Way Back Wednesdays

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April 1937 Main entrance to museum

A new month means it’s time again for more #WayBackWednesdays photos, showing the exciting history of our museum.  This first picture (directly below) shows the front entrance of the museum (now the business entrance) in April of 1937.  A lot has changed since then as our museum has grown and further developed the area around the building.  I really like the old cars and buses visible in this shot as it makes you wonder if that was the only parking spot for museum visitors.  Probably so!

This next photo (below) shows children operating a bilge pump from USS Hartford that was placed at the museum.  The pump is ca 1865, so it’s great to see that it still worked for these kids.  Hartford was famous as the flagship of Rear Admiral Farragut during the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1964.  She was disposed of in Norfolk, Virginia in 1957, which is likely why we have the pump.  90+ years is an extremely long life for a ship, so she must’v been well built.   Read more

Pirates Pack the Park

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As many already know, The Mariners’ Museum is attempting to break the Guinness World Record for “Largest Gathering of Pirates”, which currently belongs to Hastings, England.  We have spread the word as far and wide as we can in hopes of making this event as successful as possible, so I decided to write a little blog about some of our objects to further our pirate cause.  To learn more about our Pirate event, including what to do if you would like to be involved, you can visit our website HERE.  Also, as an added bonus, admission to the museum will only be $5 that day.  Admission to the Pirate event will be free, but be sure to bring money for food, drinks and souvenirs!

Now onto some of our pirate objects!   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

August Artifact of the Month – Compass Collection

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Ivory compass, 1750-1850. Courtesy of The Mariners' Museum.
Ivory compass, 1750-1850. Courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum.

For August’s Artifact of the Month, we will be looking at a series of compasses that we have here at The Mariners’ Museum. The compass is one of the world’s oldest navigational instruments, dating back to the Chinese between the 9th and 11th centuries. A magnetic compass works by aligning its magnetic needle with the Earth’s magnetic North Pole, and therefore ensuring that it always points north. The compass was created from the use of lodestones, which is a mineral with a magnetized iron ore. The Chinese found that when put flat on a board, the lodestones would continue to consistently point in the same north and south direction. The compass hugely improved the accuracy of maritime exploration and travel. It made it much easier to locate destinations, and cut time off of traveling. With the aid of other devices, the compass can also be utilized to figure out both longitude and latitude. It also made it so that areas known to be problematic to navigate were much easier to avoid or move through. This helped revolutionize maritime travel, making it easier for explorers to go on longer expeditions as well as safer ones.

One of our most beautiful compasses in our collection is one that was purchased by Fred Hill in Paris, France. It is only about two and half inches in diameter, and has an ivory case that opens and closes much like a woman’s compact. It’s dated to between 1750 and 1850, though the exact date and maker is unknown. There is another compass in our collection hidden in the hold here at The Mariners’ Museum that was also purchased by Fred Hill. This one is a miniature compass, which is also by an unknown French maker (perhaps the same unknown maker!). This compass is thought to have maybe been a toy, and is set in a brass bowl on a bone stand. This miniature compass is thought to be from 1910. This miniature compass is pictured below, while the compact compass is pictured above.   Read more

Welcome to our Workroom–please excuse the clutter

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Creativity.  Rachel wrapping a canoe with blankets and stretch wrap.
Creativity. Rachel wrapping a canoe with blankets and stretch wrap.

Today I offer a true “behind the scenes” look at our museum world. Welcome to our workroom. A small, but vital area that sometimes looks as if a tornado blew through it and other times it looks so pristine that you would swear we probably don’t do any actual work here. The ambiance of this area depends on who is using it at the time, whether we are expecting a visit from a donor or researcher, and which projects are underway.

This is the place objects moving in, out and around the museum make a stop during their journeys. Shelving and closets house new artifacts, incoming and outgoing loans, and artifacts being moved on and off display. Items we are trying to identify or research will also find a temporary home here. The length of time an object will stay in the workroom ranges from a few minutes, a few weeks, months, or as long as a year (or more), depending on what needs to be done. It could take just a few minutes to replace an identification tag that was removed before exhibition and a year to complete the extensive paperwork and processing for a donation consisting of hundreds of items.   Read more