for the record-setting ocean liner.   Read more

TMM Library at the Vorhees Lecture

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Des Barres Atlantic Neptune
A detail from the Library's copy of Atlantic Neptune, by Des Barres

We have commented in these pages on the great privilege it was to exhibit some of the Library’s beautiful charts of the Chesapeake Bay at the Library of Virginia for the Vorhees Lecture of the Fry-Jefferson Map Society.  The lecture took place last Saturday Mar. 31, and we worked diligently last week to select examples of the best of our maps and charts.  It was hugely fun and a welcome break from the routine.

Thanks to the generosity of the Virginia Cartographic Society, we were able to take reproductions of 3 of the very rare maps collected by Bill Wooldridge, a great friend of the Library and a dedicated student and collector of maps.  We selected Colom’s New Netherlands map of 1658, the Dudley Old and New Virginia map from book 6 of the Dell’ Arcano del Mare (1646), and the William Heather 1812 chart of the Chesapeake Bay.   Read more

Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation

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WAC sliding into home base during an HRPE WAC softball game

For the past few months I have been lucky enough to view the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation (HRPE) Collection at The Mariners’ Museum Library.  This collection includes over fifteen thousand photographs donated in 1946 by Brigadier General John R. Kilpatrick, former commanding officer of the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation.

Previous to World War II, HRPE served as a military port in the Spanish-American War and in World War I.  Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, HRPE was reactivated.  These photographs, taken by the United States Army Signal Corps, depict the various aspects of life at HRPE during World War II.   Read more

The Library Shuffle

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Last week in the pages of the New Yorker magazine, I read that the Vatican Library had re-opened to the public after a 3-year closure for renovations and enhancements.  Even though the re-opening happened last September, it somehow escaped my notice.  If you are a subscriber to the magazine, the article, entitled “God’s Librarians: The Vatican Library Enters the 21st Century” is well worth the read (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/01/03/110103fa_fact_mendelsohn).
The essay mentioned the great extent to which this closure provoked anxiety and frustration among scholars needing, really needing to consult the 75,000 manuscripts and 1.6 million volumes in the Library. As a former academic, I can truly appreciate how awful it is being deprived of access to the objects of one’s study.  One can lose one’s job if papers aren’t produced, and that cannot happen without access to texts.

The New Yorker essay reminded me that when we closed our doors for the move to CNU in April 2007 and did not re-open to the public until late December of that year, we also caused disappointment and frustration among our patrons.  We aren’t the Vatican Library, but we are probably the largest maritime library in the Western Hemisphere and house unique collections. There are scholars who also really, desperately need access to our manuscript, book, map, journal and photograph collections.   Read more