Curator's Blog

August 15, 2012

The other curators and I have been busy getting our new War of 1812 show ready to exhibit. We've spent the last two days hanging prints and paintings on the wall, making labels, adjusting lighting, and getting our some of our neat artifacts from the war such as swords, maps, and flags. It should be ready to open by this weekend. We plan to leave it up until early 2013, so you should have plenty of time to come and learn more about the War of 1812!


June 12, 2012

The War of 1812 Bicentennial is coming to the Annapolis-Baltimore area this week! Next Monday marks the 200th anniversary of the declaration of war by the United States. To mark the occasion, we are getting ready to exhibit some of our prints and paintings that donít come out of storage very often. They include illustrations of the American frigates Constitution, United States, and President in action on the high seas; portraits of American naval officers; and scenes of the battles on the Great Lakes. Look for this exhibit to open in mid-July.

In the meantime, OpSail 2012 arrives in Baltimore with the parade of tall ships this Wednesday. Sailing ships from all over the world will be on display and open for tours until Tuesday, June 19. To get more information about official War of 1812 events going on all around the country, check out http://ourflagwasstillthere.org/.


April 03, 2012

Our fans know that the Museum houses thousands of artifacts that help visitors learn about the history of the Navy from pre-colonial times up through WWII. We have far fewer objects with which to tell the Navy's story in the modern era, however.

We got a little bit of help in that department yesterday when we were honored to receive a metal sign that marked the helipad at Camp Victory in Iraq. The helipad was named after Major Douglas A. Zembiec, USMC, a 1995 USNA graduate who was killed in action in Baghdad on May 11, 2007. Among the awards that Major Zembiec earned were the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star with valor device, and the Silver Star. He was popularly known as the "Lion of Fallujah" for his actions as a company co

ander during Operation Vigilant Resolve in 2004. The Museum is grateful to Major Zembiec's family and to the Marine Corps for this donation.


March 15, 2012

In keeping with the 150th anniversary cycle of the Civil War, we just updated our Civil War print exhibit. On display now are scenes of naval and amphibious operations from 1862 including Monitor vs. Virginia, Forts Henry and Donelson, and Farragut's capture of New Orleans.

One of my favorites is a drawing by Union naval officer Co

ander Henry Walke who was present at the attack on Fort Donelson. He made sketches throughout the war and provides us with invaluable eyewitness testimony to some of the most pivotal battles of the war.

Come see the new exhibit between now and July!


February 08, 2012

2012 is shaping up to be a big year for the Museum. From the end of March through June, we'll be continuing with the next installment of our ongoing exhibit about the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The USS Monitor - CSS Virginia battle will take center stage during this time. Then in mid June we will transition over to the bicentennial of the War of 1812. What a year for anniversaries! Both exhibits will feature prints and other artwork, but we also have a few relics from those wars that we want to show you too.

In addition to that, the Naval Academy is planning its own War of 1812 exhibit that will be displayed in Mahan Hall starting early next year. This exhibit will include artifacts from our collection but will also be supported by loans from private collectors around the country. More details will follow as they become available, but expect to see some beautiful ship models and historic flags among other items.

If you have a moment, we are curious: What War of 1812 bicentennial events are you planning to attend this year?


November 09, 2011

Anybody who has visited the Naval Academy knows that we have a very special connection with John Paul Jones. His body rests in the crypt below the Chapel, just across the street from the Museum. The Museum also has many personal items that once belonged to Jones in its collection. One of the most extraordinary items is the gold-hilted presentation sword that King Louis XVI of France awarded Jones in recognition of his victory over HMS Serapis at the Battle of Flamborough Head on September 23, 1779. The sword is a masterful piece of eighteenth-century craftsmanship and it represents the first time an American was decorated by a foreign government.

Until last week, this sword had been on long-term loan to the Museum since the 1930s. We are pleased to announce that the family who owned the sword has donated it to the Museum, making it a permanent part of our collection! This will ensure that future generations of visitors will be able to come see the sword and appreciate its stunning details. Look for it to be put back on display in our permanent exhibit soon.


October 26, 2011

We recently had a visit from the War of 1812 Bicentennial Comission in preparation for next super's commemmorations. WBAL Channel 11 out of Baltimore was here to do a story on it and got some great video of our director, Scott Harmon, giving the Comission members a tour of the museum. Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQ6AHKjtAiY


September 08, 2011

Check out this video interview with James Cheevers, our Senior Curator and Associate Director, discussing the 100th anniversary of naval aviation here at the Academy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtsT-BIotz4&feature=share


August 24, 2011

Just want to let everyone know that it looks like we avoided any serious damage from the earthquake yesterday. One of the smaller ship models on display did have parts of its mast broken off by an object that fell on it, but it should be an easy repair job. More importantly, no staff or visitors were hurt. Now we get to prepare for a possible hurricane on Sunday!


