Commemorating a Hero

R/V Sally Ride is named after American hero, Sally Ride, to celebrate her career and dedication to exploration and education. Since “America’s Newest Research Vessel” arrived in 2016, R/V Sally Ride has undertaken many research cruises, including  studying of the catastrophic Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara to the research of acoustics in the sea floor.  Birch Aquarium’s Exhibits Team was proud to collaborate with Scripps Institution of Oceanography to create a display case celebrating Sally Ride. The display was recently mounted in the galley of her namesake research vessel to pay homage to Sally Ride and her inspiring career.

We asked Kevin Stephens, our Exhibit Team carpenter, for some details on the magic behind the creation of the display:

“It started as a request from Bruce Appelgate, Director of Ship Operations at Scripps Oceanography, to Harry Helling, Birch Aquarium’s Director, as to engaging the aquarium Exhibit Team in designing and building a display case showcasing Sally Ride artifacts gifted by Tam O’Shaughnessy, her partner, for display on the research vessel.  Bruce Applegate had R/V Sally Ride (which was constructed in Anacortes Washington) trimmed out in American black walnut wood, prior to its launching. Once the ship reached its homeport in San Diego, the need for an onboard display case commemorating Sally arose. Bruce requested the case be made of American black walnut to match existing trim on the ship. The the case needed to fit in a designated space in the galley for all persons onboard to enjoy. These considerations, along with the challenges to display a flight jacket, mission patches, authored books and the Medal of Freedom presented by President Obama, made for an exciting project for the whole Birch Aquarium Exhibits Team and something we all wanted to sink our teeth into.

It was an important project to me personally because of the significance involved. Are you kidding? What an honor to be part of the Birch Aquarium team to realize this showcase project. Selecting the lumber was a joy, walnut is such a beautiful hardwood. I considered the figure of the grain and all those things that woodworkers take into account to build a showpiece. Additional measures were taken by other team members, layout, content description and inspirational messaging, using archival materials, and considering that all of these objects need to remain secure and in place despite the continuous movement of being shipboard in any sea conditions at anytime. This all made for a great project, much like condensed soup, a lot of content in a confined container, floating on water (galley again).

Knowing that this vessel will be in service traveling our world oceans for the next several decades exploring our planet to better understand its systems is a tremendous source of inspiration for working on the project. It has truly been an honor to be a part of this process.”

Exhibit team members for the project: Charlie Langsett, Kevin Stephens, Tina Mau, Mary Rose, and Robert Radd.

You can learn more about R/V Sally Ride at the Expedition at Sea: R/V Sally Ride Gallery at Birch Aquarium.