Ida Lewis: Mother of all Keepers

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(Accession Number 2019.0004.000001) -Harper’s Weekly, April 17, 1869. Illustration of Ida Lewis rescuing two drowning soldiers.

Ida Lewis: Mother of All Keepers

Here at The Mariners’ Museum and Park, Ida Lewis is no stranger. We’ve blogged, Tweeted, written, and lectured all about our heroine of Lime Rock Light. However, our mission here at the Museum is all about Maritime Connections because we’re all connected by the water. That’s why I chose Ida Lewis. Her acts of heroism are still inspiring women of all ages and created legacies that now bear her name. Out of these legacies have come a personal maritime connection and a story of another young woman with a link to Ida’s legacy. I want to take Ida’s story one step further than all the reasons she had the reputation of being able to “row a boat faster than any man in Newport.”  As you can probably tell, I’m excited to share these stories with you just in time for Women’s History Month.

Mother’s Keeper

First, I’d be doing you and Ida herself a disservice if I didn’t give you a little background on our brave lightkeeper. Idawalley Zorada (sometimes spelled “Zoradia”) Lewis, the second oldest of four children and eldest daughter of Captain Hosea Lewis. Capt. Lewis became keeper of Lime Rock Light at Newport, Rhode Island, in 1854 when Ida was 12-years-old.   Read more

Opening Day: What The Mariners’ Museum looked like in the 1930s

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Today, The Mariners’ Museum and Park’s exhibition space is roughly 90,000 square feet; but when the Museum opened to the public in November 1933, there was only a little over 12,000 square feet of gallery space. Sure, this is not a “small” space. All of our houses are probably significantly smaller, but this is a far cry from the originally intended Museum – a grand, sprawling, geometric affair. 

In April 1931, Archer Huntington stated, “My idea for the museum is a structure built not by architects but by engineers, and I think we can do this in the Yard. The moment you attempt to produce an art building on the usual Greek or Roman lines, you have made something which will clash entirely with the exhibits, which are purely scientific and mathematical.” To that end, the Museum’s projected budget for 1931 included $50,000 to “start museum”. The rest of that year’s budget was allocated to the dam, roads, and property maintenance. This vision would not come to pass, though, at least not as originally intended. Instead, the idea of a new building was put on hold (thanks Great Depression), and The Mariners’ Museum exhibits were put in a “temporary” gallery space located in the Museum’s service building.    Read more

“In the land of Submarines”: History of Nishimura 3746

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The Mariners' Museum and Park
Nishimura 3746 in storage, 2020.

Does anyone else look at this submarine and think of the Beatles, or is it just me? If we painted it, I think it could definitely pass for a (less artsy) version of the Yellow Submarine.  

Well, soon, this object is going to undergo a pretty big move and we are majorly excited about it. To that end, we have been doing a lot of prep work to get the object ready, and we wanted to share it with you!   Read more

Mariners Still Sailing Together…Apart – Part 2

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Noelle preparing to package & ship our most popular models, the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia/USS Merrimack. Ordered via our online gift shop. (All images in this blog: Amanda Shields/Mariners’ Museum & Park)

The Gifts That Keep Giving 

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.   Read more

Mariners Still Sailing Together…Apart

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Ages of Exploration Gallery. (All images in this blog: Amanda Shields / The Mariners’ Museum and Park.)

A Teaser Trailer

Have you been wondering what it’s been like at The Mariners’ Museum since our temporary closure due to the pandemic? Take a look at what I’m calling the “Teaser Trailer” in a series that brings you behind the scenes to observe the people and places of our beloved Museum in a completely different light..literally! This series will give you a whole new view of our galleries and our team members during the closure. The Mariners’ Museum may be closed to the public at the moment, but we have not abandoned the ship.

The Galleries

The exhibits, usually so full of light and laughter, now stand still, dark, and quiet. The emergency lights cast deep shadows, beckoning to be photographed. With everything so quiet and still, the sound of each creak and tap is heard throughout every gallery. If I didn’t laugh at myself getting spooked I probably would’ve high-tailed it out of there!    Read more