Beyond the Frame: Something to Remember

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“USS Monitor Wreck, 2002, Graveyard of the Atlantic” by Michael “Simo” Simonetti. Oil on canvas, 2013. | The Mariners’ Museum and Park, 2013.0003.000001.

He sinks down deeper and deeper. All around him it’s blue, blue, blue, blue. At this depth all red, yellow, and orange light is filtered out. It’s dark, like you’re in a gray room with only two small windows. And then – there it is – it begins to come into view. Hulking and cave like, upside down and covered in marine growth.

It could almost look natural if you didn’t know what this was. He steps along the seafloor, it’s solid but the sediment still billows slightly with each step. Then he moves forward, slowly, gently – hand outstretched.    Read more

An Uplifting Story: Recovering Monitor’s Artifacts

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Image on the left shows the location of USS Monitor’s wreck site. Image on right shows an artist’s rendition of the ironclad turning over during its sinking. Courtesy of NOAA, Monitor Collection.

On December 31, 1862, USS Monitor was caught in a storm and sank 16 nautical miles off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, in more than 230 feet of water. It is believed the vessel went down stern first, turning over so that its revolutionary 120-ton revolving gun turret separated and became pinned under the ship on the seafloor. Monitor’s remains were discovered in 1973, confirmed in 1974, and in 1975 the wreck was placed under the jurisdiction of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with the establishment of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. 

Archaeological investigations and recovery of small objects began in the 1970s and into the early 1980s. The first artifact found was the turret’s red signal lantern – the last thing the crew saw before the ship sank beneath the waves! Other artifacts recovered included wood fragments, a glass jar full of relish, and Monitor’s anchor. In 1987, recognizing these artifacts needed a home, The Mariners’ was designated as the repository for their management and curation.   Read more

“In the Land of Submarines”: Moving Nishimura 3746

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The sub has been in outdoor storage for several decades. Mariners’ Museum # 1946.0002.000001. Courtesy of: Amanda Shields/The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

We can handle a lot of heavy lifting with our staff, but sometimes we need to call on outside experts for help. Such was the case with No. 3746, a Japanese mini-submarine designed by Nishimura Ishimatsu. We needed to lift the sub onto a custom cradle and relocate it. Often this is a simple task with objects in the Museum’s Collection; however, due to the sub’s size (35 feet long and 20 tons), there was no way we could do this in-house.

This “simple” task was actually the culmination of several years’ worth of planning and only possible due to many people’s support.  The Museum’s Bronze Door Society approved the funding of a custom cradle for the submarine during their 2019 annual dinner.  The cradle would fully support the hull and make it easier to move the sub. We could also conserve and display the submarine in its new support. Hannah, our archaeologist, shared with the Society why the sub is so special and the need for a new support. You can learn more about the history of the sub and the start of the project in our past “In the Land of Submarines” series posts; historyassessing; and documenting.   Read more

Zouaves on the Virginia Peninsula

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1st Louisiana Zouave Battalion – Coppen’s Zouaves 1861. Mark Maritato, artist.
Courtesy of

Just as the smoke cleared from the scene of the first Confederate victory at Big Bethel, onto the battlefield rapidly marched what would become one of the most colorful, daring, and poorly disciplined units of the Army of the Peninsula: Coppens’ Battalion. Also known as the 1st Louisiana or Coppens’ Zouaves, the regiment had just arrived from Richmond after a long and arduous train ride from Pensacola, Florida. The Confederate capital was “thrown into a paroxysm of excitement by the arrival of the New Orleans Zouaves…as unique and picturesque looking Frenchmen as ever delighted the oculars of Napoleon the three.” The Richmond Dispatch also noted that “their principal fare….has been crackers, cheese and whiskey.” 

Drunk and Disorderly 

Even though they all arrived drunk, William White of the Richmond Howitzers commented, “a Louisiana regiment arrived about one hour after the fight was over. They are a fine-looking set of fellows.” But not all agreed. George Wills of the 1st North Carolina noted that the Zouaves “are the worst looking men you ever saw in your live {sic} they all had on leggings wore red pants, with about three times as much cloth in them as necessary, and a long red bag for a cap, they burnt black as mulattoes.”    Read more

Beyond the Frame: Connection

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Studio shot of “Oregon Inlet Ferry” by Wayne Fulcher, Oil on Canvas, 1970. | The Mariners’ Museum and Park 1973.0033.000001

The yellow ochre of the pilothouse stands out on the near grayscale palette of this small canvas. Muted colors begin to become more apparent, like those of a faded, old photograph. And like a photograph, this work is a memory – a snapshot of everyday life. 

Contemplating Connection

In looking at this work, the concept of connection comes to mind over and over. I thought about what connection means to me and my mind immediately went to technology – WiFi, cell service, texts, and email. While there are the cons of a constantly connected world – like endless promotional emails, it also means being able to call my family hundreds of miles away or FaceTime friends in another country. This drove me deeper down the road of connection and what it means. But at its very simplest, to me, connection is about bringing people together and this painting is about just that.    Read more