Our third day was mostly filled with traveling. Five hours or so from Gettysburg to Newport News, VA, first. We visited the Mariners Museum, whose big selling point was that it was the home of the USS Monitor.
I have to admit, I wasn't expecting much; Civil War naval history has never been of much interest to me, and we were making this detour mainly for my traveling companion, who was obsessed with the Monitor as a child. The Mariners Museum, however, completely blew me away, and I sincerely regret not building in a few more hours to really explore its exhibits in depth.
As it was, we spent a few hours immersed in the Monitor Center, combing through its exhibits and loving them. The overall experience was a wonderful blend of short, to the point exhibit text, illustrations, interactives, objects, and physical installations. The short video telling the story of the Battle of Hampton Roads was genuinely exciting, and the buildup to the Monitor itself was well done. The room with various reproductions of the pieces of the Monitor was excellent, and the full-size reproduction itself was neat.
|Exhibit space example: the obligatory "how did we get here again?" Civil War overview.|
|Neat interactive space that told the story of the refitting of the USS Merrimac to become the CSS Virginia.|
The interpretation of the conservation of the Monitor pieces was excellent, as was the presentation, but if I could make one small nitpick it would be that the wayfinding to get to the conservation lab was a bit lacking – I turned down a long hallway out of curiosity, not because I saw a sign saying “MONITOR THIS WAY.”
|Long, nondescript hallway leading to the conservation lab.|
|Which is a shame, really because the actual lab was really, really well-presented and neat.|
|Cannon on the right, and I believe a gun emplacement on the left.|