Lighthouse Museum exhibit inspired by royal visit to Staten Island

STATEN ISLAND, NY — An unusual exhibit of antique prints at the National Lighthouse Museum is now on display at the St. George waterside venue. A program curated by Danielle Mann features lighthouses of Great Britain, past and present, is inspired by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal Anne.

The dignitary is the honorary chair of the National Lighthouse Museum’s Campaign For Illuminating Future Generations. A recent trip to Staten Island was scheduled but canceled due to COVID. A later date for the visit will be announced.

But the show will go on. The Lighthouse Museum’s selected works of art are on display through Feb. 13. They are part of a collection of 300 pieces donated by Dr. Loren Graham and Dr. Patricia Albjerg Graham. The exhibit features lighthouses with a unique history, significant engineering importance, and sentimental value to Her Royal Highness.

The prints, which date back to the 1800s, are original wood engravings, aquatint or lithograph prints, or news clippings from that time. Several prints also feature hand-painted watercolor elements to make the pieces one-of-a-kind.

The works range from maps, engineering plans, and artistic renderings of lighthouses and their surrounding areas. Some of the lighthouses on the exhibit no longer exist or have since been altered from their original design.

Dr. Loren Graham is a professor emeritus of the history of science at MIT and Harvard University and is a prolific author. One of Graham’s books is on the history of the Grand Island North Light in Michigan, which he purchased over 50 years ago when it was in ruins. The lighthouse has since been restored to a pristine state. During that process, he became interested in antique lighthouse prints and accumulated over 300, which he donated to the National Lighthouse Museum.

Dr. Patricia Albjerg Graham was the first woman dean at Harvard Graduate School of Education and is the Charles Warren Research Professor of the History of American Education, Emerita at Harvard. Aquatint prints are made using a copper plate which is etched into using acid.

The plate is covered in an acid-resistant resin in the desired areas to create shadow and tone. After heat is applied to seal the resin onto the plate, the plate is placed into a nitric acid bath. The plate is then inked and sent through a printing press onto moist paper, creating several copies from one plate. Afterward, color is added using colored plates or, as in the case of some of the antique prints on display, are hand colored with watercolor paints.

The National Lighthouse Museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday, 11 am to 4 pm and is located at 200 The Promenade at Lighthouse Point. It can be found adjacent to the Staten Island Ferry. The museum can be reached at nfo@lighthousemuseum.org or 718-390-0040.

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