The Speakers Bureau at The Mariners’ Museum and Park is composed of staff and experienced volunteers who bring vastness, importance, and energy of maritime topics and initiatives to various groups in the Hampton Roads area.
While our Museum galleries are closed and in-person programs are temporarily suspended at this time, we invite you to connect online with us as we extend this free community service to a broader audience beyond the Hampton Roads region.
Please check our Virtual Programming page to see a current list of exciting topics lined up for the Speakers Bureau!
If you would like to book a private program for your group or organization, please contact Shari Solomon at ssolomon@MarinersMuseum.org so that we can tailor a program to fit your needs.
There is no charge for this community service in the Hampton Roads area. However, donations are gratefully accepted and go to the support of the mission of the Museum. For groups outside the Hampton Roads area, a small fee may be accessed to cover travel costs.
- Thymely Tips: A history of spices that spurred the age of exploration
Learn the origin of extravagant and exotic spices that we now consider commonplace and how that need led to the expansion of European exploration.
- Portuguese Voyages of Discovery Before the Age of Exploration
What led to the era we call the Age of Exploration? There was no single factor but the Portuguese have long maintained supremacy in the history of European expansion into the four corners of the globe. This program examines the factors that spurred man’s thirst for discovery. You’ll learn of explorers such as Prince Henry “the Navigator”, and young Cristoforo Colon, the poster child for the great Age of Exploration.
- Are We the Vikings?
Before the Age of Exploration early European explorers travelled to North America, among them the Vikings. But where, exactly, did they land? Where did they come from? How did they live? And where did they go after a couple of centuries of notoriety? During this interactive presentation, we’ll examine the myths and facts, learn how to write Viking runes, and, most importantly, decide whether WE are the Vikings!
- Waters of Hope and Despair: African Americans and the Chesapeake Bay
Discover the major influences and impact that Africans and African Americans have had on the Chesapeake Bay since the early 1600s through today.
- Africans and African Americans in the Maritime World
Discover the influences of Africans and African Americans across the centuries and throughout the maritime world.
- African American Medal of Honor Winners and the Integration of the US Navy
At the outbreak of the American Civil War Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles needed sailors to carry out his blockade of the South. Though already long integrated, Welles eliminated the long established quota system for sailors by race, enabling African-Americans to become one-in-six of American Naval personnel. Eight of these men won the Medal of Honor for dramatic heroism in battle.
- ‘Gentlemen, Choose/Build Your Weapons’: Technology and the America’s Cup
Since 1851, the America’s Cup has been a story of advancing technology and innovation in yacht design. Learn about the advances made throughout the years and how they impacted the race and sailing industry.
- Speed and Innovation in the America’s Cup
Since 1851, the America’s Cup has been a story of advancing technology and innovation in yacht design. Learn about specific groundbreaking advances made during the Cup’s history with a concentration on modern technological developments.
- One Helluva’ Comeback
Hear the story of the 2013 America’s Cup and how Oracle Team USA engineered the greatest come from behind win in sporting history.
- Europe Travelogue 1920s-1930s
All armchair travelers are invited to join Curator of Photography Sarah Scruggs on a journey to several European cities between the World Wars. As a writer and photographer, Edward Hungerford (1875-1948) was passionate about trains. He produced his first pageant in 1927 for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad company and six other transportation themed pageants would follow. He traveled extensively and found ways to get articles published. His collection of more than 6,000 negatives includes travels to Europe, Canada and other countries, in addition to the United States.
- The History of the Museum Through Photographs
The Mariners’ Museum and Park continues to connect people to the world’s waters since its inception in 1930. From a creek to a lake and from one small room to over 90,000 square feet of gallery space, explore the history of the #1 attraction in Newport News through photographs.
- The Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald
Everyone has heard the famous Gordon Lightfoot song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” but did you know that this is a true event? Learn the circumstances that surrounded the American Great Lakes freighter that sank in a Lake Superior storm on November 10, 1975, with the loss of the entire crew of 29.
- Tragedy on the Mississippi
April of 1865 stands as one of the most important months in the history of the United States of America. From decisive battles to high profile surrenders that led to the end of the Civil War, assassination attempts to the capture of conspirators and the death of a traitor, it stands as little wonder that the sinking of a Mississippi steamer would pass with little note. That steamer was the Sultana and it stands to this day as the single greatest maritime disaster in U.S. history. Explore the events of its demise and the reasons it went unnoticed.
