Archive by Author | Kater

Larson’s Gym and the End of an Era

Larson’s Gym is currently being demolished. When I first started working at the museum, this building housed the restoration staff on one side of the building and the Quantico Marine Corps Band on the other side. The building itself was old, with asbestos, lead paint and infested with small wildlife. It was not a great place to work in its final years standing, very hot and humid in summer and freezing in winter-but it had character.


I never had to work in Larson’s Gym and went to when I needed to confer with our top notch restoration crew. I always had fun going to the building to see them and their work.  They spent several years restoring an SBD Dive bomber rivet by rivet. Having the opportunity to see the plane, which spent 50 years at the bottom of Lake Michigan, come back to live is one of the neatest projects I’ve ever witnessed. The plane is now hanging in the National Museum of the Marine Corps


The SBD being reassembled in Larson’s Gym

Larson’s Gym started life as an aircraft hanger in the 1930s as the current Quantico Airfield was under construction. Sometime later in life, half of the hangar was converted into the base gym, until it started caving in. The museum’s restoration shop took over the other half. After Barber’s Gym opened, the Quantico Band used the site for practice until it was unsafe to use any more.

Larson's Gym Band

The Quantico Marine Band Practicing for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2013. DOD Photograph.

Larson’s Gym also had a profoundly bittersweet event too: the last flight of an H-34 Helicopter that is now on display in the museum as well. The group that donated the Vietnam serving helicopter flew it to the museum for a short program, then it flew over to hangar where it was prepared to go into Leatherneck Gallery. On the last flight of the old helicopter, it buzzed the museum’s spire and flew off into the sunset.

It is a neat building and I’m sad to watch its slow destruction as I drive by it every day to go to work.


Return to Blogging

I have not updated my blog in well over a year, so I thought I would do that. I do not care if anyone ever reads it or not, but I will use it to practice writing. I started this blog as a classroom assignment while in the Applied History Master’s program at George Mason University. I’m not going to get rid of these older posts, though they are the remnants of the class assignments. There are some dead links to a website that I made and allowed to wither of the vine. Perhaps I’ll get back into website design again someday. In the meantime, I’ll write about some of the fun things that I find at work or home that amuses me.


The first order of business is that I’ve been doing research on Marine Corps vehicles. After many years of looking for photos of a particularly rare truck built for the Marine Corps by the FWD Company, my co-worker and I hit paydirt at the National Archives. We found around two dozen, and were able to use the photos for research in the restoration that our museum owns that is likely the last one built for the Marine Corps that still exists. There will be more to come on this restoration progress as the Marine Depot Maintenance Command in Albany, GA is roughly 65% complete with the restoration process.

A1-G30-Sharp363N-1@nara.gov_20161031_145951_001 - Copy

Final Project

Here are my links to my website:



If anyone wants to keep in touch after the semester, my personal email address is and my  work email is


It has been a pleasure, good luck to those taking comps.

Design Project

This week, I had more practical application of the skills I’ve learned in this class. Here is the final copy of the Light Armored Vehicle that I created the template for. A guy in Ladysmith picked up the vehicle on Friday and painted it all weekend. We should get it back tomorrow.

For my project, I am having more trouble putting it all together than I thought I would. I keep second guessing myself, mainly because so many people in this class have such great web designs. I am purposely keeping mine simple because I like cleaner design.

As far as templates, I’m pretty confused about how javascript works. I can easily incorporate it into my design, but I do not understand what the stylesheet is actually saying. One of the best parts about keeping a simple design is I know exactly what the website will do.

Another problem that I have had is I think I spent too much time collecting photographs that I will never be able to use for the scope of this project, but I hope to continue in the future.

I suppose I do not really have much else to add this week to my blog. Sorry for the shorter post.

Quantico as a topic

My project deals with the Marine Corps Base at Quantico, VA. I have run into some problems regarding relating the history, as it is an active military base. I wanted to talk about some of the unique features of the base and the area, just like all of Virginia, is imbued with interesting resources. The base archaeologist has uncovered everything from Clovis Points, items from the King’s Highway to unexploded ordnance from the American Revolution to modern day.

