I had a little bird,
I had a little bird,
Last month, I reported on a set of 3 ballot initiatives to change the city charter of Key West (https://blog.marinersmuseum.org/2020/10/a-maritime-issue-on-the-ballot/). Those initiatives sought to establish limits on the size and cleanliness of ships visiting the port of Key West, Florida. As you’ll recall, there were good, valid arguments on both sides of the issue. And during the campaign, as in all American campaigns since the early days of the Republic, passions flew a little high and a little mud got thrown. Americans are a pretty rough-and-tumble bunch!
Well, as I said, the residents have cast their votes! Bonnie Gross of the Florida Rambler reports that all those ballot questions passed by about 60% in favor of the changes. That means that, if the changes are allowed to stand, the City of Key West will limit the total carrying capacity of ships to 1,300 people.
Actually, the maritime issue isn’t on our Newport News ballot… it is on the ballot of Key West, Florida. However, the future of cruise ships in the world of Covid-19 may be on the minds of many citizens of port cities that welcome them.
This week I was on vacation in the Florida Keys — our first outing since the pandemic struck! I was very excited and pleased to get away from work (which I LOVE!) and the non-stop election coverage (which I love rather less). So when we arrived in Key West, I was taken aback to see the intersection of both the elections and my maritime life on signs all over town! Here is one of them:
In a museum not so far far away there’s not just one, but two Mariners’ crew whose work is so interconnected that even a pandemic can’t change that. Now, our Library Information Specialist and Cultural Heritage Photographer are discovering what “working closely” looks like at a distance.
An unassuming white door is nestled in the center of a white wall you’d never even notice was there unless someone pointed it out to you. Through that door is what we call Gallery 1. Inside it, a large table fills the front of the room to lay out large items. It’s filled with books, photos, drawings, and the most high-tech shelves I’ve ever seen! Seriously, these are not your grandpa’s stagnant library shelves. With the push of a button, they slide together, closing one aisle and revealing the next aisle of records.
My geeky brain was immediately reminded of that scene in Star Wars – Episode IV. It’s the famous scene when Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie are trapped in the trash compactor and the walls are literally closing in on them! But don’t worry, these walls have sensors so if you leave so much as a stool in the aisle they won’t be closing. No Death Star scenes being reenacted at The Mariners’ Museum. 😉 Although, there may be an extremely high potential for lots of Star Wars references!
“These are not the records you are looking for.”
~ Obi-Wan Kenobi/Amanda Shields
Back in April, at the height of Virginia’s stay-at-home orders and less than a month into the museum’s work-from-home status due to the pandemic, the only staff still physically working at the museum at the time were a skeleton crew of essential personnel. Noelle, our visitor services manager, was working from home when she noticed an order come through the online gift shop. Problem was, all of the packing and shipping had to be done while physically in the museum gift shop, but not only was the museum closed, even our park was closed. With everything going on in the world and the museum itself, I’m sure no one would have blamed Noelle for responding to the customer that the museum was closed and we just couldn’t fulfill the request at this time. After all, it was a small order from out of state, just toy models of the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia. Instead, she reached out to the buyer to find out more and discovered that it was a father buying the ships for his 6-year-old son’s birthday which was coming up that weekend. He explained how much his son loves the story of the Monitor and the Merrimack. Noelle told him we would make it happen; if the items were shipped by Monday they would reach the family in New York in plenty of time for the little boy’s birthday that weekend. She came in Monday, packaged the models, and even included a note wishing the little mariner a happy birthday. She then confirmed that the item was picked up, and upon receiving the tracking number passed it on to the family. This special kind of dedication and empathy isn’t found everywhere, but it’s here, even behind the scenes, at the Mariners’ Museum.
In this exclusive behind the scenes series, I am introducing you to several members of our Mariners’ crew who are still manning the ship even though our beloved museum remains closed to the public. Allow me to introduce you to the resourceful and dedicated leader of our visitor services department.
Picture this if you will, the visitor services department…the admissions desk, 3D movie theater, the gift shop, and just overall customer service for museum guests suddenly faced with no visitors to serve, a museum closure, and the challenge of suddenly trying to figure out what remote work looks like for such an “on-site” department. Enter Noelle, the Mariners’ Museum Visitor Services Manager.
“Shifting my mindset to things our team could accomplish from home that would still improve guests’ experiences once we re-opened, was a little challenging at first,” Noelle says.