- Titanic: Fate and Fortune
Built of iron and designed for unsurpassed luxury and comfort, the RMS Titanic set sail on her maiden voyage in April 1912. Yet she was not able to completed that first trip. Join The Mariners’ Museum and Park as we examine the facts and fiction surrounding this remarkable vessel and the disaster that brought about her final end. As told through the stories and images of some of her passengers and crew, we will take a glimpse at how three classes of passengers traveled on the once mighty ship, and how this famous maritime disaster helped bring about the changes that still affect modern day safety at sea.
- RMS Lusitania: Casualty of War
It was a time when traveling the seas was a combination of luxury and speed. Ships like RMS Lusitania were the pride of their nations. But the onset of WWI in 1914 would go on to impact the entire globe. Though America was determined to stay neutral, acts of unrestricted submarine warfare by the German Empire would eventually bring them into the war. Erika Cosme discusses how Lusitania disaster became one of the first events that would eventually draw our nation into the global conflict.
- Escape from Fremantle: The Catalpa Rescue
The Catalpa was not your ordinary 19th century whaling ship. It played a pivotal role in the daring rescue of six Irish prisoners from one of the world’s toughest prisons. After discovering a piece of the ship hidden in the museum’s collection, Erika Cosme recounts the audacious voyage of the Catalpa vessel and its crew.
- The Death and Resurrection of the Mary Rose
On July 19th, 1545, King Henry VII watched from ashore as the Mary Rose, one of his mightiest warships, led the English Fleet to meet a much larger invading French armada. As she approached the enemy, Mary Rose unexpectedly heeled to one side and promptly sank, carrying several hundred sailors and Soldiers to sudden death. Horrible and tragic as this was, it resulted in an extraordinary time capsule which preserved a vast trove of hitherto unknown details about the ships of the Tudor era, their armament, their crew, and even a dog that lived onboard. The wreck was discovered in 1971, raised in 1982, and today is the centerpiece of an extraordinary museum that should be on the “bucket list” of every naval history enthusiast.
- Exxon Valdez vs. Bligh Reef
This is the story of how an accident in which no ships sank and no people died became one of the most iconic maritime disasters of all time. Ultimately it cost the Exxon Corporation over 3.5 billion dollars, and generated a world-wide tidal wave of new and changed laws, practices, awareness, and attitudes regarding the production and movement of petroleum products in the maritime environment.
- The Great Halifax Explosion
The little-known story of what is arguably the most devastating man-made explosion ever to occur prior to the nuclear age. Deep in the unusually cold and stormy winter of 1918, a ship full of unstable military explosives exploded in the harbor of Halifax, Nova Scotia. In an instant, almost 11,000 people were killed or injured, and over 30,000 more were left homeless or inadequately sheltered on the eve of a monumental blizzard. The subsequent relief operations featured a massive response from individuals and organizations in the United States, radically changing relationships and perceptions between the people of the US and Canada.
- A Quick History of Pirates
Traces the history of pirates from Mediterranean corsairs to the Age of Buccaneers and Golden Age of Pirates through modern pop culture pirates.
- The Colonial Republic of Pirates
As England, France and Spain contested Europe and the New World, a legion of men and women expert in sailing cut off the powers from their Caribbean holdings. Blackbeard, Calico Jack, Anne Bonny, Mary Read and a cast of thousands established the first Democratic Republic in the New World, reveling in their freedom and ability to wage warfare as professional thieves.
- Dazzle Camouflage in the Great War
The British Admiralty and US Navy Department were unable to develop camouflage for ships that could work in all weather and light conditions. Learn about the “violent colours” that were used to confuse rather than conceal ships at sea.
- Working for Victory: Women in WWI
Women have always played a supporting roles during wartime. But it was WWI where they began moving from the background to the forefront of the war effort. The role they played changed how women were seen during times of combat including into the present.
- The Continental Navy
Even a patriot supporter called challenging the Royal Navy, “The maddest idea in the world.” Explores the decision behind creating a navy during the American Revolution, the effectiveness of the Continental Navy, and the decision to disband it after the war.
- Jack Tar On the Waterfront
“We Owe Allegiance To No Crown” spoke the American sailor during the Age of Revolution. The waterfront culture developing in Colonial America valued freedom of thought, freedom of travel, and freedom of lifestyle. Integrated by nationality, ethnicity and race, the Jack Tars challenged ideals, hierarchy and values, influencing first the waterfront then ultimately a society built on revolution and freedom.
