Conquering the (never really conquered) Wild

Posted on
Conquering the Wild (Accession # 1934.0629.000001) seen from the Lions Bridge. Image credit: The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

Anyone who has traversed The Mariners’ Museum and Park’s Noland Trail, or visited the Lions Bridge, has passed by one of the Museum’s largest artifacts: Conquering the Wild. Arguably less remarked upon than the iconic Lions seated just yards away, Conquering the Wild is nonetheless a staple in the history of the Museum and iconic in its own right.

Like the Lions, Conquering the Wild was designed in clay by Anna Hyatt Huntington and scaled into Indiana limestone by Robert Baillie.   Read more

Beyond the Frame: Upon Which the Sun Hits

Posted on
“Hauling Nets” or “Piling Nets in a Wagon” by Gifford Beal. Oil on Canvas, ca. 1930.
1977.0003.000001 | The Mariners’ Museum and Park

As the day slows and comes to a close, the final sunbeams dance across the canvas catching and illuminating the edges of figures that are still hard at work. These same figures were warmed and welcomed into the day by the very first of the sun’s rays. 

Creating Unity

Much like the way these men work together towards a common goal, color, light, composition, and subject matter work together to create an overall harmonious feeling in the work. This feeling is one of unity, a core principle in art. In Gifford Beal’s ca. 1930 oil on canvas, “Hauling Nets” or “Piling Nets on a Wagon” the artist has created unity through the skillful use of all of these elements: color, light, composition, and especially subject matter.    Read more

Making Friends With A Masked Bandit…

Posted on
A raccoon in The Mariners’ Park. Photo courtesy Crystal Hines/The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

It was a chilly morning at The Mariners’ Museum and Park as I went on with normal opening procedures. The sun had not yet come up and I had just finished unlocking the breezeway and Huntington Room before working my way up to Security Control. I breached the second set of glass doors when I sensed a presence staring at me, from where yet, I did not know. I continued to walk into Control and there it was, the ring tailed bandit on the other side of the exterior door, peeking in at me. I couldn’t help but feel excited. Raccoons are one of my favorite creatures we have here in the Park!

Raccoons are considered to be one of the most adaptable individuals and can be found in both rural and urban areas. Their hands give them the ability to climb, touch and are more commonly known for digging in the trash. You may have heard how raccoons “wash their food”. Did you know that raccoons wet their food in order to soften it? This allows them to see or find other objects in or on their food.    Read more

A Haunting in Hampton Roads: The Ghost Fleet on the James River

Posted on
Front-facing photo of the JRRF in 1972. P0001.003/01-#PB29656 Photo courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

A few weeks ago, on a late summer boat ride on the James River, I noticed the outlines of looming grey ships in the distance that I hadn’t seen before. “What are those?” I wondered aloud. “Oh, that’s the ghost fleet” my fiancé, piloting the boat, responded, “you haven’t heard of them before?” On that chilly evening in September, as I glanced over my shoulder back at the mysterious vessels, it all seemed a little spooky to me. As the sun set over the water, the creaky grey ships appeared hazy, almost like a figment of my imagination. From our vantage point on the dock in Williamsburg, the screams from nearby Busch Gardens roller coasters echoing in the background, it seemed like the perfect set for a Halloween movie. Call me dramatic, but I was intrigued to learn a little more about these ghostly vessels. A week before Halloween, this seemed like an appropriate time to share my maritime “ghost story” with you, dear readers!

The “Ghost Fleet”, although perhaps a fitting name, is a colloquial name for what is officially the James River Reserve Fleet (JRRF), the oldest of the eight original National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) sites, and one of only three that are still in operation. The NDRF is overseen by the U.S. Maritime Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Since 1919, the James River has been a resting place (or perhaps a graveyard?) for retired ships. After World War I, the Navy and Merchant Marines stored their surplus wooden and steel-hulled ships in the river. Many of the wooden-hulled ships were eventually moved to Mallows Bay, Maryland [1]. By the advent of World War II, nearly 300 ships sat in the James River Reserve Fleet (JRRF), although they were all reactivated to serve in the conflict. After this, in 1946, Section 11 of the Merchant Ship Sales Act established that the National Defense Reserve Fleet would serve as a sort of insurance policy, a stand-by armada of ships in times of national crisis. Ships re-entered the JRRF after World War II, and by 1950, between 700 and 800 ships were anchored in the James River. [2]   Read more

Hidden Histories: The Quest continues…

Posted on
Sponge Fishing Boat Unloading in South Courtyard at the Mariners’ in  June 19, 1936.

In Homer’s epic The Odyssey, Odysseus, the Greek military strategist and King of Ithica, is on a quest to return home and retake his rightful place as king. Like Odysseus, many of us at The Mariners’ Museum and Park have also been on a quest. Our search has been to identify the men who built the original Museum facility so they may take their rightful place in the history of the Museum. Our quest is titled “Hidden Histories.”

What is Hidden Histories?   Read more