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The Mariners' Museum, located in Newport News, VA is one of the largest and most comprehensive maritime history museums in the world andwas named by Congress in 1998 as America's National Maritime Museum. The museum is near the tidal portion of the James River, a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.
Established in 1930, this international maritime museum focuses much of its programming on the history and culture of the Bay region, and the use of Bay resources through an array of activities.
The Museum includes permanent galleries, changing and traveling exhibits, and virtual galleries available through the Museum website. One of the largest and most comprehensive maritime history museums in the world, The Mariners' houses a treasure trove of items inspired by human experience with the sea. The Museum illustrates the spirit of seafaring adventure, assembling a renowned and strikingly diverse collection of maritime artifacts including figureheads; ship models; navigational instruments; small craft, paintings, prints, drawings, engravings, and watercolors. The Museum is also home to the largest maritime library in the world with a collection of books, maps, charts, manuscripts, photographs, and other items that chronicle six centuries of maritime history.
Memorial Day – Labor Day Hours:
(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)
General Admission + 3D Movie:
The Park & Trail are FREE and open to the public.
The Museum offers an extensive array of special programs and changing exhibits. Visit the museum's website for a listing.
The Mariners’ Museum Park is 550 acres of privately maintained, naturally wooded property that offers visitors a quiet and serene place to walk, run, or picnic. Within the Park is the 167-acre Lake Maury, named for the famed 19th-century oceanographer and native Virginian, Matthew Fontaine Maury.
Following the shoreline of Lake Maury is the five-mile Noland Trail.
In 1930, The Mariners’ Museum was brought to life by the shared vision of Archer Milton Huntington and Homer L. Ferguson. Huntington was son of railroad and shipping magnate Collis P. Huntington, who founded Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company just a few miles from the Museum. Ferguson, the head of Newport News Shipbuilding at the time of the founding, also served as The Mariners’ Museum’s first President.
To create The Mariners’ Museum, Archer Huntington and his wife, sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington, acquired 800 acres of land surrounding Watts Creek in Newport News, VA in 1930. After acquisition took place, the first two years were devoted to creating and improving a natural park and constructing a dam to create Lake Maury, named after the nineteenth-century Virginia oceanographer Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury.
Known as the Lions Bridge, the dam forming the lake provides a breathtaking view of the James River, as well as a family gathering place to enjoy the Museum Park. The beauty of the dam is enhanced by several fine pieces of statuary designed by Anna Hyatt Huntington. Four stone lions were mounted on the ends of the parapets of the dam in October 1932. Anna also created and dedicated a monument entitled “Conquering the Wild.” The central theme of this monument consists of a man engaged in a titanic struggle to subdue a rearing horse. Elevated on a massive octagonal Indiana limestone pedestal and flanked at four corners by life-size figures representing science, art, learning, and industry, the monument overlooks the Lion’s Bridge, the Park, and Lake Maury.
The first purchases of artifacts in any quantity were made in the early 1930s in New York and New England. Because the Museum was to be international in scope, the search for maritime material expanded throughout the 1930s to Europe, the West Indies and beyond. The Museum’s collection now totals approximately 32,000 objects, equally divided between works of art and three-dimensional objects. Huntington’s personal library of maritime books formed the core of the new Museum’s Library.
Today, The Mariners’ Museum and park sits in an urban oasis – the 550 acre park is now home to the 167-acre Lake Maury and the Noland Trail – a five-mile shoreline trail with fourteen bridges. Within the Museum itself you will find 90,000 square feet of exhibition galleries including the prestigious International Small Craft Center, and the award-winning USS Monitor Center. This state-of-the-art exhibition and conservation lab houses 210 tons of artifacts from the Civil War ironclad Monitor, which were recovered from NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary.
The Mariners’ Museum Library holds the largest maritime history collection in the Western Hemisphere. With its rich collections and international scope, the Library is a premier resource for maritime research. The Library houses over 78,000 volumes; 800,000 photographs, films, and negatives; and over one million pieces of archival material, making it the largest maritime library in the Western Hemisphere. The Library is also home to the boatbuilding archives of Chris-Craft Industries.
Most materials are currently in storage, but there are plans to build a space to house the Library and Archives in the future.