Every year we give a tour to a group from the United States Coast Guard’s International Maritime Officer School; an interesting group who are always so curious and interested in our collection, especially our boats in the International Small Craft Center. Usually our Chief Curator asks what countries the group is from and then proceeds to point out boats from those countries, but he was not here this year so we did a little something different.
This year we set out a couple tables with artifacts from the countries the group was from, giving them a taste of the scope of our collection. And don’t let the first image fool you, they swarmed the tables when they first came in, but by the time this was taken they had already dispersed in the Small Craft Center. Three of the objects made a particular impression on the group.
The first was this Balinese cremation pylon carving. It is quite colorful, and quite startling if you come upon it suddenly. It was acquired by Alexander C. Brown while on a world voyage on the schooner, Chance.
This next piece is one of the jewels of the collection and is a Persian planispheric astrolabe, ca 1790-1791 by Hajji Ali. The planispheric astrolabe could be used to find time, as a direct-measure instrument by surveyors, topographers and navigators, to simplify astronomical calculations and, in the case of this instrument, to facilitate the calculations that must be performed to determine the exact time for prayer.
The third piece is a model made entirely of cloves. It was made by two Thai officers attending the Army Transportation School at Ft. Eustis in 1957. It smells wonderful and the case was made with a little piece that slides over a hole at the top so that people can easily take a whiff, but then recover it to keep the scent inside. This model is also a favorite among staff.