Castles Shipbreaking Company

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Figurehead from HMS Formidable

Any visitor to the museum will most likely remember the large, gold eagle in our lobby as it is eye-catching and right in the path of the entrance.  But close to the eagle are two other impressive figureheads, those from HMS Formidable and HMS Edinburgh.

These figureheads (and one carving) came from a place called Castles Shipbreaking Company in London (to learn about the history of the company go HERE).  This company was known for breaking up ships (as their name implies), but they also had a furniture business.  While many figureheads, and carvings, were taken off of the ships before they came to Castles, many others were left on the ships and taken off by Castles.   Read more

Taking the Stars with Peter Ifland

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As a museum we deal with a lot of wonderful donors, but few make as big of an impact as Peter Ifland.  So when we learned that he passed away on May 20, we were devastated.  Peter has been involved with The Mariners’ Museum since 1996 while consulting with Willem F.J. Mörzer Bruyns, who was at the time curator of navigation at Nederlands Scheepvaartmuseum.  Bruyns invited Peter to The Mariners’ Museum to attend a symposium on navigational and scientific instruments.  Peter then worked with museum staff to publish the book Taking the Stars:  Celestial Navigation from Argonauts to Astronauts in 1998.  This was followed by numerous donations over the years of Peter’s extensive instrument collection, totaling 154 pieces, many of which can be found in his book.  Besides these donated pieces, he also gave us the funds to purchase other instruments.

Because of Peter’s generosity, it has been said that our collection of navigating instruments “ranks among the world’s largest and most significant of its kind” (Bruyns).  And so I wanted to share some highlights from the collection to honor Peter.   Read more

Propaganda Posters

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I’ve been spending a lot of time recently with our collection of posters, mostly propaganda or advertising, as I’ve been photographing them so we can have the images in our database.  For some reason, I have always been drawn to posters, especially those with bright, colorful images (as with the ones I shared a few posts ago).  So without further ado, here are some of the ones I have been working with this week.

The first poster is a Navy recruiting poster from 1917 and was done by artist Kenyon Cox.  The second is a very bright poster that hung in the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company to encourage workers to keep at their work.  The clown is a little creepy, but nevertheless, this is a great poster.  The third is a Russian poster from 1932 that a fantastic volunteer recently translated for me.  I’m not exactly sure why the poster was made, but it might possibly be to celebrate the creation of the Russian Pacific Fleet.   Read more

Pirates Pack the Park

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As many already know, The Mariners’ Museum is attempting to break the Guinness World Record for “Largest Gathering of Pirates”, which currently belongs to Hastings, England.  We have spread the word as far and wide as we can in hopes of making this event as successful as possible, so I decided to write a little blog about some of our objects to further our pirate cause.  To learn more about our Pirate event, including what to do if you would like to be involved, you can visit our website HERE.  Also, as an added bonus, admission to the museum will only be $5 that day.  Admission to the Pirate event will be free, but be sure to bring money for food, drinks and souvenirs!

Now onto some of our pirate objects!   Read more

The Bucaniers of America

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This is Exquemelin’s book. From The Mariners’ Museum Library collection.

Hello readers, and welcome back to the Library blog. It has come to my attention that an increasing number of patrons are interested in the writings of Alexandre Exquemelin, a pirate – or buccaneer – in the early days of piracy in the Caribbean. Therefore, this blogger has decided to review Exquemelin’s 1684 publication of “The Bucaniers of America.” Exquemelin was a Frenchman who indentured himself to the French West India Company in 1666, in exchange for transport to Tortuga. Once he fulfilled his contract and received his freedom, he became a buccaneer and joined Henry Morgan. Exquemelin accompanies Morgan on many of his exploits, including the attacks on Panama and Porto Vello, and joins other buccaneers like Captain Bartholomew Sharp as well. He eventually returned to Europe in 1682, and published this book.

     Read more