Way Back Wednesdays

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It’s been awhile since I’ve posted any old photos, but I would like to get back into as the history of the museum is fascinating!  This first photo shows the Virginia Travel Council visiting us on October 16, 1953.  This is especially relevant as Virginia Tourism paid us a visit just a couple of weeks ago.

On September 3, 1947, a group of children were rewarded for participating in the Library Vacation Reading Plan with a visit to the museum.  Clearly the little boy in the front wasn’t too thrilled about the visit, he looks so bored.  Haha!  The other boy on the left is intensely studying our Robert Hood watercolor, which is a very interesting piece.  The letters are created by using people or other aspects of the image.   Read more

How many reporters does it take to screw in a light bulb?

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Advertisement for the Royal Mail Ship “Boomerang”

Twenty. One to do the actual screwing and nineteen to write articles providing conflicting details on exactly how the installation of the light bulb was accomplished.  In the instance of the story I’m going to tell, the question is “how many newspaper articles did it take to get the story right?” The answer is about 125 articles in ten newspapers from nine different cities in four different countries.

Researching the story was prompted by a painting in the collection that contained the inscription “Ship H.R. COOPER, Capt. I. Lapham, rescuing the crew from the wrecked ship, BOOMERANG, Capt. G. B. Crow. March 27th 1856. Lat. 40.35n Long. 49.40w.” Two additional details were provided by an object acquired with the painting—a gold medal awarded by the British government to the Helen R. Cooper’s captain: his first name, “Isaac,” and the full name of the vessel: Helen R. Cooper.  Beyond this I didn’t know anything about the incident and there wasn’t any historical information in the object file.   Read more

For want of a pilot…

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On this day in 1803 the 6th rate frigate armed en flute HMS Determinée struck broadside on a sunken rock near Noirmont Point on the western side of St. Aubin Bay in the Jersey Channel Islands and was immediately bilged (read: “big giant hole in bottom”). In less than three minutes the height of water inside the ship was level with the surface of the sea and within fifteen minutes the ship was nearly under water.

With the ship sinking so quickly and a strong tide running Determinée’s captain, Alexander Becher, ordered the anchors dropped so the vessel wouldn’t drift into deeper water. He also ordered the sailors out the rigging (they were trying to furl the sails) thinking their added weight might upset the position of the ship and ordered them to start launching the ship’s boats.   Read more

The Lipton Cup: a case study in packing an object for travel

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1906 Lipton Cup for the first Ocean Race to Bermuda

In this post, I thought I would give you a deep look behind-the-scenes to see a process museum staff frequently undertake, but most people don’t get to see: what’s involved in packing an object for travel.  In this instance, the object is the 1906 Lipton Cup for the first Ocean Race to Bermuda. You might remember the Lipton Cup was one of the winners of the 2017 Bronze Door Society annual dinner. The Bronze Door Society sponsored the conservation of the Lipton Cup to the tune of $30,000.00.

It took several months to find a conservator (we chose Conservation Solutions, Inc.) and finalize the contract for the work, which will take most of the money budgeted for the project: $29,290.  Once this part of the process was complete our next task was to troubleshoot how to transport the trophy to the CSI.  You’ve seen the thing—with all those delicate frilly bits and the crack in the main spindle we couldn’t just wrap it in a little padding and lay it on its side in a box (we’d need another $30,000 to repair the damage that caused!).  Unfortunately, we only had $700.00 left in the budget to cover the packing expenses—which is a pittance when it comes to packing art.  Creating a customized crate usually costs anywhere from $1,000.00 to $10,000.00 or more depending on the object and its size or complexity.  As an example, Peabody Essex Museum just spent $12,281 to crate our Kronprinz Wilhelm painting for travel between Newport News, Massachusetts, London and Dundee, Scotland.  Granted, the 1906 Lipton Cup isn’t as big, but it gives you an idea of what it costs to crate a complex object.   Read more

Family gets once in a lifetime chance to save history

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Last fall, the Slominski and Lawton families of Garner, North Carolina were vacationing in a remote area of Cape Lookout National Seashore when they noticed small objects bobbing in the surf.  They collected a few of the items, and for roughly thirty minutes many more examples of the same item continued to float by.  Not knowing what they were, they limited their collecting to about fifteen pieces.  The items gathered were delicate glass tubes with a thin tube at the top containing a graduated paper scale, with a larger air-filled chamber at the middle, and a small bulb at the bottom filled with little lead pellets held in place by a cotton plug.

During the recovery, one of the fragile items fractured and from it they recovered a paper scale with the words “Sea Water G. Tagliabue New York.” Despite seeing what they described as a “hundreds” of the items in the surf, when they walked down the beach to see how many had washed ashore they couldn’t find anything—no complete pieces, no broken glass, no loose paper scales…nothing.  It was as if the bobbing items had simply vanished into thin air.   Read more