Researching maritime art…the leading cause of gray hair

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Watercolor of the half brig Alfredo by Mathieu-Antoine Roux, 1859

Sometimes researching maritime art can be supremely frustrating but persistence is usually the key to unlocking an object’s story. This week I was contacted by a gentleman in South Africa who was interested in a watercolor in our collection by Mathieu-Antoine Roux. The image supposedly depicted a ship called “Alfred”. His ancestors immigrated to South Africa from Hamburg, Germany in 1859 and he was looking for an image that depicted the ship they had traveled on.

The watercolor showed a starboard broadside view of the ship under full sail. The artist very nicely depicted the vessel’s assigned Marryat code on the mizzen mast—the number ‘601’—as well as a house flag, a pennant with the name of the vessel, and a country flag on the stern. He also dated the watercolor (1859) and marked it so we had an idea of the region the ship was depicted in (Marseilles, so the ship was most likely in the Mediterranean).   Read more

The Power of the Internet (part 1)

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No museum can ever employ a subject matter expert for every type of object in their collection—especially when their collection is as vast as ours. While we do have a staff member who can usually handle the identification of our weaponry, I recently asked him question that he couldn’t answer.

The question involved a boarding axe that had four very distinctive stamps on the blade (only one other boarding axe in the collection has a mark—a stamped anchor that immediately identifies it as a French Model 1833). The stamps are a crowned “M”, a crowned “B”, an anchor that looked like a grappling hook, and an indistinct crowned “something or other” (sorry about the technical term). At first we thought it was an eagle, then an elephant, and then a little cleaning showed it to be a couple of decorative letters; a script “R” followed by a letter that looked like an “S” or “F”.
So what do you do when you have an object with distinctive stamps that you can’t identify? Google it. This quick search lead me to the wonderful David Lee in Scotland and his site boardingaxe.com. I’m not lying…check it out if you’re a fan of historical weaponry–you’ll love it.
   Read more

The Turret is draining! The Turret is draining!

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The drained turret from summer of 2016

That’s right folks, it’s almost turret season! We will be draining the turret tank on July 31st, and from then on it’s turret all day, every day for those of us in the conservation lab. And trust me, we’re all very excited to get back in the turret again!

You may remember from our previous blog posts that last summer we worked on removing all of the nutguards from the interior of the turret. This summer we’ll be assessing the status of the nutguards and possibly even dry ice blasting them, so stay tuned for more nutguard updates!   Read more