The latest project of Cal Maritime’s Campus History Center shines a light on one of the institution’s most unique and iconic collections: the cruise murals that adorn the walls of the T.S. Golden Bear III. In the spring 2019, all murals located on TSGB bulkheads, overheads, stanchions, and in small recesses of the ship, were professionally photographed and digitally archived. These photos, with information about each cruise, can be browsed via a new online exhibit linked from the Library’s website or directly via https://campushistorycollection.omeka.net/
The practice of creating art on ship bulkheads began long before the T.S. Golden Bear III. Ship murals are not seen on modern commercial ships, but in the United States, the practice may have originated on the early steamships of the U.S. Navy. More broadly, the maritime world has a long tradition of visual folk arts, including macrame and scrimshaw. The TSGB cruise murals are part of this tradition. As such, the murals contribute to the collective memory of the campus, telling stories and helping to form our cultural identity.
The murals, painted by cadets on annual TSGB summer training cruises, represent scenes and highlights from the specific cruise period when they were painted. While a mural is typically created by an individual cadet, each mural represents a specific Corps Division on cruise. The murals memorialize not just the cruise but also divisional pride, which can create a sense of community while away from home. The online exhibit is organized by cruise year and is paired with maps and an itinerary for each cruise.
Archivist Patti Thibodeau pointed out that even though the mural exhibit is live now, it’s not complete and will rely on input from alumni to help finish it. “The history of the cruise murals is still being written, and for this project to move forward, we need alums to help,” said Thibodeau. "Anyone who cruised on the T.S. Golden Bear III can share details or names connected to a specific mural. This information will help us capture the full story of each of the artworks.” Contributors can look for a form located in the section labeled “Share your Memories.”
The online murals exhibit is a first for the Library and Campus History Center, Thibodeau said, but it will not be the last. “The Collection is the history hub of Cal Maritime, with materials dating back to the school’s beginning as the California Nautical School in 1929. With our centennial approaching and while we’re all spending more time indoors, I can’t think of a better time to delve into this fascinating record.”
ABOUT CAL MARITIME
Established in 1929, California State University Maritime Academy is the only degree-granting maritime academy on the West Coast. Located in Vallejo, California, the campus serves nearly 1,000 students and offers undergraduate degrees preparing students for careers in engineering, transportation, international relations, business, and global logistics. The new oceanography degree program launched in the fall of 2020. Cal Maritime also offers a master’s degree in Transportation and Engineering Management, as well as a number of extended learning programs and courses.