Apr 4, 2016 — Major Donation of More Than 600 Ship Artifacts to Conservancy Collection

The Mariners’ Museum of Newport News Makes Major Donation of Furniture, Fittings, Artwork, and Historic Photos as SS United States Conservancy Advances Museum Plans

WASHINGTON DC — Continuing its commitment to protect and showcase the legacy of America’s Flagship, the SS United States, the SS United States Conservancy is proud to announce the acquisition of more than 600 artifacts to its growing curatorial collection.  The generous donation of artwork, fittings, furniture, and historic documents from the ship was made by The Mariners’ Museum of Newport News, VA, as well as the Dr. Sarah E. Forbes Collection, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Hunnicutt III, and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

The donation comes less than two months after the Conservancy announced it has entered into an exclusive option agreement with Crystal Cruises, with the goal of returning the SS United States to service as the world’s fastest luxury ocean liner.  The announcement received international media attention.  At that time the Conservancy also revealed its plans to develop a land-based museum and exhibitions about the ship’s history and broader themes of design and innovation.

“As we ramp up our museum planning and expand our permanent collections, this extraordinary donation helps ensure that the legacy of America’s iconic flagship will inspire for generations to come,” said Susan Gibbs, Executive Director of the SS United States Conservancy. “The Mariners’ Museum continues to be a wonderful partner in our efforts to save the United States. These original items from the ship represent irreplaceable examples of her innovative design features, and they also pay tribute to the people who made this ship a global Ambassador for our nation.”

The new additions to the Conservancy’s collection include fittings and furniture used aboard the ship, as well as advertisements, documents, commemorative materials, glassware, silverware, tableware, models, photographs, and artwork.

“After reviewing the entirety of our SS United States collection, we felt that these donated artifacts would better serve the SS United States Conservatory in telling the story of this historic ship,” said Elliot Gruber, President and CEO of The Mariners’ Museum.

Many of the donated items from the SS United States had originally been displayed at the renowned Windmill Point Restaurant located in North Carolina’s Outer Banks and owned by Newport News physician, the late Dr. Sara E. Forbes.  The Forbes collection was donated to The Mariners’ Museum in 2008.

“We felt the best way to honor Dr. Forbes’ legacy was to reunite a large portion of her SS United States collection with the ship she loved so much”, said Jeanne Willoz-Egnor, Director of Collections Management at The Mariners’ Museum.  “I know she would be thrilled to hear about the exciting plans being made for its future.”  Mr. and Mrs. Hunnicutt donated glassware used on board the ship.

The Mariners’ Museum also donated a serving cabinet from the First Class Dining Room, several structural items that were given to the museum by Frederic Gibbs, brother of the ship’s designer William Francis Gibbs, as well as a medallion commemorating the ship’s maiden voyage.

The donation includes a series of spectacular black and white photographs by Albert W. Durant of the SS United States during its Top Secret trial runs in early 1952. The photographs taken by Durant, Williamsburg, Virginia’s first African American city-licensed photographer, depict African-American kitchen staff and stewards aboard the SS United States. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s John D. Rockefeller Library also owns a set of the images and was the original source of the donation.

The Conservancy is continuing to expand its collections of objects and ephemera related to the historic vessel for eventual display as part of a permanent exhibition.  It is also collecting oral histories from former officers, crew members and passengers, and is planning a reunion in early summer.  For more information, please contact the Conservancy at info@ssusc.org.

About the SS United States Conservancy
A national nonprofit organization, the SS United States Conservancy leads the global effort to save and repurpose America’s Flagship, the SS United States.  The Conservancy raises public awareness and financial resources for the maintenance, restoration and ultimate reuse of this iconic vessel and works to ensure that the fastest ocean liner ever to cross the Atlantic remains an inspiration for generations to come.  For more information about the SS United States visit www.ssusc.org or the Conservancy’s Facebook Page. 

About The Mariners’ Museum and Park
The Mariners’ Museum and Park connects people to the world’s waterways through exploration and engaging experiences. The organization is an educational, non-profit institution accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and preserves and interprets maritime history through an international collection of ship models, figureheads, paintings and other maritime artifacts. The Mariners’ Museum has been designated by Congress as “America’s National Maritime Museum.” For hours and information, visit MarinersMuseum.org

Media Contacts

Tom Basile
SS United States Conservancy
Crystal Breede
The Mariners’ Museum