- Torpedo Junction, the German U-Boat War on the American Coast
After Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy was sent to slow the Japanese in the Pacific, leaving the Atlantic Coast undefended from the German submarine onslaught. From Maine to Miami in the Atlantic, from Miami to New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico, a few Coast Guard Cutters fought to slow the sinking of hundreds of Allied ships.
- John Paul Jones, Father of the American Navy
The ruthless American Naval hero of the Revolution had to fight his adopted nation – he was neither born in America nor was his last name Jones – for opportunity, recognition and command. Given his chance, he created the image of the fearless American Naval hero and brought the vaunted British Navy defeat and disgrace.
- We Have Some Unfinished Business: the Prologue to the War of 1812
Some believe the War of 1812 is the most controversial war in US History. It was fought at an unusual time. We were not prepared for it. There was no national consensus as to its necessity. The war was inconclusive, confusing and in some respects, pointless. Through sometimes brilliant strategies and alliances, we had secured our independence from Great Britain. Why now, just 25 years later, would we enter a second “war of independence?” We’ll explore the reasons for this conflict and challenge you to draw your own plan for response and retaliation to the British monarchy which, it seemed, might never release its grip on her Colonies.
- Controversies in the Collection *adults only
What makes an artifact controversial and what is the responsibility of the Museum for that artifact? Explore some of the more contentious pieces that The Mariners’ Museum and Park holds in its collection!
- Saints and Sinners: The Creation of an American Legend
Do you think you know the story of Thanksgiving? How did the story of the Pilgrims, who called themselves “Saints,” become the basis for the legend of the starting of America? Find out the true story of that journey aboard the Mayflower.
- A Wondrous Ocean of Words: An Exploration and Workshop of Maritime Poetry
The expansive and largely undiscovered waters of our world have mystified and united cultures and communities for centuries. Vast oceans and waterways have inspired spirited poetry that acts as a unique portal into intriguing maritime narratives. Participants will also have an opportunity to write a short maritime-themed poem and share their own maritime stories through verse.
- The Hundred Year Race
For over a century, steamship companies from Europe and North America competed for a much-coveted prize that never officially existed: The “Blue Ribband”, claimed by the passenger ship with the fastest crossing of the North Atlantic Ocean. The list of title-holders is dominated by European ships, many of them truly legendary, but in the end it was the SS United States, built in Newport News, that set a record that has not been beaten by another transatlantic passenger ship since her maiden voyage in 1952.
- Civil War Naval Operations in Virginia’s Waters
The battle of Hampton Roads, culminating in the well-known and misnamed fight between the Monitor and Merrimac (actually USS Monitor and CSS Virginia), is an important highlight of this presentation, but it also covers the whole scope of naval operations in our area, from the Virginia capes to Drewry’s bluff and beyond.
- The Other Ironclads
Almost everyone knows about the Monitor and Merrimac (or, more correctly, the Monitor and Virginia), but many people know little of the hundred or more other ironclad vessels which served on both sides in the American Civil War. This presentation explores the fascinating and sometimes bizarre story of these largely forgotten ironclads, along with “tinclads”, “timberclads” and other improvised armored craft.
- Clyde-Built Confederates
The Confederate States entered the Civil war with no navy, and minimal ability to build one. To counter the rapidly expanding Union (United States) Navy, they were dependent on foreign support. Over 25,000 Scottish shipyard workers in at least 28 Scottish shipyards (plus several Scot-owned yards in England) built up to half of all Civil War blockade runners (including the majority of the most successful ones, plus most of the foreign-built warships intended for Confederate service. Up to 3,000 Scottish sailors served the Confederate cause.
- A Case for Character: Leadership Lessons Learned from a 19th Century Eastern Shore Schooner Captain
Captain Leonard S. Tawes was born on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, eventually settled in Crisfield, Maryland, and built a successful career as a coasting schooner captain hauling freight from Canada to South America and myriad destinations in between. While 19th Century ship captains were not especially known for always employing the most ethical leadership tactics, Capt. Tawes was a not so insignificant exception. A study of his life (much of it based on his own personal journal) reveals a leader who was highly successful in his industry and yet was known as being a kind, honest, and caring Eastern Shoreman. This presentation chronicles Capt. Len’s lifelong career, impeccable character and tremendous success both as a master navigator and and successful businessman.
