Wednesday 8 May 2013

The museum's CSS Acadia turned 100 today

May 8th is the 100th anniversary of the launch of CSS Acadia, the largest artifact at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. This ship charted most of Canada's east coast and vast stretches of the Canadian Arctic. She  also served the Canadian Navy in both world wars and survived the Halifax Explosion. During her long career she performed many shipwreck and several plane crash rescues as well as saving 600 people from Newfoundland forest fires in 1960. Retired in 1968, she was preserved as a museum ship, first at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography and, since 1982, at our museum. You can learn more about her career on the Museum's Acadia web page: CSS Acadia Infosheet

Acadia started her long career 100 years ago with a design by federal government naval architect R.L. Newman. She was the first Canadian vessel built for northern research. Acadia was built at the Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson shipyard at Wallsend in Newcastle, England. Swan Hunter was, at that time, the largest shipyard in the world. Her hull was launched on May 8, 1913 with Mr. Newman in attendance representing Canada. After fitting out and sea trials, she arrived in Halifax on July 8, 1913 after a 12 day delivery voyage. A few weeks later, she began an epic maiden expedition to Hudsons Bay.

Acadia Past and Present:
1) Acadia in 2002, photographed by Gerry Lunn, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
2) Acadia on her trial voyage in 1913, MMA MP28.36.33, courtesy Vancouver Maritime Museum

In addition to her many adventures and achievements, Acadia is one of the best preserved Edwardian steamships in the world. Her hand-fired coal triple expansion engines and accommodation has remained virtually unchanged since 1913. Her lifeboat davits are the same model as those on Titanic. To board Acadia is to walk into a time machine. As you can see from the two images mirrored above, the only noticeable change in a century was the enlarged bridge, added in 1955.

We are planning a variety of events to explore Acadia's legacy this year and began with a birthday gathering at the museum this morning. With us was museum volunteer Rod Desborough who worked aboard Acadia in 1960 and 1962. Rod commented on Acadia's long career, "The Acadia's endurance is as a result of a special bond between steel and the men who designed and built her and served aboard ... in the words of Chief Officer Dingee in 1983, 'she absorbed us into her soul.' "

Friday 3 May 2013

A Story of Museum's Model Collection, a Guild and a Community Success - Modelers Work Continues - Part 3

Lynn-Marie Richard, Registrar, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic Part 3 of 3

While work on the Franconia was underway, the shop on the 1st floor was still steaming along at full speed.  Some of the models they were working on included: a French Prisoner of War model from the 1700s made from beef and pork bones and a privateer schooner model that we had in our collection since the 1950’s in an unfinished state -  just to mention a couple. 
1) Restoring the 18th Century Prisoner of War Model

We were running out of ‘easy fixes’ for them to work on. After another museum reorganization and loss of more permanent museum staff, we thought it was time to revisit this partnership project with a new question:  Would we continue with the volunteer / museum partnership, or not? 
We worked hard to build this relationship and it was working so we really did not want to STOP, so we reviewed our options . After much discussion and head scratching we decided to proceed with ‘new builds’. This would give us the models we needed to fill the gaps in our collection and it would allow the model makers to continue doing what they loved, building models.
Now I am happy to report that we have more than 15 newly-constructed models and the volunteers have continued to clean and repair all newly donated models as they are acquired.  
We even have our very own RMS Titanic model which was unveiled to a huge crowd April 2012. This year (2013) we will unveil another model just as significant, it is a diorama model of the Halifax Dockyard as it was in the War of 1812.
2) The museum's new volunteer-built RMS Titanic model

To date the model volunteers have clocked over 30,000 + hours by a dozen or so very dedicated and talented men.   
Today, in 2013 we still consider this project very much a success. Our models are now the part of our collection that we are the most proud of because they in the best shape ever!!!
Yes, there were a few bumps we had to overcome.  This program takes a lot of time from our core duties,  but we feel it is a well worth it and definitely a program we are proud of and like to boast about.  So if anyone out there is thinking of starting a volunteer program,  we would be happy to share our experiences.  
We all win. The museum wins because we get our model collection conserved, the modelers win because they get to do what they love, work on models,  and the public wins because they get to see the work being done first hand and get to enjoy the company and wisdom that these men have to offer.  As one of the model makers told me, “the old gal wins too, cuz she gets rid of me for the day!”

