Well, I survived the weekend.

Actually – it was wonderful! We had hundreds of people at the museum for four days – there were boat trips, bus trips, candlelight tours, receptions, reenactors, horses, big booming guns, lectures galore and really really good food.

We kicked off officially with a reception and then an absolutely brilliant lecture on Richmond in 1862 by Jack Davis from Virginia Tech. He is the epitome of what a history professor should be and I could listen to him for hours. Saturday began with Craig Symonds from the Naval Academy doing a marvelous lecture about Joseph Johnston. Craig is also one of those college professors you wish you’d had. His delivery is effortless, tinged with humor and altogether riveting. Then Harold Holzer from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and one of the premier Lincoln scholars in the country doing an illustrated history of the evolving imagery of McClellan and Lee. I’ve heard Harold lecture several times and he’s always fascinating (and full of such interesting information that it becomes fodder for many a dinnertime discussion) – but this had to be the best yet (which is saying a lot!). His hour was over far too soon and I’m even more anxious than ever to read his new book.

We then had a panel discussion with John Quarstein and Joe Gutierrez taking the side of the Confederacy (and Joe and John are always a treat) and Stephen Sears and Craig Symonds taking the side of the Union as they discussed joint operations of Armies and Navies during the Peninsula Campaign of 1862. These panels are always lively and we were not disappointed! Joe and John are absolutely two of my favourite people to work with (I actually used to work for Joe long ago) and the two of them together are a force of nature. I had the pleasure of working with Stephen Sears a couple of years ago when he came to the museum to review the work we’d done so far with the upcoming exhibition. He doesn’t do a lot of public speaking so we were thrilled that he agreed to come to our event! He was absolutely brilliant and a wonderful speaker- and I do hope he’ll come visit again. His books are wonderful, by the way – they draw you in and they make the past come alive quite vibrantly.

Then John Broadwater from NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary gave a presentation on the 30th anniversay of the sanctuary and a history of how it had come into being. He showed some really cool underwater photos that I hadn’t seen before along with some killer 3D animations that I have now begged for him to let me borrow. John always gives a great presentation and this was no exception.

We ended Saturday with a lovely reception at our CEO’s house on the James River – looking out on the waters that were home to the Monitor in 1862 and talking to old and new friends.

Sunday morning started with Chief Justice Frank Williams discussing Lincoln’s evolving role of commander-in-chief. If you ever have a chance to hear him, do try. He has never failed to deliver a juicy and interesting talk and he is such a delightful person.

Then it was time for my lecture – Life on Board the Monitor. Based on the audience response (and there were about 150 or more of them) they seemed to like it and lots of folks talked to me afterwards and said they really liked it. I got to meet a lot of new folks afterwards and made some great contacts, whom I’ve already been emailing back and forth with today.

My good friend Jeff Johnston gave the final lecture of the day. It was on the Confederate and Union Navies on the James in 1862. No matter how many times I hear Jeff speak I always learn new stuff. He is without a doubt the world’s leading expert on the construction of the Monitor and knows tons of stuff on every other naval aspect of the Civil War. It was an awesome way to end the symposium!

Then we all trooped outside for the keel laying of the replica of the Monitor/… I think I’ll save that for another day as I’ve been working 12-14 hour days for the past week and I think I’m going to bed now.

Anyway – it was fun – and I am constantly amazed that I get paid for this.

Before I forget – Best of luck to dublingirl this coming weekend as she has a gigantic museum event as well – KidVention 2005. Perhaps she and I will both get some needed rest soon. But I’ve always maintained that in the museum world – March is the cruellest month. It’s obvious T.S. Eliot never worked in a museum….


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