The Show Must Go On

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Conservation Treatment Toys Ahoy! 2019
The Myriopticon before treatment. The left edge of the cardboard housing is completely split, which made handling the object difficult.

We are a little over a month out from the opening of a new exhibition entitled, “Toys Ahoy! A Maritime Childhood.” The exhibit will put a playful spin on the typical maritime history exhibit with plenty of toys, games, and books to excite both the young and the young at heart.

Here in the paper conservation lab, I helped prepare for the exhibit by completing treatments on paper-based collection materials being brought out for display. While the treatments all involved paper in some shape or fashion, it’s safe to say that the types of objects coming across my bench were a bit outside the (two-dimensional) range of what I typically work on here at the museum. Instead of the normal prints, drawings, documents, and photos I have been treating, this exhibit brought me board games, puzzles, toy ships decorated with paper, and even a pop-up book!   Read more

Baptism at the ‘Waist of the World’

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The 1690 Atlante Veneto : nel quale si contiene la descrittione geografica, storica, sacra, profana, e politica, degl’ universo by Vincenzo Coronelli contains the earliest illustration of a the line crossing ceremony. (Call#: G1015 .C82 Rare OO)

When planning this year’s Gallery Crawl I decided to include a station focusing on a well-known seafaring tradition: the line crossing ceremony.  If you’re asking yourself “what the hell is a line crossing ceremony?” and are planning to attend the Crawl let me just say you are in for a real treat!  While surveying the collection for items to display I was surprised to discover that I had to look at some of the oldest books in the library; which, of course, made me supremely curious about the ceremony’s origins and how it developed into the crazy ritual it is today. 

The tradition developed sometime after 1418 which is when expeditions coordinated by Prince Henry the Navigator began tentatively working their way down the Atlantic coast of Africa. By 1473, Portuguese explorer Lopo Gonçalves had reached and crossed the equator. Interestingly, no one on these early voyages mentions celebrating passing the equator, or anything else for that matter other than arriving back home alive! Presumably, these sorts of events wouldn’t develop until voyages became so frequent they were considered “normal.”   Read more

Tornado Saves Capital (and Steals Anchor for Museum!)

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Recently I had the pleasure of giving a behind the scenes tour to attendees of the annual conference of the National Society Children of 1812 (if you follow me on Facebook you might remember they gave us $1850 towards the conservation of a watercolor in the collection).  While planning the tour, I decided to include one of the anchors in our collection because it had a great War of 1812 provenance.

The anchor, a large Old Plan kedge anchor, had been recovered from the bottom of the Patuxent River near Point Patience, Maryland in 1959 by US Navy divers from the Naval Ordnance Laboratory Test Facility.  Luckily, despite spending 145 years underwater, the anchor was in fairly pristine condition and retained many of its identifying marks.   Read more

Hunting with the Amazons

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Scrapbook prior to disassembly

Well…probably not the kind of Amazons you’re thinking about, these were the Amazon-class steam screw sloop’s HMS Daphne, Dryad and Nymph of the Royal Navy and the “hunt” occurred off the East Coast of Africa as they worked to suppress the African slave trade.

I became interested in this story after the library transferred an album of watercolors and sketches over to the object collection (which is where works of art normally live).  The album contained thirty-seven images created by Lt. William Henn of the Royal Navy. For you America’s Cup fans that name should sound familiar.  Henn and his wife Susan and their pet Maltese monkey, Peggy, raced their 90-ton cutter yacht Galatea (which was also their house!) against Mayflower in the 1886 America’s Cup.   Read more

Even the lion has to defend himself against… lichen?

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The Lions are ready for the catwalk again. Conservation cleaning of four of the Museum’s most iconic treasures is complete for this year.

These before and after images highlight the reduction of biological growth from the surface of the stone. As mentioned in a previous post  (see A Lion by Any Other Color…), lichen, moss, and ‘mildew’ all degrade the surface of the stone. Without regular and careful cleaning and care, the details in Anna Hyatt Huntington’s sculptures can be lost over time.   Read more