Archaeological Discovery in Newport Harbor

Archaeologists from the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project recently announced that they have discovered what they believe to be the wreckage of the HMS Endeavour, the ship commanded by British Captain James Cook during his exploration of the Pacific Ocean from 1768 to 1771.

In addition to its role as a vessel of exploration, the HMS Endeavour also played a role in the naval conflict of the American Revolution. The HMS Endeavour, later named the Lord Sandwich in 1772, was one of the British ships that met the French fleet in the naval action preceding the Battle of Rhode Island in 1778. The Lord Sandwich sunk off the coast of Rhode Island, but its exact location was left unknown for over two hundred years.

The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project now claims to have identified the remains of the ship off the coast of Newport.

For more information, visit the following references:

NOAA and the Battle of the Atlantic

On March 16, 2016, a North Carolina news station, WNCN, released a news story regarding a proposal by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to expand a marine sanctuary in the Outer Banks to protect sites with shipwrecks from the Battle of the Atlantic.

The news story and the accompanying article by Lex Gray indicated that the local Board of Commissioners of Dare County, North Carolina have reservations about the proposal to expand the marine sanctuary. Some Dare County residents fear that the expanded sanctuary might harm the local, commercial fishing industry.

The NOAA, however, claims that the expansion of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary could increase awareness of World War II history and local connections to the Battle of the Atlantic. The Monitor National Marine Sanctuary currently protects sites related to the maritime history of the Civil War and the actions of the USS Monitor. The proposed boundaries expand the sanctuary to protect Battle of the Atlantic sites. The NOAA has proposed four possible models for expansion.

One of the shipwrecks at the bottom of the Atlantic near Cape Hatteras is the Dixie Arrow, an American oil tanker sunk by German torpedoes in March 1942. The area of the proposed sanctuary also includes the wrecks of the German u-boats U-701, sunk by U.S. Army Air Force bombs in July 1942, and U-352.

For more information on the NOAA proposal and the history of the Battle of the Atlantic near Cape Hatteras, check out the following news story or the NOAA website:

Vatican Splendors at the Franklin Institute

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity of viewing the Franklin Institute’s Vatican Splendors exhibit. The exhibit opened September 19, 2015, just before Pope Francis arrived in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, and it will remain open at the Franklin Institute until February 15, 2016. Vatican Splendors includes over 200 objects related to Vatican history. The exhibit explores the rich history of the Catholic Church and examines the role of the papacy from Saint Peter to Pope Francis.

The exhibit begins with a section on Saint Peter, which includes a replica of his tomb and artwork depicting his martyrdom. Text panels explain the difficulties of early Christians in facing persecution and examine the changes that took place after Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in the fourth century.

The exhibit then transitions into sections that describe the Medieval Church and the Renaissance. One of my favorite features of the exhibit is a replica of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The visitor walks through small tunnel that depicts Michelangelo’s masterpiece as a work in progress, complete with scaffolding. This part of the exhibit also includes interesting information about Church patronage of the arts.

After the sections on the Renaissance and Counter-Reformation, Vatican Splendors includes sections on the liturgy and on the role of art in sacred space. The exhibit, organized by the Congregazione per l’Evangelizzazione dei popoli of the Vatican City State, does a good job of explaining the parts of the liturgy and in discussing the Church’s teaching on how the beauty of artwork can elevate the mind to contemplate the transcendent.

The final sections of the exhibit discuss the modern papacy and the global and universal nature of the Church. The last gallery includes portraits of the most recent popes of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Vatican Splendors is a worthwhile exhibit for anyone to visit, and it presents a unique opportunity for people to view some of the beautiful artwork of the Vatican right here in Philadelphia.

Here is the exhibit website for more information:

Post by Melanie Dudley

The Great Thanksgiving Listen

Thanksgiving is a time for reflection; it is a holiday that calls us to be mindful of the blessings we have around us and to give thanks for family and friends. It is also a time during which we can reflect on our roots and learn from the past experiences of the family members who came before us.

StoryCorps, an organization whose mission it is to preserve people’s stories for future generations, has developed a program called “The Great Thanksgiving Listen,” which aims to help people record the stories of their families and friends at Thanksgiving. StoryCorps has designed a toolkit for high school history and social studies teachers to guide their students through the art of preserving oral histories. The goal is for students to download a mobile StoryCorps app and use it to record an interview with a grandparent or another older family member over the course of the Thanksgiving weekend. After the holiday weekend, StoryCorps encourages teachers to facilitate discussion regarding the value of recording oral histories and using them as a tools of historical analysis.

“The Great Thanksgiving Listen” is an innovative program, utilizing modern technology to engage high school students in the work of preserving history. Though the program was designed primarily for students, anyone is welcome to participate in “The Great Thanksgiving Listen.” StoryCorps encourages people to download the StoryCorps app, which people can use to record and publish the interviews they conduct.

Here is more information if you are interested in participating or learning more:

Post by Melanie Dudley

The 115th Army-Navy Game

On Saturday, December 13, 2014, the cadets of the United States Military Academy (USMA) and the midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy (USNA) will face each other in one of America’s most beloved sporting traditions—the Army-Navy game. This year marks the 115th Army-Navy game. The two football teams will play in Baltimore this year, though the city of Philadelphia has hosted the Army-Navy game more times than any other city.

