The Tale of a Whale, or rather the Teeth. . .

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Pocket Knife with Baleen (suspected) handle
ca. 1878-1882
Credit: The Mariners’ Museum and Park

Hello! As this my first blog at The Mariners’ Museum and Park I will introduce myself.  My name is Molly McGath and I’m the new Analytical Chemist here at the museum.  I imagine some of you might be a bit surprised at the idea of a chemist  working in a museum.  I do many different kinds of chemical analysis of museum objects, including chemical identification and characterization, exploring deterioration mechanisms of objects, and studying the short-term and long-term behavior of conservation treatments.   To give you a better idea of what my job is like, I’ll share a project I worked on right after starting.

First the Tale. . .

Conservator Paige Schmidt brought me a question about an object she was treating.  She wanted to know whether the handle of this knife (see image below) was made from baleen.  So I started the process of chemical analysis.   Read more

To touch or not to touch: interacting with artifacts

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The Monitor’s propeller lost much of its strength while on the sea floor. The large platform and signs encourage people to examine it from a safe distance.

Every museum goer has encountered warnings about touching artifacts, but have you ever wondered just how damaging that contact can be? I think we would all agree that leaping a barrier and picking up a vase is a definite bad idea, but what about resting your hand on a chair or poking a polar bear specimen? The truth is even the lightest touch can cause harm.

Last week I took a break from dry ice cleaning to work on the “Virginia Gun,” an IX-inch Dahlgren shell gun which sits at the entrance to the Ironclad Revolution exhibit. It was recovered along with the USS Merrimack by the Confederates and was used aboard the renamed CSS Virginia during the Battle of Hampton Roads (1862). It is a fascinating object that draws a crowd. Unfortunately, it also tends to draw wandering hands.  My job was to remove greasy fingerprints from the side of the barrel. This got me thinking about how we protect objects and how although we have “do not touch” signs around the museum, visitors might not understand why this is such an important rule.   Read more

Time is… corrosion

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Hello there readers! It is such a pleasure to be back at work on the USS Monitor. I have missed smelling like a 150 year old ship at the end of a work day and using a crane to move artifacts around… really.

As Kate mentioned last week, we’ve been working on the wooden side of the port carriage for the past month or so. There will be more updates about the gun carriages as we progress with treatment.   Read more

Artifact(s) of the Month-Bathing Suits

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The museum has a large and varied collection of artifacts, which surprisingly includes bathing suits. This is a small sample of the types of bathing suits we have in our collection that have been worn throughout the past century.

This picture is from 1893 and was in a magazine advertising fashionable ‘bathing costumes’. Yes, this is actually what women wore to the beach during that time. Anything less was considered inappropriate.   Read more

Gallery Crawl

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Looking for something fun to do in September?  I’m happy to say that The Mariners’ Museum is hosting a unique Gallery Crawl event.  Only a small percent of our collection is currently on display, about 2%, which has always saddened us.  This event allows us to bring out objects that most people have not seen before and allows the staff to share the interesting stories behind the pieces.  Collections staff will be positioned in various spots throughout the galleries with artifacts from storage.  There will also be food and drink stations relating to galleries they are stationed near.  The Gallery Crawl will be on September 19, 6:30-10:00pm and there are a limited number of tickets, so book soon if you are interested!

More information can be found here.