Like Father, Like Son

Charles and Geoffrey Bender wearing their dress blue uniform.

Charles and Geoffrey Bender wearing their dress blue uniform.

There might be nothing more traditional in the Navy than the dress blue uniform.  There have been subtle changes to the uniform over the years, but the essential style has remained the same.

This tradition gets personal for Charles and Geoffrey Bender, father and son who both served in the U.S. Navy.  While 30 years separate their service, they both wore the same uniform – yes, literally the same uniform.  When Geoffrey donated the uniform to the museum in 2013, he included details about how the uniform was worn and modified by his father, Charles, before Geoffrey himself wore it 30 years later.

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How Are We Doing?

How do you know if a museum exhibit is successful?  There’s no “like” button underneath each artifact.  And you can’t click “share” on an exhibit panel.  So, it’s tough to know what people think and feel about an exhibit.
9-28 IMG_20150926_155041575There is one component of our new Colorful Characters exhibit that’s easy for us to assess, though.  As a whole, the exhibit discusses the history of Sailors altering their uniforms for fashion or for function.  A major fashion trend among sailors was purchasing patches, known as liberty cuffs, from foreign ports.  The liberty cuffs were sewed into the underside of the uniform jumper cuffs so they were only visible when the sleeves were rolled up.

9-28 IMG_20150926_154709592Liberty cuffs varied in content.  Some were pretty straight forward, featuring American Flags or Neptune.  Others highlighted rates such as SeaBees or SNIPES.  And many were souvenirs of the ports Sailors visited.

We decided to focus on these souvenir liberty cuffs and ask visitors what a liberty cuff from their hometown might look like.  They can design their own liberty cuff and pin it to our magnetic mural map.

9-28 IMG_20150926_154539373Though we’re still trying to assess the whole Colorful Characters exhibit, this portion has been a big success.  How do we know?  We ran out of pins.



Editorial Note: the Colorful Characters exhibit closed in March 2017.

For information about the National Museum of the American Sailor visit our website and our Facebook page.

This One Goes to 12

Exhibits don’t just happen. There is obviously a lot of work that goes into their creation. Even small exhibits require large amounts of research and planning before the drafting and design processes can begin. Research will turn up lost of things, some interesting, some useless, and some quirky. It’s the quirky ones that are the most fun.

The National Museum of the American Sailor, as it looks today.

The National Museum of the American Sailor, as it looks today.

The exhibit in question is one the National Museum of the American Sailor is currently designing about the unique history of its building.

In researching and creating this exhibit, we’ve come across some interesting information. We already knew that this building, formerly called the Hostess House, was never intended to be a museum at all.   It was originally a recreation hall and event space that was later converted to offices. But did you know that in its early days in the 1940s and 50s it also used to be the residence of the woman who ran the Hostess House?

But the strangest thing we discovered is a little detail in this photo of the building taken during the 1950s. Take a look at the sign right in the middle of the picture, next to the silhouette of the man on the stairs.

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A close up of the sign.

A close up of the sign.

The speed limit on the road in front of the building (which isn’t even a road anymore, but our lawn) was 12 mph.   That’s right. 12 miles per hour.  11 was totally reasonable.  But 13 mph?   That’s too fast!





For information about the National Museum of the American Sailor visit our website and our Facebook page.

Who’s That Girl?

One challenge facing museums is how to engage visitors of all ages. At the National Museum of the American Sailor, we are expanding our appeal beyond those who have served and their families. We are particularly interested in one specific demographic – those who haven’t served because they are ineligible due to age. The politically correct term for this group is “kids.”


7-20-StandingYounger visitors to the National Museum of the American Sailor will soon have a new, kid-friendly way to experience the museum. The new Junior Sailor Discovery Book is replacing the existing Children’s Activity Book. It will feature activities and games that will help kids learn as it brings them throughout the museum. Kids who complete a certain number of these activities will receive a certificate signed by a museum staff member or volunteer.


The new book will have full color, hand-painted illustrations. Many pages will feature our newest fictional Sailor. Who is she? Well, here’s what we know so far. She’s new to the Navy and she hasn’t quite figured things out yet. She’s eager to learn though. She looks cool in her dress blues. And she rides dragons, of course. Oh, and those long, flowing locks may be fine for the Discovery Book, but if she enlisted, she would be first in line for a haircut.


7-20-DragonThere’s one piece of information missing though. We don’t know her name. Perhaps she’s a young woman of mystery and intrigue, making her way anonymously through the pages of the Discovery Book. Or, maybe, no one has thought of a good name for her yet. Do you have any ideas?

For more information about the museum’s education program go to our website.