Two Heroes for Memorial Day

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Launching of the President Coolidge. Accession#: MS0155.02.02.10

I am a day late but not a dollar short on today’s blog post (we have 1574 thanks to the start of Dollar Admission on Friday and a busy Memorial Day weekend!). Today’s post grew out of a convergence of many things and I had hoped to put it up yesterday but I was just too busy.

Several weeks ago, while working on devising talking points for the staff, I stumbled across some amazing images related to the President Hoover/President Coolidge model in our Ship Model gallery. The images are not only fantastic, they help relay a story of great sacrifice and courage worthy of remembering on Memorial Day.   Read more

An “Illuminating” Experience

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Lithophane, made by the German firm Von Schierholz at the Plaue factory in Branderburg. Accession number: Q225

At the Bronze Door Society’s Annual Garden Party on Sunday I had an interesting conversation with one of the Museum’s members and learned about a collectible I had never heard of before. He even told me we had two examples in our collection!

The object is called a lithophane.  Just so you don’t make the same mistake I did, it has nothing to do with paper. A lithophane is a panel or other object made of thin porcelain that has a picture intaglio molded into its surface. The picture only becomes visible when light is transmitted through the object.  Different depths of porcelain allow varying intensities of light to pass through the object enables the images to be fairly detailed.   Read more

Knot your usual grounding…

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USS Missouri grounded. MS0228-538A

Many of you probably know the story of one of the most infamous groundings to occur in Hampton Roads—that of the battleship USS Missouri—whose captain merrily drove it onto Thimble Shoals on January 17th, 1950 thanks to sheer arrogance fueled by terrible interdepartmental US Navy communication (read: it wasn’t just bad communication–there wasn’t ANY communication!).

The story has been told well in other places (My particular favorite is:, so I thought I would relate an interesting incident that occurred during the salvage operation that most people haven’t heard; a circumstance that led to Mariners’ having a really odd commemorative object related to the event in our collection.   Read more

Beached whales and bad omens

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Dutch Whaling Scene, Bonaventura Peters, 1645. Accession Number QO 29

On Saturday we hosted a behind the scenes tour for Hudgins Construction (they very nicely re-graveled our boat building shed so we could easily move and store objects in there). There were a lot of families involved so I programmed two different tours in order to show the kids objects I hoped they might find entertaining (an image of seasick passengers, an early 17th century version of a blokart, a Viking sword, you get the idea).

One of the pieces I showed them was our 1645 Dutch whaling painting by Bonaventura Peters which I supplemented with an engraving of a beached whale on the Dutch coast.  As I researched the image, I discovered the reason for its creation was quite fascinating and revealed something I didn’t understand about the weird proliferation of 17th century images of whale strandings.   Read more