July 25, 2011

While inventorying our collections storage area last week, I came across a newspaper dated July 2, 1863 from Vicksburg, Mississippi. This newspaper was published near the end of the siege of Vicksburg which lasted from May 18 to July 4. During that time, supplies ran so low inside the city that the newspaper editor was forced to print a few editions of The Daily Citizen on the back of wallpaper. These wallpaper copies are extremely valuable and difficult to find!

After pulling out our copy, I became more and more excited as I read through the articles and noticed the wallpaper pattern on the back of the paper. I thought I had discovered a treasure that had been sitting hidden in our storage shelves for years. And what a perfect time to put it on display for our visitors with all of the Civil War anniversaries now upon us! But there was a nagging voice in the back of my head that urged caution. Items like these are forged all the time. I knew I needed to verify its authenticity before going any further.

A few minutes of searching on the internet revealed that the July 2, 1863 Vicksburg newspaper is in fact one of the most reproduced papers in U.S. history. Several websites listed the tell-tale signs of a fake: the number of periods at the top of the page, the exact wording of certain sentences, a misspelled word here and there, etc. I started going down the list and was instantly forced to admit the hard truth. Our paper was a fake! It was most likely published in the 1870s when copies of the paper were sold to Civil War veterans and visitors to Vicksburg. So the paper is not without value Ė it is still an interesting example of how Americans remember the Civil War and the value that we place on everyday items such as newspapers. But sadly for us, it is not from 1863.


July 01, 2011

(this entry is being reposted because it did not display correctly the first time)

Every year after graduation, the museum is lucky to acquire the services of one or two brand new ensigns or second lieutenants. Because there are so many new officers from ROTC, USNA, and OCS entering the pipeline this time of year, most cannot begin their training right away. Those who have to wait still need a job to do in the meantime, so the Academy assigns them to the various departments around the Yard to help out with whatever needs to be done.

We would like to welcome Ensign Victor Miranda from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Ensign Seth Labak from Silverhill, Alabama to the USNA Museum family. They are headed to Pensacola in August to begin flight school, but for the next month they will be helping to organize our collections storage area and perform maintenance on our firearms collection. Currently they are cleaning a Japanese Type 92 machine gun which was the standard heavy machine gun for the Japanese Army during World War II. I think itís safe to say this was not a weapon they were introduced to during their time as midshipmen! Fortunately for us, Ensign Labak has a personal collection of historic firearms and knows a lot about how to assemble and disassemble weapons of this era.


July 01, 2011

Every su

er, the museum is lucky to acquire the services of one or two brand new ensigns or second lieutenants who have just graduated from the Academy. Because there are so many new officers from ROTC, USNA, and OCS entering the pipeline every su

er, most cannot begin their training right away. Those who have to wait still need a job to do in the meantime, so the Academy assigns them to the various departments around the Yard to help out with whatever needs to be done.

We would like to welcome Ensign Victor Miranda from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Ensign Seth Labak from Silverhill, Alabama to the USNA Museum family. They are headed to Pensacola in August to begin flight school, but for the next month they will be helping to organize our collections storage area and perform maintenance on our firearms collection. Currently they are cleaning a Japanese Type 92 machine gun which was the standard heavy machine gun for the Japanese Army during World War II. I think itís safe to say this was not a weapon they were introduced to during their time as midshipmen! Fortunately for us, Ensign Labak has a personal collection of historic firearms and knows a lot about how to assemble and disassemble weapons of this era.


May 10, 2011

When I was looking for something to post on Facebook this morning, I came across a one gallon jug that was marked "USS Triton". Triton was the first submarine to circumnavigate the world underwater in 1960. To honor their achievement, the crew collected water from all 22 seas through which they sailed and stored it in a jug. It is well documented that the Triton Light, a navigational beacon for the Severn River located on the grounds of the Academy, contains a glass globe that is filled with some of the water from Triton's cruise. What I did not realize is that we have the rest of it in the jug! The one gallon jug is about half full, and comparing it to the globe in the Triton Light, you can see that the water in the globe is about the right amount for what would have been poured from the jug. Fortunately the top of the jug is now sealed off with a waxy substance so the water will not evaporate.


March 31, 2011

One of the more intriguing items in our collection is a signal book for the French Navy from 1794. The book was originally kept on board the 74-gun ship LíAchille but was captured by HMS Ramillies at the battle known as the Glorious First of June (June 1, 1794). Considering that it has been through a battle at sea during the Age of Sail, the book is in remarkably good condition. The cover has some dark stains and the edges are frayed, but the writing is all legible.

USNA Museum volunteer Jean Blondeau has begun working on translating the signal book for us. His services are proving to be invaluable Ė itís possible this is the only surviving signal book from the French Navy during that time period!


March 29, 2011

We are extremely fortunate to be getting a piece of the moon for the Museum! Later next month, the daughters of Rear Admiral Alan B. Shephard, Jr., USN (Retired), Class of 1945, are presenting a piece of moon rock to the Museum in his honor. It will be on permanent display in the first deck exhibit area next to our Saturn V model. Maybe this means we can also get one of the Space Shuttles? Well, we can always dream.....


March 21, 2011

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