Object of the Month- Fashion Scrimsaw

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Fashion Scrimshaw tooth.
Fashion Scrimshaw tooth.

For this month’s special artifact, I have selected one of the pieces from our scrimshaw collection. Now, I am personally not a fan of the idea of scrimshaw, but I thought it would be good to share what it is and the history behind it to our readers.  I picked this particular piece because of the two women depicted.

Before discussing our object, I want to share some about the art of scrimshaw. These pieces are usually made by sailors aboard whaling ships and often depict landscapes, while many are drawings of magazine illustrations, like particular one. The oldest examples of scrimshaw are from the 1600’s and are dutch made. However, scrimshaw did not become popular until 19th century New England whalers picked up the art.   Read more

Service and Honor

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Thomas Kevill portrait, donation from The Descendents of Thomas Kevill.
Portrait of Thomas Kevill.

A couple months ago, Captain Jim Bailie of Norfolk Fire-Rescue called us to ask about items in our collection related to Thomas Kevill.  Kevill was the first paid Fire Chief in Norfolk and a Civil War veteran who served on the CSS Virginia during the Battle of Hampton Roads March 8-9, 1862 as the officer in charge of gun #9.

Thanks to the generosity of Kevill’s descendants, we have two portraits of him, his artillery belt and buckle, a certificate of his military service and a commemorative fire badge.   Read more

Exploring the "Age of Exploration"

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Entrance to the Age of Exploration
Entrance to the Age of Exploration

As my time here at the Mariners’ Museum comes to a close, I’ve realized that I know our collection very well, but I only know a little about our exhibitions.  I want to use my last couple of weeks here to discuss some of our exhibitions and explore them for myself! For my first one I looked at the Age of Exploration.

We all learn about the explorers who sailed the Atlantic in the 15th-17th centuries at a young age.  Here at the Mariners’ Museum, we have a great collection of exploration artifacts and a VERY thorough explanation of this era in history.  While the amount of stuff in the gallery may be a little overwhelming, there is a wealth of information to go with it.   Read more

Go Figure! (-Belle of Oregon)

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The Belle of Oregon Figurehead
The Belle of Oregon Figurehead

Hello there! This week I want to share the Belle of Oregon with you! She is a beautifully crafted figurehead with her dress being my favorite part. This figurehead was a part of the ship Belle of Oregon,  thus given her name. She was built in 1876 by Gross and Sawyer in Bath, ME and the figurehead was carved by Charles Sampson. We acquired her in 1940, but prior to that the figurehead was displayed in the Webb Institute of Naval Architecture in New York City. In 1996-1997 she was featured in the Mariners’ Museum exhibit The Art of the Ship Carver.

The Belle is wearing an off the shoulder neckline bodice with a scalloped wheat design and bows on the sleeves. The hemline of the dress is also scalloped. She is wearing a cape with a sun-burst patter, which cannot be seen in the image above. She is holding something that looks like a pineapple, but really it is an oversize wheat sheaf.  This is because Belle of Oregon (the ship -not the figurehead) transported wheat between the West and Boston, Queenstown and Melbourne. In 1894, she was converted into a coal barge and also carried railroad material.   Read more

April Artifact of the Month – Baseball Series

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Baseball autographed by Yogi Berra. Courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum.
Baseball autographed by Yogi Berra. Courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum.

In honor of America’s pastime and the recent start of the baseball season, this month’s artifact is a collection of baseballs from here at The Mariners’ Museum. There are currently three here at the museum with one on display and two that are not on display, and hidden in the hold. While a baseball does not sound like something that would usually be present at a maritime museum, these all have provenance that legitimizes their right to be here.

The two baseballs that are not on display were owned by William Frances Gibbs, a naval architect most well known for his design of  SS United States. Along with his brother Frederic, Gibbs designed 1,000 foot ocean liners and eventually began producing the ships in the early 1900’s after encouragement from the Navy and with the funding of J.P. Morgan. The brothers produced designs for ships from their naval architecture firm, Gibbs & Cox, and produced plans for thousands of ships during World War II. The baseballs themselves were the personal property of William Gibbs and were included with a number of other personal items that were accessioned into the collection.   Read more