The first Army-Navy game took place in 1890; Navy defeated Army 24-0 at West Point in the inaugural game. Since 1890, the contest has become more even-sided. The prowess of both teams makes the rivalry all the more exciting. Navy has been on a winning streak since 2002, so the results of tomorrow’s game will prove interesting in the history of the football competition.

The Army-Navy game has not been played every year since 1890, though. In 1918 and 1919, for example, the Army-Navy game was cancelled due to World War I. However, from 1930 to the present day, the Army and Navy football teams have played each other every year.

The Army-Navy game presents an opportunity for America’s young service members to meet each other in the spirit of friendly competition. Pranks and fetes of school spirit have become a part of the Army-Navy game tradition.  The two school mascots (the USNA goat and the USMA mule) have been at the center of many practical jokes. The following article from the United States Naval Institute traces the history of the Navy goat and its role in the Army-Navy game antics:

At the end of the day, though, the Army-Navy game marks more than just an occasion for jokes and tomfoolery. The Army-Navy game is a time when the American public comes together to celebrate the nation’s service members and recognize them for their dedication.

Army-Navy Game at Franklin Field in Philadelphia in 1908

Army-Navy Game at Franklin Field in Philadelphia in 1908


A Tour of Hagley Library

On Saturday, October 11, I had the pleasure of visiting Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, Delaware for a tour of the library collections. Hagley Museum is the original site of the DuPont Company, which started as a gunpowder manufacturing business in 1802. The Museum includes the DuPont Company powder mills, as well as the DuPont homestead of Eleutherian Mills. The Hagley Library is a repository of records related to the history of business and technology in America; the library houses the DuPont Company records, in addition to the archives of many other major businesses.

Since October is American Archives Month, Hagley Library organized an open house to educate the public about the library’s collections. Several of the library’s archivists were present and available to answer questions. They displayed photographs and textual records from their areas of the collections. One of the archivists chose to display photographs of Stephanie Kwolek (1923-2014), the inventor of Kevlar who worked for the DuPont Company. It was fascinating to see examples of what the library holds in its collections.

In addition to placing objects on display, the librarians and archivists offered tours of the library stacks and conservation lab. The book conservator described the process of repairing and caring for paper resources. One of the librarians also explained the fire prevention methods in place at the library. I found it interesting to learn about the process of conservation for archival collections.

I also liked learning about the library acquisitions process. Hagley Library started out by housing the records of the DuPont Company and other local industry leaders, but has since expanded to include records relating to numerous facets of business and consumer culture in America. I utilized Hagley’s Strawbridge and Clothier Collection for my undergraduate thesis on women’s work in Philadelphia department stores, and I hope to explore other collections of the library in the future.

For those interested in library and archives, I recommend checking out the “Archives Philly Month” website. There are many events celebrating archives in the Philadelphia area throughout October.

The Costumes of Downton Abbey at Winterthur Museum

Throughout the course of the past six months thousands of visitors have flocked to Winterthur Museum in Winterthur, Delaware to view the Costumes of Downton Abbey exhibit currently on display. As a docent for the exhibit, I have had the opportunity to meet visitors from all over the country (and even some from across the pond). While Downton Abbey fans have traveled from far and wide to view the exhibit, one need not be a fan of the television series in order to enjoy the museum’s display.

The exhibit includes more than forty costumes from the popular television series Downton Abbey. Highlights of the exhibit include Lady Mary’s engagement dress, Lady Edith’s wedding dress, Lady Sybil’s harem pants, and Matthew Crawley’s cricket attire. The costumes are arranged according to the chronology of a single day. The exhibit begins with displays of morning attire and concludes with evening attire.  Costumes of servants and aristocrats are interspersed, mirroring the show’s dual focus on the aristocratic family and its staff.

Most of the costumes in the exhibit came from Cosprop, Ltd., a London based costume company that has provided costumes for many famous period films.  Though most of the costumes in the exhibit are not completely vintage pieces, many of the costumes include bits and pieces of period fabric or embroidery. Since clothing from the 1910s and 1920s often consisted of delicate fabrics, many vintage pieces were too fragile to endure the wear and tear of filming. As a result, the costume designers for Downton Abbey developed clever and creative ways to incorporate vintage fragments into new costume pieces. Many of the evening dresses in the exhibit illustrate the ability of the costume designers to blend old and new.

In addition to displaying beautiful costumes, the exhibit includes interesting and informative textual displays that juxtapose life at an English country estate to life at an American country estate like Winterthur, which was once the home of Henry Francis DuPont (1880-1969). Before DuPont established Winterthur as a museum to house his vast collection of decorative arts, Winterthur was a country home that boasted a large staff and housed many guests and visitors. The Costumes of Downton Abbey exhibit does a wonderful job of incorporating the legacy of DuPont; the exhibit explores Winterthur’s own history alongside the story of the fictional Downton Abbey.

The Costumes of Downton Abbey exhibit provides an example of how museums can draw upon popular culture to find new and interesting ways to present their mission to the public. I encourage people to visit the exhibit, which will be on display through January 4, 2015.