Secrets and the 2017 Gallery Crawl

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The 2017 Gallery Crawl is quickly approaching! As I mentioned before, the theme for this years event is the Secret Life of Objects. I thought I would entice you by showing one of the objects we’ll be highlighting during the event.

The object is a painting of the US Coast Survey Steamer Robert J. Walker. The scene shows a port broadside view of the vessel steaming through a moderately rough sea by artist W.A.K. Martin of Philadelphia.  It’s rather non-descript if you ask me. Just a standard maritime portrait of a vessel—albeit a nice one. Martin very clearly identifies the ship on the front of the painting so we thought it was a little odd that the back of the painting carries the inscription “Loss of the U.S. Brig “SOMERS”, W A K Martin pnxt Phila 18??”.   Read more

That’s not a knife, THIS is a knife!

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Lesley and Laurie working in the turret

As mentioned in our previous post, we’ve been spending quite a lot of time working in the turret the past few weeks! We’ve been taking a lot of photographs, to document how the conservation process is proceeding. We’ve also been doing some assessment for the future. But most importantly, we have been cleaning away the concretion (marine growth) and mud that is trapped in the rails.

Some of you may remember that when the USS Monitor sank, it turned upside-down. The turret is still upside-down as that is the most stable position for it to be in at the moment. Which means that in the picture above, Lesley and I are actually standing on the turret’s ceiling! The ceiling was constructed out of railroad tracks, which means there’s plenty of nooks and crevasses for concretion and corrosion to build up. AND there’s plenty of places for objects to hide!   Read more

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