Research

A glimpse at our collection of ship models.

Preserving the past and ensuring a bright future.

The Collections Research Center (CRC) is the nation’s leading maritime research facility. Located across the street from Mystic Seaport, the former J. Rossie Velvet Company houses the Museum’s collections and offers safe and easy access to maritime researchers and scholars. Artifacts at the CRC include more than two million examples of maritime art, artifacts, tools, buildings, imprints and other documents, photographs, 1,000 ships registers, 600 audiotaped oral history interviews, 200 videotaped interviews, and 1.5 million feet of historic and contemporary maritime-related footage. The CRC opened in the fall of 2002 and was designed to exceed national museum standards for conservation, preservation, accessibility, and safety. The research center provides cutting-edge temperature and humidity control for the Museum’s artifacts and also boasts audio/video production suites and extensive photo processing and digitizing labs.

News From the Collections



The H.M.S. BURFORD model has returned to the Collections Research Center after a stint on exhibit. British Naval historian William Laird Clowes once called it one of the finest models of its type ever built. The model at Mystic Seaport was acquired in 1973 and has been one of the premier objects in the collection ever since. H.M.S. BURFORD was a 70-gun, 3rd rate ship of the British Navy built in 1722. One of her commanding officers was Admiral Edmund Vernon, after whom Mt. Vernon is named. While there is some question as to the date the model was built, it was certainly done in the first half of the 18th century, if not in 1722. It came into Admiral Vernon’s possession and stayed in his family until it was purchased at auction in London in 1929 by Junius Morgan, grandson of J.P. Morgan.



The magnificent model has a white bottom, varnish topsides and a black boot stripe. She has 4 anchors and 68 gun positions with two full gun decks, a square bow, lateen mizzen, and a two-level poop deck. There is a lion's head painted on the inside surface of each of the gunpost covers. Her poop-deck railing has a painted scene of nudes in grass on a blue background. Two quarter galleries, one stern walk, a painted decorative strip and two gunports below her lower windows on the stern also grace this model. An elaborate carving on her stern shows a bust of a king at the center framed by two gods, with a lion on each side with Neptune. Her figurehead is a crowned lion and the model is mounted on a mahogany veneer stand with 2 metal braces amidships. One can easily spend an hour picking out all the details her model makers put into her.


Curator Fred Calabretta maneuvers the model from building to van.



Until last month the BURFORD was a part of our Treasures from the Collections Exhibit in the R. J. Schaefer Building. With the advent of the new Ships, Clocks and Stars Exhibit coming this Fall, the model was moved back to the Collections Research Center, a nice safe harbor, until she next goes on display. A delicate job, she was moved from the exhibit to the CRC by our Collections Manager Chris White, our Curator of Collections seen here, Fred Calabretta, and a number of other Museum staff. 
Author: Paul O'Pecko
Posted: June 29, 2015, 2:08 pm
The Collections Research Center will be closed on Friday, July 3rd in honor of Independence Day.

Sailing Card. Collection 112, Manuscripts Collection,
G.W. Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport.
Author: Paul O'Pecko
Posted: June 25, 2015, 12:03 pm
With the departure of MAYFLOWER II from Mystic Seaport in May, 2015, the Museum will not be left without any Pilgrim representation. The Museum owns a number of MAYFLOWER models and one, a model of Lilliputian proportions, was donated to the Museum in 1952 by its maker, Henry R. Stiles of New London. Mr. Stiles was born just after the Civil War and graduated from Yale in 1888. His career was that of an optical surgeon and he spent a number of years as such in the U.S. Army. He retired with a disability acquired in the line of duty with the rank of Major in 1905 but was eventually lifted to the rank of Lt. Colonel. He donated seven of his creations to Mystic Seaport in 1952 when he was 86 years old. Using his exacting skills and surgical tools, Col. Stiles spent many hours creating miniature models of sloops, schooners, brigs, sampans and more. The 5 3/8 inch MAYFLOWER alone took Col. Stiles more than 615 hours by the time he completed it in 1939. The scale of the MAYFLOWER model is 1 inch to 22.5 feet and her rigging blocks are so small that their details cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Model of MAYFLOWER. Henry R. Stiles, 1939.
Mystic Seaport accession number 1952.1573
(Click for larger view)

