Lectures cover a wide range of maritime topics and are presented by nationally and internationally recognized authors, filmmakers, historians, scientists and other experts in their fields. Author lectures are followed by a book signing. Books are available in the Museum Shop and may be purchased the night of the lecture.

All lectures below are free and open to the public. The Mariners’ Museum Members can make advanced seating reservations; reservations are not required, but encouraged. General Admission seating is available for non-Members.

Unless noted, Lecture Series events are held in the Main Lobby of the Mariners’ Museum at 100 Museum Drive, Newport News, VA. Lectures begin at 7:00 PM and doors open at 6:15 PM.

May 15, 2014, Steven Callahan lectured on "Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea."

May 15, 2014, Steven Callahan lectured on “Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea.”


Fall 2014 Lecture Dates & Titles


27 AUG

How Chessie the Sea Serpent Swam into the Heart of the Chesapeake!

Speaker: Dr. Eric Cheezum

Wednesday, August 27  •  7:00 PM

Chessie: A Chesapeake Bay Story

Chessie: A Chesapeake Bay Story

Look Outside, the Loch Ness Monster is Going Down the River!

How Chessie the Sea Serpent Swam into the Heart of the Chesapeake

In 1978, Virginians along the Northern Neck started seeing a strange, snakelike animal undulating up and down the Potomac River and its tributaries. Over the next two years, the monster made repeat visits to the region, before migrating into the Chesapeake Bay and becoming a regional icon.

Was it a plesiosaur? A giant anaconda? A floating log? An optical illusion? Dubbed “Chessie,” the Bay’s very own “sea monster,” became a local celebrity.

After a few years of repeated sightings, the incidents gradually tapered off; Chessie sightings have only been reported a handful of times in the past two decades. Nonetheless, Chessie has been the subject of more than three decades of theory, fantasy and speculation.

Dr. Eric Cheezum’s talk will discuss the origins of the “monster” in Virginia, before following it on its voyage into Maryland. Cheezum will speculate on the possible explanations – zoological and cultural – for the creature, and chart its rise as a veritable, if not verifiable, celebrity in the 1980s.

Reservation for this lecture is closed.

Photo of Dr. Eric Cheezum

Dr. Eric Cheezum

About the Speaker

Dr. Cheezum is a native of Maryland’s Eastern Shore and an instructor at Chesapeake College in Maryland. His 2007 Ph.D. thesis is entitled Discovering Chessie: Waterfront, Regional Identity, and the Chesapeake Bay Sea Monster, 1960-2000. His research investigates not only the origins of the Chessie legend, but also the many ways that the Chesapeake Bay’s culture has helped the stories to take hold.



The History of Tattooing and “The Collection: The Life of Tattoo Artist Cap Coleman”

Speakers: Chuck Eldridge, Pops and Kathy Maguire

Wednesday, September 17  •  7:00 PM

Photo of Coleman's Tattoo Parlor

Coleman’s Tattoo Parlor

What do you picture when you think about tattoos? Sailors? Bad boys? Or the waiter who just served you, with his arm completely covered in ink? While previously associated with sailors, tattoos are now a widely accepted form of body art. The Mariners’ Museum got started in collecting everything associated with tattoo – photos, tattoo stencils, tattoo instruments – when the major association was with sailors. The collection today is a major part of popular culture.

On Wednesday September 17 at 7 PM, the Friends of the Mariners’ Museum Library will present a lecture by Chuck Eldridge, Pops and Kathy Maguire on tattoos around the world and right here at home. Eldridge will speak on the history of tattooing. Pops and Kathy Maguire will follow with a talk based on their book, The Collection. The Collection is the story of the career of Norfolk tattoo artist extraordinaire August B. “Cap” Coleman. The lecture and book signing will also coincide with a tattoo exhibition in The Mariners’ Museum Library at Christopher Newport University that runs from September 15 – December 2014.

Avoid the line and have your book signed ahead of time. Contact the Museum Shop at (757) 591-7792 to pre-order your copy of The Collection, The Lost Ladies of Coleman, or the Coleman Ladies.


Reserve seats

Photo of Chuck Eldridge

Chuck Eldridge

About the Speaker

Chuck Eldridge has contributed to previous tattoo exhibits at the Museum and is the founder of the Tattoo Archive (tattooarchive.com), one of the largest collections of tattoo material in the United States. Kathy Maguire and Pops own and manage Modern Tattoo in Chicago, and are authors of The Collection: A Book of Vintage Tattoo Stencils and Flash of August “Cap” Coleman.