- Governor Cameron Wages War on the Eastern Shore of Virginia
When most people think about the Chesapeake Bay oyster wars they often think about the battles that occured between the states of Virginia and Maryland back and forth across the state line where property was destroyed and lives were lost. Another (and lesser known but just as exciting) series of battles pitted the Western Shore of the Chesapeake against the Eastern Shore. This is a presentation about the intra-state struggle within Virginia and involves daring Virginia oystermen from both shores, a governor of Virginia engaged in political struggles and a couple of elusive pirate brides!
- From the Dugout Canoe to the Carolina Skiff: The Evolution of Chesapeake Bay Workboats
This presentation chronicles the workboats of the Chesapeake Bay from the early days of the log canoe through the era of modern fiberglass boats used by working watermen. Vessels featured include the pungy, pilot schooner, bugeye, skipjack, scow, buyboat, deadrise and others. The presentation includes many photos depicting each type of boat and the fisheries in which it worked.
- The Life and Times of an Eastern Shore Commercial Fishing Family
The culture of the Eastern Shore of Virginia is one based on the age-old occupations of farming and fishing. Dr. Ewell recounts his childhood growing up on the Eastern Shore of Virginia in a working waterman family. He includes a discussion of the vessels his family worked and the different fisheries his family participated in as well as some great stories about the life of a poor fishing family in an equally poor fishing family.
Wisteria has worked in the museum field for nineteen years. She has conducted programs as a costumed historical interpreter and educator and currently serves as the Manager of Interpretation and Community Outreach at The Mariners’ Museum and Park in Newport News. Having worked a variety of museums, Wisteria has gained skills in historical cooking techniques, natural dyeing and enjoys making things out of gourds and fabric.
Lauren started her career in living history, moved on to museum education, and has been in visitor engagement for several years now. With a background in historic weaving, and an extensive library, her love of history is part of everything she does. She also is an award winning textile artist and creates ministers’ stoles. Raised in Newport, Rhode Island, Newport News, Virginia has been her home for her adult life.
Sarah Puckitt Scruggs
Sarah received her Master of Fine Arts in Photography from San Jose State University in California. She was Curator of Art & Photography at History San Jose for ten years, and worked at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in Alabama before coming here to assume the role of Curator of Photography/ Photo Archivist.
Erika is the Content & Interpretation Developer in the museum’s Department of Interpretation. She helps provide research and writes for exhibits and the Education website, in addition to teaching programs to school age children.
In a time where the museum field is becoming increasingly specialized, Marc remains a true generalist having curated exhibitions from maritime flags to Polynesian voyagers, from glass at sea to an alphabetic exploration of the museum collection. Marc offers lectures as diverse as his interests of Revolutionary War reenacting, science fiction, and cat rescue. Despite a BA from the College of William and Mary, a MA from Old Dominion University, and twenty years experience at the Mariners’ Museum, Marc still has more questions than answers.
Ron is a Tidewater native. Born in Portsmouth, he was educated first at Old Dominion College (yes it was just a college back then) where he met his wife, Chris, then finished his education at an out-of-state institution. He is retired as a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) for New York Life Investment Management and NYLIFE Securities. He is also credited with the invention of dark chocolate candy. His only child is an Infant Cardiac Care practitioner in Phoenix, AZ where she and her husband have absconded with Ron’s granddaughter, Emma. Emma, the bright and beautiful, is 16 and studying theater arts. Photos are available! As a kid Ron fell in love with The Mariners’ Museum. This year marks his 24th year as a volunteer docent; he is a Museum Patron, the Past Chairman of the Bronze Door Society and an educator. He has created and delivered Museum programs for CNU’s Life Long Learning program, the Christopher Wren Society, the Newport News Shipbuilding Apprentice School, the Poquoson Buy Boat Festival and others and has taught classes through Mariners’ IVC virtual classroom, and instructed new interpreters in the presentation of the Museum’s numerous galleries. He was awarded the Docent Educator of the Year in 2007, received the Robert Strasser Memorial Award in 2012 and the Gene Cooney Memorial award in 2016. Ron is a very active member of The Museum’s Speakers’ Bureau and of the Hampton Roads Ship Model Society and he is currently restoring some of the models damaged in the 2012 fire at the Deltaville Maritime Museum.
Andrea Rocchio is currently the Science Educator at The Mariners’ Museum and Park. Andrea recently completed her M.S. in Environmental Geology from the University of Akron, and before working at The Mariners’ Museum and Park, she was a Park Ranger at Shenandoah National Park. She always loves sharing her lifelong passion for poetry, science, and art and is excited to be part of the Speakers’ Bureau!