Oh yeah, the conference in Edinburgh.   It too was a success and my paper a big WIN, as I had several inquiries and much interest in our program.  While there, I took the opportunity to visit four local museums and meet curators who took me behind the scenes to look at their collections and the use of volunteers.  Although a huge pond separates us, we have many commonalities in our ever changing work forces, volunteers are becoming increasingly more important.

A Story of Museum's Model Collection, a Guild and a Community Success - The Franconia Project - Part 2

Lynn-Marie Richard, Registrar, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Part 2 of 3

RMS Franconia, is a builder’s model of a famous ocean liner, and it dates back to 1923.  It had been badly damaged during a move in the 1960’s and had been tucked in the back of our storage room ever since.  The Franconia was a favourite of Broadway and Hollywood stars; she was a troop ship during WWII and later brought immigrants to Canada.  She was scrapped in Scotland 1956.
1) The badly damaged stern of the model RMS Franconia

After several meetings we drew up a plan of ‘attack’ and took the Guild up, on their offer.  Then came the first road block:  the model was too big to fit into the 1st floor workshop.  So what were we, to do? We didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to have the model restored by these volunteers, who had so generously offered their time and already had a proven track record with the model restorations. So we decided to take more of the museum's floor space and build a second workshop - one big enough to accommodate the 15’ model.  So, on the 2nd floor in our Age of Steam Gallery next to the Cunard display, we built a bigger work shop, where the public could watch the restoration. 
2) The Franconia restoration nears completion in the new workshop

Of course that was only one of the challenges! We had to get the huge model from our storage room on the 1st floor to the new shop on the 2nd floor.  Another road block.  It is a good thing we have a creative carpenter on staff, he devised three dollies to set the model on and a sling to get the model out of her display case and onto the dollies, then it was carefully transported up to the 2nd floor.  I am happy to report that the move was smooth sailing.  Once the model was in place, the volunteers set to work, they removed the 686 brass portholes, took  the model down to her  bare hull and started from there.  They divided the model into seven sections and each section was worked on one by one, documented and dismantled in a very time consuming and methodical manner.  This was a huge project which required a lot of dedication and patience on the part of the modelers.
Two years later and over 2800 hours of volunteer time the model was completed.  Now she is on permanent display for all to see.
Another huge success!  But there is more.

A Story of Museum's Model Collection, a Guild and a Community Success - Part 1

Lynn-Marie Richard, Registrar, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
Part 1 of 3
The miracle is this - the more we share, the more we have.- Is it possible these words of Leonard Nimoy, aka Dr. Spock, refer to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic?  Sure, it may be a mere coincidence, but those words encapsulate the chronology of events about our ship model collection that I’d like to share with you. 
I recently presented this story at the International Registrars Conference in Scotland in the late fall of 2012, but there’s a lot of value and maybe inspiration in this project that I’d like to share with others. Here’s how it began back in 2000.
We encountered a bit of a ‘bump’ with our ship model collection. With over 700 models, this was the fastest growing part of our collection, but had been neglected for years because the only staff model maker retired in the early nineties. The museum was not in a position to hire anyone. So,  what do we do?  We had models needing repair and no human or financial resources to get work done!

 1) Another model donation -  the SS Belle Isle, Artifact M97.38.1

Well ... we work at a museum; we are creative and resourceful so we put our heads together and eureka!  Why not approach the local Maritime Ship Modelers Guild and see if they are interested in a little teamwork? We were familiar with this group because we hosted their annual showcase: a weekend long open-house that presents up to 350 high quality models.  So we met and chatted. The outcome: they agreed to help us and we decided it was worth doing a’ test run’ for one year.  
2) Maritime Ship Modelers Guild volunteers showing their work
We were reluctant to spend a lot of money and resources on this because we did not know if it would work. But, we proceeded. We set up volunteer teams to work Monday thru Friday, we developed and implemented a training workshop so they would know the protocol for working on museum artifacts and we built them a small work shop on the 1st floor so visitors could watch them work ... and then we put them to work! 

3) The Volunteers beside their brand new shop, 2001

It seemed that time flew by and and the ‘test’ year of this partnership was behind us! It was a success…….. so we continued.  In fact, things were going so well for everyone involved that after a few years, two of the model volunteers approached the museum with a proposition. They wanted to restore the FRANCONIA model. What was the Franconia?  Only the largest model we had in our collection at that time and one of the largest ship models in Canada!  Stayed tuned to hear more about this project and the road block we had to get around.