Skeleton Crew: How Paleontology Is Really Done

Speaker: Michael Triebold

Thursday, October 9  •  7:00 PM

Michael Triebold Paleontology

Michael Triebold, How Paleontology is Really Done

The word “paleontologist” evokes a very specific set of images in our minds: khaki shorts and vests, Tilley hats, scorching desert heat, picks and shovels and brushes, and inevitably Jurassic Park. But what is paleontology really like?

On October 9, Michael Triebold will help us to answer that question and more. He has spent over 25 years exploring America’s paleontological riches and sharing his findings with the world. This presentation will cover all aspects of the paleontology process: from the discovery of fossils, to their analysis in the lab, to their final mounting and display. He will share the fascinating revelations that come from analysis of fossils: What were these animals eating? What killed them? What diseases or injuries might they have had? Many people believe that the biggest discovery is finding a skeleton in the ground, but here we will learn why the most interesting discoveries are usually made in the lab.


Reserve seats

Michael Triebold at Pete III site

Michael Triebold at Pete III site

About the Speaker

Michael Triebold is the founder of Triebold Paleontology, Inc., a Colorado-based paleontology firm. In addition to his work in the field, Triebold is the creator of “Savage Ancient Seas: Dinosaurs of the Deep.” The exhibition investigates the fascinating underwater creatures who lived in America during the time of the dinosaurs. “Savage Ancient Seas” will be open at the The Mariners’ Museum through January 4, 2015.



A Man Most Driven: Captain John Smith, Pocahontas and the Founding of America

Speaker: Peter Firstbrook

Saturday, October 11  •  1:30 PM  •  Explorers Theater

"A Man Most Driven" by Peter Firstbrook, cover page

“A Man Most Driven” by Peter Firstbrook, cover page

Captain John Smith said that he fought and beheaded three Turkish commanders in duels. He claimed he was sold into slavery, then murdered his master to escape. He said he was captured by pirates—twice—and marched to the gallows to be hanged, only to be spared seconds before the noose dropped over his head. And all this happened before he was 30 years old. This is Captain John Smith’s life — life according to his own autobiography.

Everyone believes they know the story of Pocahontas, and how she saved John Smith. And were it not for Smith’s leadership, the Jamestown colony would surely have failed. But how much of Smith’s history is true, and how much did he invent to support his own legacy in Britain’s new empire? Was he the ambitious explorer, soldier of fortune and self-promoter that these tales suggest? Who was the real John Smith behind the legends?

Now, in this first major biography of Smith in decades, award-winning BBC filmmaker and author Peter Firstbrook (The Obamas, Lost on Everest) traces the adventurer’s astonishing exploits across three continents, testing Smith’s own writings against the historical and geographical reality on the ground.


This lecture is FREE with Museum Admission.

Peter Firstbrook

Peter Firstbrook

About the Speaker

Peter Firstbrook is the author of The Voyage of Matthew (about the explorer John Cabot), Lost on Everest (about George Mallory), and The Obamas: The Untold Story of an African Family. For 25 years, he worked for the BBC as a television producer, director, and executive producer specializing in historical documentaries. He has won over 30 international awards, including the Royal Television Society award for best documentary. He lives in London. 



The Pilgrims

Speaker: Ric Burns

Thursday, November 20  •  7:00 PM

Set of The Pilgrims

Set of The Pilgrims

Ric Burns is one of America’s preeminent documentary filmmakers. He is perhaps best known for his eight-part series, New York: A Documentary Film, which premiered on PBS in 1999. He was a producer and co-writer with his brother Ken on the classic PBS series The Civil War. His 2006 and 2007 films, Eugene O’Neill and Andy Warhol were Emmy winners. In 2012, he released Death and the Civil War to great critical acclaim.


Burns’ newest documentary project, The Pilgrims, is a part of PBS’ renowned series American Experience and will premier in 2015. It explores the reasons why, despite great personal risk, a group of English men and women chose to cross the Atlantic to settle in America in 1620.


