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Working with Broken Glass

This is one object that nearly everyone asks about, the Ultima model, MX 0002A/1936.0321.000001A. For more information, check out this link.

I love taking guests into Collections storage because I always find new things. People’s interests are different, so each tour is different and unique. Guests always point and say, “What’s that?!”, or they want more information on another thing. I always tell them I know a lot, but I do not know the history and story of each of the Mariners’ 30,000 objects.

So I pull out my handy phone and search the Museum catalog, with access to everything! Just type in any topic and see what we have.

Finding Something New!

This is the lithograph we knew was in the Collection, but sadly the frame’s glass was broken. LP 6408A/1968.0180.000001A

The other day a team member, McAllie, stumbled across a super cool find. This was not something new in the Collection just to me; it was unknown to all of us at the Museum!

In preparing for future projects, the Conservation team has been surveying the Collection. They came across a framed lithograph of a French steamship, but the glass in the frame was broken. They set it aside so my team could unframe it, as the glass could scratch the image, or staff.

In disassembling this object, we found a second print, a photogravure, hidden inside the frame that someone had used as a backing board. The lithograph then found its way into our Collection with the steamship.

According to the National Gallery of Art, a photogravure is

“…an intaglio print process that was sometimes used to produce high-quality reproductions of photographs in ink. A positive transparency of a photographic image is used to control the etching of a specially prepared metal plate. After etching in an acid bath, the plate is inked and the surface wiped, leaving ink behind in the etched pits. A sheet of damp paper is then placed on the inked plate and printed.”

A big thanks to our Curator of Photography/Photo Archivist, Sarah, who helped identify this as a photogravure. LP 6408B/1968.0180.000001B

We limit the amount of handling of each object to limit wear and degradation over time. So despite it being in our Collection since 1968, we hadn’t had a reason to unframe this until now. And believe it or not, this is not the first time we have unframed something only to discover a mystery. If nothing else, my job is an adventure every day!

The print we found this time is not a maritime subject but does lend itself to the narrative of exploration we enjoy sharing with guests. How very exciting!


There are so many wonderful pieces of artwork in the Collection! For more on that, catch up with our Beyond the Frame series.

A huge thank you to McAllie for taking care of our Collection and finding this hidden treasure! Teamwork is such an essential part of what we do. I have to wonder what’s in all of these other frames…

If you are interested in a tour of Collections storage, please call 757-591-7776, and we can schedule a visit.

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