A long-time trustee of Mystic Seaport noted that in the early 1950's this model was one of the first things that was seen as you entered into what was then the Museum's main exhibit building. See the changes coming to Mystic Seaport in the form of the Thompson Exhibition Building and the McGraw Gallery Quadrangle, giving the Museum substantially more exhibit space than could have even been dreamt about in 1952.
Author: Paul O'Pecko
Posted: May 16, 2015, 7:11 pm
One hundred years ago the invasion of Gallipoli, conceived by Winston Churchill, began and became one of the low points of World War I for the Allies. When Allied troops landed on the beach at Gallipoli on April 25th, 1915 a small British minesweeper, a converted Great Eastern Railway channel packet named the CLACTON, was at the forefront of the action. The image here depicts that day’s deadly action in a fanciful sketchbook/diary kept by CLACTON’s commander, William Herbert Coates. Coates seemingly coped with the exigencies of war by depicting daily action and activities in his version of early English language and images. His minesweeper, used primarily for hauling cargo and troops while in this conflict, was portrayed as a 17th or 18th century brig. The day’s date, “ye yeere 1915, April ye 25th,” can be seen in the lower right hand corner of the drawing. Click on the image to see the enlarged version.

From sketchbook by W.H. Coates. VFM 970. G.W Blunt White Library. Mystic Seaport


In his description of the day, Coates states, “Ye littel brigs, ye “NEWMARKET” & ye “CLACTON” closed in to land ye souldiers ____ while ye greate shyppes, ye “ALBION” & ye “CORNWALLIS”, with their gunnes at point blank range, turned EARTH into HELL.  Miseracordia twas ye dreadfulle daie.”


Coates, who was in his fifties when in command of the CLACTON, had written two books in his earlier life on shipping and trade on the Indian ocean. Unfortunately, he did not live to write another as he was killed in action on July 15, 1917 when HMS REDBREAST was torpedoed in the Mediterranean.


The image is one page of many from scrapbooks in the Manuscripts Collection in the G.W. Blunt White Library. See the article from the South African Military History Journal for an interesting account of Gallipoli and the part that the CLACTON played in the invasion.

Author: Paul O'Pecko
Posted: April 29, 2015, 3:43 pm
When the call came into the shipyard at Mystic Seaport on February 26, 2015 the feeling was initially that it was a crank call. Why would the Coast Guard in San Diego be calling Mystic Seaport for help regarding a boat washed ashore after a storm in California? Once the story was told it began to make a bit more sense.


A sea-going motor yacht, the MONA MONA, grounded in the surf at a navy base in Coronado. Fearing that the fuel tanks, which can carry up to 1,200 gallons, might be breached, the Coast Guard sent in a team from their Incident Management Division in the San Diego Sector. Marine Science Technician Petty Officer 3rdclass Eben Smith made a call to Nordhavn Yachts who build similar vessels, trying to determine the location of the fuel tanks in the yacht. Unable to accommodate MST3 Smith and his team with the proper technical information, they did the next best thing. They directed him to Mystic Seaport!
The MONA MONA stranded on a beach in Coronado, California.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard.
The MONA MONA, built in 1972, was designed by Captain Robert Beebe, the progenitor of the long-distance trawler cruising movement. MONA MONA was one of Beebe’s early designs, meant for cruising in the Mediterranean, but with large enough fuel tanks to make an Atlantic crossing.  However, the boat, built in Costa Mesa, began and ended its life on the West Coast.


Mystic Seaport maintains the archive of Captain Beebe’s plans, so when Eben Smith called looking for the plans, our Library was able to quickly locate them, photograph the critical portion (see image) and send it via text message to him on site at the wreck. That was at 3:04 p.m. Eastern Time. AT 8:01 p.m., we received a text from an enthusiastic Smith stating, “Just want to let you know the schematics you provided helped remove over 400 gallons of fuel, without a drop in the ocean! Thank you very much to everyone I spoke to over at Mystic Seaport. You truly saved the day!” And while it is likely that such a capable young man would have eventually figured out the problem without our help, it is gratifying to know that Mystic Seaport was able to make his day a bit easier and contribute in a meaningful way.

Detail of plan showing starboard fuel tank of MONA MONA.
Coll. 125, Daniel S. Gregory Ships Plans Library, Mystic Seaport


The fate of the MONA MONA, however, does not have a happy ending. A recent news report mentioned that the boat’s owner and the U.S Navy had not yet determined what to do with the double-decked 50-foot yacht and it was filling up with sand as it sat on the beach. Late word from MST3 Smith, however, is that the yacht was demolished before it could deteriorate more in the surf. At least no petroleum from it will stain that stretch of coast line thanks to the work of the Coast Guard.




Author: Paul O'Pecko
Posted: March 31, 2015, 2:37 pm

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