Our lectures cover a wide range of maritime topics. Catch a Civil War Lecture or a new lecture series about Hampton Roads History with John V. Quarstein during the day. Or attend an evening lecture led by experts and maritime authors.
Civil War Lectures and Hampton Roads History Lectures are free with Museum admission, and Evening lectures are $5 per person. All these lectures are also FREE to Mariners’ Museum Members.
RSVP for any of the lectures online to guarantee a spot, as seating can be limited.
Please join John Quarstein, renowned historian and director emeritus of the USS Monitor Center, as he teaches about the intriguing maritime history of the Civil War. This long-running series explores the ships, personalities, technologies, and battles that would shape our nation for the next 150 years.
Civil War lectures are free with Museum admission, and FREE for Mariners’ Museum Members. Reserving a seat is suggested as seating is limited. See each lecture below.
We are taking additional time to reopen our Museum galleries to ensure
an optimal and safe experience for our guests.
Please check our Live Programming page for the current schedule on lectures, and connect with us online!
Evening Lectures cover a wide range of maritime topics and are presented by nationally and internationally recognized authors, filmmakers, historians, scientists and other experts in their fields. Author lectures are followed by a book signing. Books are available in the Museum Shop and may be purchased either the night of the lecture or in advance online.
Tickets are required for all evening lectures
Lectures begin at 7:00 PM • Doors open at 6:00 PM
Unless otherwise noted, lectures are held in the Main Lobby of The Mariners’ Museum and Park.
Become a Mariners’ Member Attend select lectures for FREE!
To learn more about Member benefits like free admission to select lecture series programs, please visit MarinersMuseum.org/Membership.
A Young Man’s Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica
Presented by journalist and author Laurie Gwen Shapiro
Thursday, February 13, 2020
It was 1928: a time of illicit booze, of Gatsby and Babe Ruth, of freewheeling fun. The Great War was over. American optimism was higher than the stock market. What better moment to launch an expedition to Antarctica, the planet’s final frontier? Everyone wanted in on the adventure. Rockefellers and Vanderbilts begged to go along as mess boys. Newspapers across the globe covered the mission’s planning stage. And then, the night before the expedition’s flagship set off, Billy Gawronski—a mischievous, first-generation New York City high schooler, desperate to escape a dreary future in the family upholstery business—jumped into the Hudson River and snuck aboard. Could he get away with it?
Meet journalist and documentary filmmaker Laurie Gwen Shapiro as she takes readers on the “novelistic” (The New Yorker) and unforgettable voyage of a plucky teen who became a Roaring Twenties celebrity. This Indie Next selection, The Stowaway, is her first non-fiction book.
America’s Forgotten Naval Mission to the Dead Sea
Presented by best-selling author David Haward Bain
Thursday, March 5, 2020
Come hear the fascinating tale about two Virginians, Lieutenant William Francis Lynch and his friend Matthew Fontaine Maury, from best-selling author David Haward Bain in his book, Bitter Waters. In 1848, an American exploring expedition was sent to the Holy Land to solve geographical puzzles and reply to ancient superstitions with modern scientific reasoning. Lynch, in command of USS Supply, led a small land party inland from the Mediterranean shore in Palestine, hauling two metal lifeboats for the sacred River Jordan and the Dead Sea, through often hostile Arab tribal lands.
The compelling story of Lynch’s exploits, and Maury’s parallel 19th-century journey, in helping to modernize the American Navy and perfecting the US National Observatory, “details one of the most hazardous, yet by now almost forgotten, attempts to roll back the veil of mystery and legend and reveal scientific truths,” as noted in the Roanoke Times.
An America’s Cup Update Featuring American Magic
Presented by America’s Cup host Tucker Thompson
This lecture has been canceled.
A reschedule date will be announced based on the speaker’s schedule and availability.
Join award-winning TV commentator, producer, and America’s Cup host Tucker Thompson for a sneak peek into the next America’s Cup, sailing’s highest prize. On a nationwide speaking tour featuring New York Yacht Club American Magic, Thompson returns to The Mariners’ Museum to share the storied history of the oldest international trophy in sports. He will give an insider’s look at the Cup’s new class of boat – , AC75 – foiling monohulls, considered the future of Cup racing.
Sailing fans will get an exclusive view of NYYC’s American Magic, leaving with an insight on what to expect in New Zealand in March 2021 when all eyes will be following the 36th America’s Cup.
Sponsored in part by The Moorings® and Quantum.
The Caribbean’s Crucial Role in the U.S. Civil War
Presented by award-winning author Robert N. Macomber
This lecture is canceled. A reschedule date will be announced based on the speaker’s schedule and availability.
Blockade-runners, Confederate ocean raiders, Union blockade squadrons, US Navy shipwrecks causing international incidents, clandestine arming of new warships, and desperate preparations for the final naval battle of the Civil War are all part of the action as Robert N. Macomber, an award-winning author and internationally acclaimed lecturer, takes a fascinating look at the Caribbean’s role in the American Civil War. From the war’s beginning to its tumultuous end, Spanish Cuba, the British Bahamas, French Mexico, and the Danish West Indies were the scenes of fantastic profits, naval skullduggery, and political intrigue, and Macomber will tell all.