The unexploded ordnance is the main issue. Though the base has a really cool story to tell, I cannot tell most of it. The problem stems from the lack on knowledge of where things occurred, like the digging of trenches while Marines trained for WWI, to the fact that most of the base was an active firing range at one point or the other. And I don’t mean just lead projectiles. High energy explosive stuff.

I wanted to have maps and explain where some neat things happened. The entire Potomac Coast was a Confederate coastal defense battery on the Virginia side, and a Federal counter battery on the Maryland side. Known Civil War camps litter the area. However, relic hunters love to find unexplored areas like that. Obviously that is a security issue for the base and dangerous because of the amount of explosives that they might unearth and possibly detonate.

There is still a lot I can tell, so I’ll make sure to focus on that.

I just recently had the left hand cannon restored. Its twin has been on display on the base for 50 years. Crews building Turner Field in WWII dug it up, along with tons of explosive shells.

As far as design, I guess I am going to stay on the boring side. I think my colors look good and subdued, but aren’t too boring. I found a lot of templates that would be fun to use, but manipulating them would take more time than I can spend on them this close to the end of the semester. Here is the link to my website and my Design Page. It needs work as I try to fix the columns and some of the pictures that don’t show up.


I commented on Joshua’s Blog.



Using skills from class and Virtual History

Because of this class, I have been able to use some of my new skills for my job as a curator. Right now, we are about to have a combat vehicle, which is going on display in the National Museum of the Marine Corps painted. I chose to have the vehicle represent the 3d Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, or 3d LAR, which fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I chose to make the vehicle appear as it did in March 2003.

At that time, the unit pained large wolf heads and chevrons on their vehicles to allow other units on the battlefield to see at a quick glance who they were. They used cardboard templates to paint the vehicles, but the cardboard templates have long been lost. So, to make up for the lost templates, I chose a photo from the time, traced the items that we want to recreate, and converted it to a vector drawing. Our exhibits shop printed the items on a vinyl printer so that the paint shop could paint the recreated markings on the vehicle. Our exhibits folks could have done it, but this was good practice for me to hone my new skills as well as to lessen their burden

This week, we also read about the Lost Museum digital display. I was immediately reminded of my childhood, playing the computer games. I played around soaking up the nostalgia of my adolescence. Even the Joshua Brown article mentioned that the games were the basis for the display style.

So the Lost museum ends up being a  nostolgic trip to the older digital formats which was representing a museum of the days of yore. Additionally, it was kind of fun. Museums don’t often represent a history of museums. This was a fun way to look at museums as a history professional.

I sure think that this kind of project would be really fun to see updated on a more modern style. Many museums offer virtual tours, but not like the Lost Museum. Further, the recreation of a museum that was lost is a novel idea.

The virtual tour needs to be continually updated too, if it is an active museum. For instance, our Museum’s virtual tour is now obsolete, as the helicopter represented has been replaced.


This week I commented on Mark’sTam’sKim’s,Pearl’s, and Amy’s blogs.

Photo projects

Here is the link to my website image page

I am having a lot of fun with this class, and these photo projects. I have learned a lot from the research that I have done to color these photos. My office is literally meters away from the beaches where the Marine Corps developed the doctrine that it used throughout WWII.Finding my office building from 1930s photographs has been a real treat. And taking the photographs down to the areas where Marines operated 100 years ago brings the history to life in a really powerful way to me. I hope that I will be able to convert that into a website.

For one of my engravings, I chose a recruiting poster that came out in late 1918. I found the poster in a classroom full of Marines who had returned to Quantico after WWI. There are several indicators that they are mostly combat veterans who probably put up the poster out of pride.

I also did another colorization of Marines storming the beach outside of my office. It was pretty fun.

I found a pretty neat way to get the detail on trees too. Used the same technique that Dr. Petrik showed us for the engraving. Essentially, for small details, I used blending options to isolate small details and saved the selections. After I put the whole picture back together, I could load selections that were parts of the small details such as trees and rocks and color them. Also, I created separate curve layers on selections to make distant objects more sharp compared to the background.

Here is my vignetted photograph. It is of then Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler, who is one of two Marines to be awarded two medals of honor. He was in charge of the Base at Quantico in the 1920s before becoming the Philadelphia Police Chief while on active duty. This was certainly unconstitutional. To keep up their fitness, Marines from Quantico would hike to Civil War battlefields and stage reenactments as far away as Gettysburg.

