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
When Captain Alexander Winsor, of clipper ship FLYING CLOUD fame, took command of the clipper HERALD OF THE MORNING in 1868 for a passage to San Francisco from New York, it was to be in company with his second wife, Emily Pope Winsor. Capt. Winsor's first wife, Sarah, died in 1865 while Winsor was master of the clipper ship SEA SERPENT, and before long he took Emily's hand in marriage.
|From Manuscript Collection 112 in the G.W. Blunt White Library at Mystic Seaport.|
A recent gift to the Museum by a descendant of the Pope family consisted of a number of items belonging to Captain Winsor and Emily. A sea chest, telescope and billy club were among the items belonging to the good captain, but some of the more interesting pieces come via Emily Pope, including a lap desk with her name inscribed on it, a fascinating journal of her travels with Capt. Winsor aboard the HERALD OF THE MORNING and the following item, a handle to an umbrella belonging to Emily. The little ivory hand clutching the handle clearly bears the owner's name.
Unlike the somewhat spartan accommodations aboard a whaleship that we are used to reading about, Emily states that living aboard the HERALD afforded her, "a handsome dining room, large after cabin, with double staterooms on each side, with French bedstead, lung, etc., etc.".
Emily's journal and the artifacts that accompany it will be available for research and exhibition in the coming months.
Posted: December 2, 2013, 3:44 pm
In two separate instances within the last month, giant sea creatures have washed ashore in California. Seehttp://www.cnn.com/2013/10/20/us/california-oarfish-mystery/
for a description of the latest occurrence. Scientists are puzzled with the spate of strandings of giant oarfish, a species that usually spends its time in the water at depths of hundreds of meters.
The picture seen above was obtained from Wikimedia Commons and was originally taken near San Diego in 1996 and shows a 23-foot long specimen of an oarfish being held aloft by a group of U.S Navy sailors.
This drawing of "Banks's Oarfish" appeared in an 1877 book entitled "History of Fishes of the British Isles" and appears online courtesy of the University of Washington Libraries' Digital Collections. Notice the hair-like frill that runs along the back of the fish.
When Captain Peter M'Quhae of HMS DAEDALUS first spotted a sea serpent to starboard in August of 1848, he was very analytical in his description of the creature. It passed close enough to the ship that M'Quhae stated that if it was a human acquaintance, "I should have easily recognized his features with the naked eye." He continued in his report that, "The diameter of the serpent was about fifteen or sixteen inches in diameter behind the head....It had no fins, but something like the mane of a horse, or rather a bunch of seaweed, washed about its back." The painting below is one of two in the collection at Mystic Seaport of Captain M'Quhae's sea serpent. An engraving almost exactly representing this image appeared in the Illustrated London News in October of that year. Whether the newspaper image came first or the painting (which was purchased for the Museum in Scotland in 1960), is unknown, but M'Quhae's description of the size of the creature and the "mane" that appeared on its back is oddly similar to that of the oarfish.
|Mystic Seaport Museum. Accession number 1960.207|
The current events in California have caused quite a stir as evidenced by the national media coverage. No less a commotion was in evidence in the autumn of 1848 in London. Was the good Captain's sea serpent an unknown, undiscovered relic of ages past or was it a lost visitor from the deep in the guise of an oarfish, which have been reported to grow as long as fifty feet? Unfortunately, we can only speculate.
Posted: October 21, 2013, 8:34 pm
Looking at the title above, you would be justified in thinking this was about the miraculous comeback of Oracle Team USA in beating New Zealand in San Francisco recently. The truth is that it relates to the 1920 America’s Cup race that took place off of New York. Sir Thomas Lipton challenged the New York Yacht Club for the fourth time and brought his SHAMROCK IV across the pond in 1914 for a scheduled September race. While in transit, SHAMROCK IV learned of Germany’s declaration that began the First World War, thus postponing the race until July of 1920. Leaving the boat to sit six years in a cradle in New York did not deter Lipton from continuing his quest after the War was finished. The American boat, RESOLUTE, was skippered by Charles Francis Adams, the great-great grandson of President John Adams. Adams was hailed as America’s best sailor in 1920 and took on the challenge of defending the Cup. And he did…..just barely.
For the first and only time in his five challenges, Sir Thomas’ boat won a race. And then he won the second race in the best of five challenge. And all of a sudden the Americans were one race away from losing the Cup. Thanks to the handicap rule then in place, and Adams’ experience at the helm, RESOLUTE came back to win the final three races to keep the America’s Cup at home in the New York Yacht Club.
|NYYC certificate honoring Charles Francis Adams as the successful skipper of the |
1920 America'sCup challenge. HFM 7. G.W Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport.
The picture shown is of a certificate in Mystic Seaport’s collection. The exquisite document praises Adams as the club member who had “such unusual qualities and nautical skills as top accomplish this difficult defense with unqualified satisfaction to both Club and Country.” Lipton would challenge one more time in 1930, but would go home once again without the “Auld Mug.” Click on the image to read the entire document.
