Scholarship gone south…..

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Ditty box of James Paterson McKinstry

Recently I was working on finding objects for the upcoming Gallery Crawl and I stumbled across a great drawing in our collection. I was led to it as I researched a naval officer who owned a ditty box in the collection, James Paterson McKinstry, because it reputedly showed the action McKinstry was wounded in while serving as captain of the USS Monongahela (the night David Farragut’s West Gulf Blockading Squadron attempted attempted to run past Confederate batteries on the Mississippi River at Port Hudson, Louisiana). When I looked at the image I quickly realized that something wasn’t right and after digging through the object file it almost made me cringe with embarrassment—not my own, but for past curators of not only our organization but a few others.

When acquired, the drawing was encased within a mat and backing board that bore a handwritten inscription which partially read “…drawing of the fleet before New Orleans drawn by William B. McMurtrie…”. Inscriptions can be great things, but when they are applied by someone who wasn’t directly associated with the creation of a piece they should be taken with a grain of salt. Apparently every curator who came into contact with this drawing automatically assumed that the inscription identified the scene correctly but I knew from the first moment I looked at it that something was wrong.   Read more

Continuing work with the Ship Models

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Work continues on the exhibition for the 50th anniversary of the Hampton Roads Ship Model Society, with models having arrived every day for the past two weeks.  We have almost reached the finish line though with only a couple more models set to come in.  Although anyone can walk through and see the work we’re doing, the exhibition officially opens August 5th and will remain open until February 11th, 2018.  The models are so lovely and it’s amazing the amount of work and skill that goes into making them.  The model makers clearly have a tremendous amount of patience.

There are a lot of models that people will recognize in this show, including America, CSS Virginia, USS Monitor, and SS United States.  We get a lot of questions about our model of SS United States, which is currently in storage, so it will be great to have one on display again.  There are two models of America (where the America’s Cup race gets its name), which make an excellent contrast to the AC72 displayed in the gallery next door.  It shows you just how far technology has taken us.   Read more

Ship Models on Display

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Models by Lee Martin

This week we’ve started installing our newest exhibition, a display of about 50 models from the Hampton Roads Ship Model Society.  It will open August 5th and we will be spending the next couple of weeks receiving the models and putting them into their appropriate cases.  This was the previously the location of the A to Z exhibition, which featured a wide variety of interesting artifacts in our collection.  It’s always exciting when a gallery is changed out!

More to come as more models come in!   Read more

New Instruments for the Collection

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We added two really interesting navigating instruments to our collection this month.  Both were designed to help navigators plot a tropical storm’s circulation so the ship could navigate around the zones where the worst weather was occurring—essentially “navigating by storm.”

The first, extremely rare instrument is called a Paracyclone. It was designed by Captain François Louis Roux of the French Navy in the 1870s and constructed by A. Santi of Marseille. This particular instrument was for use in the Southern hemisphere although Santi also developed a supplemental semicircle for Northern hemisphere use. Unfortunately this piece is missing the compass plate that would help determine the course of the storm. Only two other instruments of this type are known—one is in the Science Museum in London and the other is at the Observatory of San Fernando in Madrid.   Read more

Behind the Scenes Tour

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Very rarely am I asked to give behind-the-scenes tours as Jeanne and Cindi usually do them, but this past Friday I got to take a small group of Ukrainian journalists on one.  They were here as part of a media partnership program with The Daily Press.  You can read more about that HERE.

Wanting to pull something from their country, I searched and searched and was only able to come up with one piece, a print of Odessa, which actually shows the city at a time when it was part of Russia.   Read more