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

Posted on
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

A View Outside The Hold Of Our Ship…..Actually, Outside Our Collections Office

Posted on
A beautiful Autumn afternoon view outside our Collections Offices.
A beautiful Autumn afternoon view outside our Collections Office.

Being a Collections staffer means you spend a large part of your day indoors and inside windowless rooms.  Just as the wrong kind of light can damage artifacts in the galleries, it can also affect items as we are working with them in our offices and prep areas.   So any objects being cataloged, researched, cleaned, moved, numbered, etc.,  have to be protected from damaging light, no matter where they are in the museum.

All our storage areas and workrooms stay dark unless we need to access them.  And of course, no windows.  Research has shown that even limited amounts of light can have a cumulative effect on some types of artifacts.  So we store those objects in cabinets and boxes to help minimize exposure.  All the light tubes and bulbs are also covered with UV filters.   Read more

Artifact(s) of the Month-Bathing Suits

Posted on
20-31-1

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

Artifact of the Month- Apollo

Posted on
OF19

The museum owns one of the largest figurehead collections in the world, with 92 total either on display or in storage. One of the figureheads purchased by the museum in 1933 and currently hanging in our Great Hall of Steam is named Apollo. At first glance this figurehead seems like nothing out of the ordinary since many ships used Greek gods as figureheads. However, this specific figurehead has a much more interesting past than one would guess.

Apollo probably came from an American ship that wrecked off the coast of Norway. There were stories about this figurehead that seemed doubtful, until 2008 when Mr. Hultgren of a small Swedish museum contacted us looking for information about where Apollo was. As confirmed by Mr. Hultgren, after its ship wrecked Apollo was put in a village in Sweden named Mollӧsund. Apollo stood on a rock beside a flagpole there until we bought it in the early 1930’s. It is said that the children of the village had May Day exercises around the figurehead. In the village Apollo was nicknamed “The Old Man of Ferdinand”, and there are stories that parents would tell bad children to “behave or The Old Man will come and get you!”   Read more

Object of the Month- Fashion Scrimsaw

Posted on
Fashion Scrimshaw tooth.
Fashion Scrimshaw tooth.

For this month’s special artifact, I have selected one of the pieces from our scrimshaw collection. Now, I am personally not a fan of the idea of scrimshaw, but I thought it would be good to share what it is and the history behind it to our readers.  I picked this particular piece because of the two women depicted.

Before discussing our object, I want to share some about the art of scrimshaw. These pieces are usually made by sailors aboard whaling ships and often depict landscapes, while many are drawings of magazine illustrations, like particular one. The oldest examples of scrimshaw are from the 1600’s and are dutch made. However, scrimshaw did not become popular until 19th century New England whalers picked up the art.   Read more