Learning to trust Wikipedia

Posted on
USS Lancaster Eagle
USS Lancaster Eagle

Coming up with ways to allow the public better access to our collection is something we constantly think about. After all, that’s the main reason we created this blog. Besides this blog, I also try to post an object a week on Twitter for our followers to see. Here’s our Twitter handle if you don’t already follow us, @MarinersMuseum. Another activity I became interested in this past summer was editing Wikipedia. We’re conditioned to believe that Wikipedia isn’t a reliable source and we should not look there for answers (yet we all do anyway), but I’ve learned that this isn’t necessarily the case. There are a great many people working to make sure that the articles are well-written and, more importantly, use proper sources. I tend to use Wikipedia as a place to start when I begin researching something. I can usually find a few major details and then some resources that I can turn to for more information.

Knowing that people come to Wikipedia so frequently, whether they admit it or not, I believe it is important for us, the museum, to use the site to let the public know what we can offer them. I have gradually been working on adding our objects to various pages, especially examples from various artists. Some of my favorite additions include a picture of our music box model on the page for the PS Commonwealth, an anchor on the SS Christopher Columbus and a painting for John Cleveley the Elder.   Read more

Museum Mysteries

Posted on

“ARGH!!!!” “AAAAHHHHHH!!!!!”  “WHAT THE HECK IS THIS NUMBER????”  “THAT’S SUPPOSED TO BE A LETTER ‘R’ ????”   (Some of the phrases I have been known to say while working with artifacts)

 All part of a normal work day in an institution that has been collecting objects for 81 years.  81 long years full of many thousands of artifacts that came in and various directors, curators, conservators and collections staff members that have come and gone.   Read more

Chesapeake Bay Gallery update

Posted on
Removing a model

Sometimes this is what you have to do to get an object free of its case.  The model was screwed down to the case and Jeanne had to go in to free it.  Of course we all just stood around and took pictures of her legs sticking out.

Despite the difficulty in getting this model free, the deinstallation of the Chesapeake Bay Gallery is going well and the majority of the objects have been removed and put away in storage.  We’ve been working slowly on purpose so that we can keep track of everything as it comes out so nothing gets mixed up or put in the wrong spot.  Taking down a gallery can be a lot of work.   More updates to come soon!   Read more

Where did I put that?

Posted on
Yorktown Bottle
Yorktown Bottle

One of the major tasks associated with having such a large collection of objects (about 32,000!) is keeping track of everything’s location.  Every object in our collection has a number so that we can track it, both digitally in our database and on our paper location cards.  What I want to talk about in this post is how we number an object because of how important this little task is.

The bottle (ca 1781) pictured above was recovered with numerous others in 1934 from the York River.  We have 71 of these bottles or bottle fragments in our collection.  When we pulled it out of the Chesapeake Bay Gallery last week, we discovered it was numbered incorrectly but, thankfully, renumbering the piece is an easy process.   Read more

Mysteries in the Collection

Posted on

From time to time, we deal with items that are considered “Found in Collection” pieces.  This doesn’t mean that we never knew these items existed and just came across them suddenly.  (Although this does happen occasionally) Typically these things were dropped off by an anonymous donor or left behind after a curator moved on to retirement or another institution.  So we end up with things without a history of ownership or use. Sometimes, we don’t even know for sure what the heck the item is and have to spend a great deal of time doing research to figure it out. 

 Recently, 32 World War II posters became the latest Found in Collection items to gain our attention.  For the last 59 years they have been stacked in drawers and labeled “unaccessioned” or non-collection pieces.  They originally were donations from the Virginia War Museum that we received in 1954.  Over the years, curators knew they existed, but no one considered them good additions to the collection.  Probably because some were duplicates of posters we already owned.  Or maybe because of the fragile nature of the paper and the large sizes involved.  While some posters were as small as 8 x 10, others are larger than 40 inches tall.  It may seem strange, but the long term and undisturbed storage is one of the best things that could have happened to the posters.    Read more