Posted: October 1, 2013, 4:38 pm
Exactly 130 years ago, when the island of Krakatoa, located in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra, erupted on August 26th, 1883, the shock was felt (and heard) for thousands of miles. The extreme seismic event killed tens of thousands of people from both the initial explosion and the earthquakes and tidal waves that followed and affected global weather for years to come. Mystic Seaport’s collection of The Nautical Magazineincludes copies for the period. Because of the strong British naval and commercial presence in the area, the magazine carried a number of reports about the devastation surrounding the explosion. “This remarkable disturbance of the sea made itself felt in various parts of the world…notably in Australia and Southern Africa, also at Karachi in India. The vast amount of pumice which lay upon the surface of the sea, in some places many feet in thickness, gave an appearance as if the ocean bed had appeared above water.” More important to the Schuit family, proprietors of the Anjer Hotel that appears in the accompanying image of an advertising card from the Museum’s collection, “A succession of earthquake waves swept the shores of the strait, utterly destroying the towns of Anjer, Merak, Tyringin and Telok Betong, together with some of the lighthouses on both shores.”
|Mystic Seaport, Accession # 1994.99.5 |
|Enhanced image from front of 1994.99.5|
The London and China Telegraph for Feb. 27, 1868 lists G. Schuit as the proprietor of the Anjer Hotel in Anjer in the Sunda Strait. When Krakatoa erupted 15 years later, another member of the Schuit family, H. Schuit, was the proprietor, and other reports tell us that the hotel, which was set above a seawall, was ripped from its foundation by the waves. An issue of Popular Science for 1884 states that while Mr. Schuit survived the incident, his family did not. This earlier picture is one of the few reminders of the idyllic setting of the Anjer Hotel before 1883.
This business card, showing Mr. Schuit’s multiple enterprises, was probably obtained by Capt. Timothy Benson in the 1870’s or ‘80’s while on trading voyages to the Orient. There is evidence in our manuscript collection that Capt. Benson visited Anjer as late as 1881, 2 years before the Krakatoa cataclysm.
Posted: August 28, 2013, 7:21 pm
Between 1874 and 1878 Captain John Orrin Spicer of Groton, Connecticut commanded the whaleship NILE on four voyages to the Eastern Arctic bringing back, primarily, whalebone (or baleen) and whale oil. On at least one of those voyages Captain Spicer brought back tusks from the narwhal, a small arctic whale. These he had fashioned, along with walrus tusk ivory and exotic wood, into one of the most unusual coat racks you are likely to encounter. It was made as a gift for his wife and after quite a number of years, and at least one other owner, it was donated to Mystic Seaport in 1964. The tusks are fitted into four wooden ball-shaped feet that support a wooden platform from which sprouts the central wooden column, topped by a crown of walrus tusk spindles. The narwhal tusks are connected to the central column with more ivory pegs supporting a ring of ivory. The tallest of the tusks is just over seven feet high.
|Doug Currie, Randy Wilkinson and Chris White prepare the coat rack for an X-Ray.|Unfortunately, the coat rack has not been on exhibit for many years due to its poor condition. It was once again pushed into the spotlight, however, when Dr. Stuart Frank of the New Bedford Whaling Museum did a thorough examination and detailed report of the scrimshaw collection at Mystic Seaport. While not a piece of scrimshaw, the unusually constructed piece of furniture does incorporate a number of ivory elements. Stuart calls this a masterwork that is a “unique survivorof what must even in its day been a rare form…” Interest in the coat rack has continued to grow. Obviously, the time to act on repairing, or at least stabilizing, this artifact has come. With that in mind, we have contracted Fallon and Wilkinson Furniture Conservators to assess the piece and suggest treatments that will enable us to once again share this unusual object with our visitors. As a first step, our Collections manager, Chris White, and Randy Wilkinson transported the coat rack to Fallon and Wilkinson’s studio with a four hour layover at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. The stop at Mashantucket was essential in helping us determine what treatments we might be able to perform because the Research Center there has an X-Ray facility large enough to examine all elements of the item. Doug Currie, the Head of Conservation at the Mashantucket Museum, maneuvered the tools of his trade to get internal views of the fittings used to keep the coat rack together. Doug’s work confirmed a number of suspicions about the piece that tries to meld narwhal tusks, walrus ivory, exotic wood and iron fittings into a single entity. Unfortunately all those materials are not very compatible as they expand and contract at different rates and react to each other in ways that are less than beneficial to the object, resulting in a now wobbly construction that needs to be remedied.
|Notice of acquisition in the January, 1965 Log of Mystic Seaport. |
As can be seen in the picture taken at the Mashantucket facility, this is just the beginning of the journey for this nearly 140-year-old relic. The second picture is from the January, 1965 Log of Mystic Seaport.
Wish us luck and look for it to be on exhibit in the not-too-distant future.
Posted: July 29, 2013, 5:25 pm