Toy Boats You Can’t Play With In The Bathtub

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Double-Turreted <em>Monitor</em> Toy By W.S. Bliss Toy Company
Double-Turreted Monitor, ca. 1883-1900, W.S. Reed Toy Company

Every now and then an absolutely fantastic artifact literally walks through the front door. Usually the owner is looking for more information on it. Occasionally they want an appraisal, although we can’t do that because of our accreditation. And sometimes it turns out to be a donation. In this case, the Museum’s Bronze Door Society made the magic happen.

The Bronze Door Society is a museum membership group whose participants join at a higher level in order to aid us in acquiring artifacts and caring for the ones we already have. They raise funds through special events, and once a year they hold a formal dinner during which they vote on proposals submitted by museum staff members. In the past, these proposals have included conservation projects, scholarships, equipment purchases and artifact acquisitions. In 2011, one of the proposals was the purchase of a particular toy boat.   Read more

A Bit of Round Randomness

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Sanitary Telephone Card from Baltimore Steam Packet Company.  Used to protect against germs while using the phone.  It was also supposed to slightly amplify the voice.
Sanitary Telephone Card from Baltimore Steam Packet Company.  Used to protect against germs while using the phone. It was also supposed to slightly amplify the voice. (2000.14.32)

A bit of randomness today as I offer a selection of round items from our collection.   And a few thoughts on how any museum collection can be inherently random by the very fact that it exists.

All collections can be grouped in some way, and many of our pieces are part of a whole or set of items.  For example, a tea set used onboard a ship.   Let’s say it consists of a teapot, cream pitcher, sugar bowl, two cups, two saucers and two spoons.   Of these items, the teapot may have come in from one source, the pitcher and bowl from another and so on….   Yet each of the items eventually made their way to the museum where they were joined together in our Collections database.   They are now linked together by their association to a particular ship or ship line.   Read more

Ick, weird but wonderful, in their own way.

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Male Luna Moth.  Luna moths have a short lifespan.  They are really big--about the size of your hand.
Male Luna Moth. Luna moths have a short lifespan. They are really big–about the size of your hand.

One of the benefits and/or curses of being surrounded by 500 acres of woods, water and wildlife is that sooner or later you come into contact with things that you haven’t seen before.  In my case, most of these things have multiple legs.  Yes, I am talking about bugs.

A few years ago, I despised bugs.  Generally, I still do.  They are small critters that can get into the museum and chew up objects or poop on them, thus causing lots of damage.  The sight of a particular one of these tiny pests can make one coworker decide to stand in her chair and scream for help. (No kidding…it’s happened twice now)  Bugs are the reason I have to do twice-monthly forced marches through all the areas of the museum with a pest control technician who diligently sprays all the doorways and windows to keep them out.  And I have never said, and probably never will say, “I love the smell of pesticides in the morning.”  We manage to keep most of the pests outside where they belong but just in case, I subscribe to a list serve site where museum people from all over the world compare notes and share bug identifications and I have at 5 different insect identification websites in my “favorites” list.  All for the cause—to keep the visitors, other staff members and the collection safe and happy and free from the sight and close proximity of multi-legged thingies.   Read more

Lizzie Borden, A Few Ships, and The Mariners' Museum

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R 27, Carpet from Fall River Line Steamship Priscilla
R 27, Carpet from Fall River Line Steamship Priscilla

Today I offer a murder mystery for your consideration. On August 4, 1892, Andrew and Abby Borden were found dead in their Fall River, Massachusetts home; a murder for which Andrew’s daughter Lizzie Andrew Borden would be charged and later acquitted. Whether or not Lizzie Borden killed her father and stepmother remains a question to this day, with scholars and armchair detectives eagerly debating their opinions. I won’t offer an opinion on her guilt or innocence here. But I will offer a connection between artifacts in our collection and the infamous Lizzie Borden.

It begins with Colonel Richard Borden from her paternal grandfather’s side of the family. Only three generations separate the two relatives. but unlike Lizzie, Richard seems to have been universally liked and respected. Accounts of his life describe him as honest, self-reliant, intelligent, steadfast in his convictions, physically strong, charitable, and possessing the highest moral standards. He also didn’t mind a bit of hard work.   Read more