ATTENTION: This event is expected to be very popular, and our reserved seating will fill to capacity. Once reserved seating has filled, we will be offering seating in a satellite location where our guests may watch the lecture on closed-circuit television. Museum members will be given priority when being seated.

We hope to be able to accommodate all of our guests, and will do our best to ensure an outstanding experience for everyone who attends.

Reserve seats

Ric Burns

Ric Burns

About the Speaker

Ric Burns is one of America’s preeminent documentary filmmakers. He is perhaps best known for his eight-part series, New York: A Documentary Film, which premiered on PBS in 1999. He was a producer and co-writer with his brother Ken on the classic PBS series The Civil War. His 2006 and 2007 films, Eugene O’Neill and Andy Warhol were Emmy winners. In 2012, he released Death and the Civil War to great critical acclaim.



The Burning Shore: How Hitler’s U-Boats Brought World War II to America and the ongoing story of U-701

Speaker: Speaker: Ed Offley and NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary

Thursday, December 4  •  7:00 PM

Cover page, The Burning Shore by Ed Offley

Cover page, The Burning Shore by Ed Offley

In the first six months of 1942, German U-boats sank over 200 Allied ships off the east coast of the United States. Over 1 million tons of freight, millions of dollars and hundreds of lives were lost.

Join historian Ed Offley and representatives from NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary on Thursday, December 4 for an examination of the ongoing story of U-701. Offley will speak from his latest book, The Burning Shore, a history of the German U-boats that prowled America’s waters. He’ll focus specifically on the story of U-701, which laid mines across the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in June 1942 and later sank off Virginia Beach.

NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary has spent the past seven years conducting the most comprehensive scientific survey of the shipwrecks of the Battle of the Atlantic that has ever been completed. Staff from the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary will present an exciting look at their findings including never before seen footage of many of the wrecks including the results of their summer 2014 expedition. NOAA will also display some of the technologies used to complete their work.


Reserve seats

Ed Offley

Ed Offley

About the Speaker

Mr. Offley is a journalist and historian who has covered the Navy for over three decades, and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1996.


The Mariners’ Museum Lecture Series is made possible, in part, by support from:

Peninsula Community Foundation of Virginia logo
Hunnicutt Lecture Fund
Newport News Arts Commission


Civil War Lectures


This occasional series highlights important dates surrounding the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia. Mariners’ Museum staff and volunteers will present these informative, illustrated lectures. These lectures are free with Museum admission.

January 18, 2014

Exploring and Photographing Civil War Shipwrecks

Maritime Archaeologist Joe Hoyt will discuss the world of technical diving on Civil War shipwrecks including the Monitor. He and his colleagues are pioneering new methods of photo-documenting the Civil War’s great shipwrecks.

March 22, 2014

USS Monitors Turret Reveals Her Secrets

USS Monitor Center Director Dave Krop will share some of the most interesting stories and secrets discovered while archaeologists and conservators performed excavations and treatments within the revolving gun turret. He will also share some of the unknown mysteries and questions that still need to be solved.

May 10, 2014

It’s Alive: The Recreation of USS Monitors Worthington Pumps

Conservator William Hoffman will discuss the multi-year collaborative effort to reproduce a full-size working replica ofMonitor’s Worthington pumps utilizing historic metal casting methods, modern analytical and machining methods, as well as an assist from the modern parent company of Worthington. See Will breathe life in this historic pump.

July 19, 2014

Play Ball: America’s National Pastime during the Civil War

Assistant Conservator Kate Sullivan will discuss the role of the Civil War in making baseball what it is today: America’s National Pastime.

September 6, 2014

Musical Monitors and Melodious Merrimacs: The Battle of Hampton Roads in Music and Poetry

2:30 PM in the Explorers Theater

Join curator Anna Holloway as she explores the music and literature inspired by the Battle of Hampton Roads – from the 19th century to today.

December 13, 2014

The Gale that Sank the Monitor

2:30 PM in the Explorers Theater

Jay Moore, Mariners’ Museum archivist and manager of NOAA’s USS Monitor Collection, describes in incredible detail how foul weather off the North Carolina coast ultimately led to Monitor’s demise in the Graveyard of the Atlantic.


For questions about the lectures please contact:

Adult Education
(757) 591-7749

For questions regarding book sales please contact:

The Museum Shop
(757) 591-7792

Members, to reserve seats to the lectures please contact:

(757) 591-7715