Best known for his 14 Honor Series novels, Macomber’s maritime thrillers describe the life and career of his protagonist, US naval officer Peter Wake, from the Civil War in Florida to beyond the Spanish-American War in 1898. Admired across the globe for his work on the page and the stage, Macomber illuminates significant historical events with inimitable enthusiasm.
The Five-Hundred-Year History of America’s Hurricanes
Presented by best-selling historian Eric Jay Dolin
Thursday, September 24, 2020 • 7:00 PM
Hurricanes have had a profound and surprising impact on American history. Now, best-selling historian and author of Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America’s Most Notorious Pirates, Eric Jay Dolin returns to present a story on five hundred years of American hurricanes.
His latest book, A Furious Sky, due for release in June, spans centuries from the nameless storms that threatened Columbus’s New World voyages to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico three years ago. Dolin’s narrative is populated with unlikely heroes such as Benito Viñes, the 19th-century Jesuit priest whose methods for predicting hurricanes saved countless lives, and journalist Dan Rather, whose coverage of a 1961 hurricane would change broadcasting history.
A necessary work of environmental and cultural history, A Furious Sky will change the way we understand the greatest storms on Earth, looming on the horizon of America’s future.
Join John V. Quarstein, a noted historian, author, and director emeritus of USS Monitor Center, in a new lecture series as he dives into significant events in our nation’s history and examines their direct ties to the Hampton Roads region.
These lectures will be held on select Saturdays, and will be located upstairs in the Monitor Center Classrooms.
Hampton Roads History Lectures are free with $1 Museum admission, and FREE for Mariners’ Museum Members. Reserving a seat is suggested as seating is limited. See each lecture below.
Presented by John V. Quarstein, Director Emeritus, USS Monitor Center
Saturday, August 22, 2020 • 2:30 – 3:30 PM
The place “Newport News” first appeared on a Dutch map, circa 1617. The name is believed to be based on Captain Christopher Newport’s five trips from England, beginning in 1607, to the New World, bringing settlers, supplies, and ‘news’ to Jamestown Colony. Newport News became internationally famous as from there, soldiers and citizens watched the first battle between ironclad ships. This site, where the James River flows into Hampton Roads, was recognized by railroad magnate Collis Potter Huntington as ideal for industrial development. Huntington then began the creation of the city of Newport News, Virginia, which quickly became a leading port city, railroad center, and home to the largest private shipyard in the United States.
Attendees are welcome to join John Quarstein after the lecture for a signing of any books he has written, which can be purchased online or in the Museum’s gift shop.
Presented by Nancy E. Sheppard, special guest speaker
Saturday, September 26, 2020 • 2:30 – 3:30 PM
On February 21, 1922, the U.S. Army dirigible, ROMA, crashed in Norfolk. Killing 34 of the 45 brave officers, crew, and civilians on board, this was the single deadliest disaster of a U.S. hydrogen airship. Despite the bravery of the crew and the notoriety in American history, this disaster has been forgotten to history.
Join author and historian, Nancy E. Sheppard, as she takes you on ROMA’s harrowing journey to failure and get to know the men that served on board in this story filled with heroism, intrigue, love, and loss.
Attendees are welcome to join special guest speaker Nancy E. Sheppard after the lecture for a book signing.
Author: Nancy E. Sheppard
Online book sale – Coming Soon!
Presented by John V. Quarstein, Director Emeritus, USS Monitor Center
Saturday, November 7, 2020 • 2:30 – 3:30 PM
Gas and hot air balloons were first used for military purposes in America during the Civil War. The first launching of an observation balloon was made on July 31, 1861, by aeronaut John LaMountain who had travelled from New York to Fort Monroe, Virginia. LaMountain wanted to get a closer look at Confederate fortifications defending Norfolk. He turned USS Fanny into the first aircraft carrier when he lofted from the ship’s deck on August 3, 1861, rising to a height of 2,000 feet.
Professor Thaddeus S. C. Lowe created the US Balloon Corps and supported the Army of the Potomac during the 1862 Peninsula Campaign. Balloons could be seen daily during the siege of Yorktown. Not to be outdone, the Confederates fabricated their own hot air craft at Lee Hall Mansion on April 17, 1862. Although cumbersome to move and challenging to operate, these balloons were effective intelligence tools when properly used.
Just over 60 years later, the Hampton Roads region would become home base for several lighter-than-air military craft, including Lee Hall Balloon School and the Norfolk Naval Air Station. While balloons would be replaced by planes and jets, the Virginia Peninsula was the site of both the beginning and end of the balloon era.
Attendees are welcome to join John Quarstein after the lecture for a signing of any books he has written, which can also be purchased online or in the Museum’s gift shop.