Erica Deale is the Park Stewardship Coordinator for The Mariners’ Museum and Park. She has been with the Museum for ten years starting in 2009 in Visitor Services, moving to the Education Department in 2012 to assume the role of Science Educator and moving into her current role in 2017. Originally, Erica was born and raised in Warrenton, Virginia, where the running joke is that there are more horses than people. Her love of science began in elementary school when she watched Bill Nye the Science Guy for the first time. In 2005, she moved to Newport News to attend Christopher Newport University where she received her bachelor’s in biology and masters in environmental science. In her spare time, Erica enjoys spending time with her husband (a fellow CNU graduate) and daughter.
Dave Kennedy is the Park Operations Manager for The Mariners’ Museum and Park. He has been with the Museum for 11 years. Prior to his career with the Park, he was the Grounds Director at Christopher Newport University for 8 years, the Grounds Supervisor for the College of William & Mary for nine years, and co-owned a landscaping company for 11 years. Dave attended Christopher Newport University where he received his bachelors in biology with a focus in ornamental horticulture and conservation of natural resources. When he’s not caring for a 550-acre Park, Dave enjoys spending time with his wife of 35 years Merry and two daughters. One of his greatest personal accomplishments was in 2017, when he trekked to Mt. Everest Base Camp.
Brock Switzer has served as Digital Imaging Specialist and Photographer at The Mariners’ Museum and Park since 2015. He is responsible for the digitization and photography of the museum’s collections.
Jeanne Willoz-Egnor has served as the Director of Collections Management and Curator of Scientific Instruments at The Mariners’ Museum and Park in Newport News, Virginia since 1994. Spending over forty years in cultural institutions has given Jeanne a broad range of historical knowledge and experiences. Working closely with Oracle Racing, Inc. in recent years, Jeanne helped coordinate the donation of two hydrofoiling catamarans to the Museum and led a small team in the assembly of the AC72 USA-17, winner of the 2013 America’s Cup, for the Museum’s current blockbuster exhibition Speed and Innovation in the America’s Cup.
Dan grew up on, in, and around the waters of southern New Jersey, where he was regaled in tales of his grandfather’s and great grandfather’s careers as US Navy officers and Inspectors for the US Lighthouse Service, as well as his great, great grandfather’s service as a Civil War surgeon. After college, Dan went to Yorktown, VA to begin a three-year tour in the US Coast Guard, but he had entirely too much fun to leave as planned. In his 25 years of Coast Guard service, he performed a wide variety of duties including search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, port safety and security, environmental safety, personnel management and training, and inter-service emergency planning. He retired as a Captain, after serving his final tour as Chief of the Reserve Programs Division in Coast Guard Headquarters. Subsequently, Dan taught science and math at StoneBridge School in Chesapeake, VA for ten years, and has been an active leader for the Tidewater Council, Boy Scouts of America for over 20 years. He is a regular volunteer with the Education Department and other programs at the Mariners’ Museum, and in his spare time (i.e., during his granddaughter’s afternoon naps) he is an avid researcher in a wide range of topics relating to maritime and military history.
Ed Moore is a retired newspaper Sports Editor and Sports Columnist. Ed won 91 journalism awards in his career, and three times was named one of the top five sports columnists in the United States and the sports sections he edited were named among the best in the nation 18 times. Ed is a journalism graduate of Auburn University, a member of Phi Alpha Theta national history honor society, and a member of Who’s Who among American teachers, awarded while teaching high school history, rhetoric and literature. Ed earned a Virginia state teaching certificate in English through Virginia Wesleyan, and a Certificate in Military Strategy and Policy through the Old Dominion University Masters of History program. Since 2005, Ed has volunteered for the Mariners’ Museum, primarily speaking about Naval Warfare.
Dr. Paul L. Ewell, D.B.A, is Dean of University College and Professor and Department Chair in the Management, Business & Economics Department at Virginia Wesleyan University in Virginia Beach, Va. He is also co-founder and Executive Director of the Watermen’s Heritage Foundation of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Inc. His research focuses on supply chain management and logistics in the maritime industry, the history and heritage of the U.S. commercial fishing industry, and other maritime-related topics. He has a special interest in Chesapeake Bay maritime history and the evolution of Chesapeake Bay working craft. He received a B.A. from Virginia Wesleyan College, M.B.A. from Salisbury University and D.B.A. from Nova Southeastern University. He has published various papers in the areas of operations management, commercial fishing, and maritime supply chain management and logistics.