Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does. — Margaret Atwood
“We connect people to the world’s waters. Through the waters—and shared maritime heritage—we are connected to one another. Oh, and by the way, this shared maritime heritage cuts across race, ethnicity, gender,
age and socioeconomic status,” says Howard Hoege III, president and CEO of Mariners’ Museum and Park.
Designated by Congress as America’s National Maritime Museum, Mariners’ Museum and Park is a wonderful place to go for an adventure into a historical fantasyland filled with handcrafted ship models, rare historical artifacts, war memorabilia, folk art and more. The museum sits on a 550-acre campus, including the beautiful five-mile Noland Trail that winds through the woods around Lake Maury.
The stories told throughout the museum aren’t just stories of distant people and places. “We tell your story,” says Hoege. “Many of the ship models on display and the stories told about defending waterways have roots in Newport News Shipbuilding. Mariners’ tells the story of this community and, increasingly, we have had people come into the museum and discover their own personal history in these models,” he says.
As a way for patrons to share in the story, there is a designated wall in the gallery where visitors are invited to tell their unique maritime story. “My father taught me to read the tide tables at five years old. My first rowboat he gave to me at 10 years old. Thank you, Dad. Because of you, I am a mariner,” writes one patron. Another patron, a Navy veteran, says, “I was in the U.S. Navy in WWII in the Pacific. I was in various schools and then on a U.S. Navy ship (carrier) Nassau. We were all over the Pacific.”
Despite what some may think, Mariners’ Museum is about more than maritime history. There is a great deal of science and technology in the gallery, as well as cultural and international facets rich for exploration. In the gallery’s international small craft center, there are 150 small crafts from about 43 different countries. And each exhibition tells a tale of great adventures like that of artistic photographer, Aubrey Bodine, touted as a “true son of the Chesapeake,” or “Waters of Despair, Waters of Hope,” an exhibit that shines a light on the important role African Americans played in the historical and economic life of the Chesapeake Bay.
The beauty and wonder that is the Mariners’ Museum and Park can now be enjoyed for an admission price of only $1 because, as Hoege so eloquently put it, “We can’t say on one hand we are all about community and shared history and then set it up where some of the population is out.”
Mariners’ is opening doors for people—not just for general admission but special groups as well—kids 18 months to eight years have free run of the museum on Maritime Monday mornings, where they share in storytime and create a maritime-related craft. And, most recently, every second Sunday, two hours before opening, people with cognitive and/or physical challenges are welcomed into the museum for a “low light, no-crowd environment, where they can experience the museum at their own pace,” says Hoege.
Whether it’s the AC72 America’s Cup catamaran, the collection of World War II artifacts, the beautiful campus or the many other educational and stimulating exhibits, Mariners’ Museum and Park has something for everyone. And, without question, the $1 admission is truly, as Hoege suggests, “about the museum shifting its mindset from being purely an attraction to being a community resource.” In the words of one of the patrons, “Thanks for doing what you’re doing. Fair Winds…”
TO THE POINT
Mariner’s Museum and Park Address: 100 Museum Dr.,
Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: Howard Hoege III, president & CEO