Marines at Gettysburg

The Marines are using bolt action rifles and a M1917 Browning Machine Gun at the 1922 Gettysburg reenactment.

Here, Butler is leading his Marines to the Wilderness. It was an odd sight, as the Marines would wear their contemporary gear and fire modern rifles and artillery pieces.

According to legend, Butler did not believe the story about General Thomas Jackson’s arm being buried at Chancellorsville Battlefield, and made a bet that Marines would not find the arm buried there. Marines dug it up, supposedly found the arm and reburied it (the legend is not true.)


Revisiting last week, here is some more detail about my seaplane from last week. There were originally two seaplane hangars that went straight down to the water, ande a plane could be put on a dolly and rolled to the water. One still stands, the other was damaged and razed several decades ago.

In the end, I think I have a lot of raw material  to work with for the project. I hope that the work I am doing translates into a project that people enjoy.

I commented on Joshua’s, Mark’sDanielle’s, and Jenna’s Blogs this week.



colorizing photographs

This week I tried my hand at a few different photographs to see how it went and what I needed to improve on. Coloring the foreground is getting easier, but realistic backgrounds are very tough for me.

Case study one:

I tried to colorize and “hydroplane” that was taken about 300 feet from my office 100 years ago. The The plane was a treated fabric that would have been a shiny grey. Getting the aircraft into that color was pretty hard, an I do not feel like I nailed it.

The second problem is that the photograph’s background was the Potomac river and the Maryland Shore. The detail of the water was almost gone in the photograph, and just painting it blue did not work. Also, the trees on the shore looked goofy and cartoonish. So I took a photograph of mine at that spot and used the color, texture and trees to restore that part of the photograph. I did make the water a little more blue than my photo just to reinforce the water look.

Case study two.

I found another photograph that had a lot of components, Including Marines, civilians, cars and a cannon being drug through the street. Again, the background seemed to be the hardest part. I think I got the color of the clothing correct and the vehicles, but the dirt street and trees in the background still seem off. I played with gradients and opacity, but I’m still not happy. It looks like one of those colorized postcards from the 1940s.

I am trying to practice, and this is still a lot of fun. I probably should spend less time on this and more time on my project site.

For the second photo, I don’t think I did too much to hurt historical accuracy. The hydroplane has made me ponder if what I did was okay. I think I would need to be honest about what I did before I tried to publish it as historical evidence for anything. I tried to make sure that the conditions were the same, and I don’t think the river environment in Maryland has changed so much that I was introducing a terribly new shoreline. I felt that the trees and water was too important to not introduce.

I would love to know what everyone else thinks about the hydroplane. From last week’s discussion I get the feeling that it might be a good topic for debate, if anybody even reads this this week.


I posted comments on the following blogs: Claire’sPearl’sTheana’s, and Kim’s.



Coloring photographs

I have had a good deal of fun this week working on photographs for the image assignment. On the plus side, I am going to do a work related image assignment and the research into the coloring that I need to use allowed me to learn a lot of the minutiae that I would have never forced myself to learn otherwise. For instance, in 1917-1918, the Marine Corps wore a lot of US Army equipment, because it was easier to supply the larger quantities to France and simplified the supply lines. When the Marines left from Quantico, among other places, they generally wore a Marine Corps uniform that was a deep forest green made of wool. When it wore out, they received an army sage green colored uniform. It is hard to tell which is which in a black and white photograph, but generally there are distinguishing features, such as the cut of the pockets or the cuff of the sleeve. Finding these features tells me which color to use in the colorization process.

On the negative side,  there was huge amount of information to learn in Photoshop this week which has me feeling some confused.  The tutorial with Teddy Roosevelt  was great, but the Roosevelt’s face seemed bright and ready for color. I have some darker colored faces I’d like to show which I cannot make colorize very well. Also, I am having trouble with the dark colored uniforms being to grey in the original to take on much color. color either seems nonexistent or gaudy and garish.


And, while the tutorials are great, there is so much information so fast, I am left behind. I recognize that more practice will probably help me understand what is going on. It didn’t help that I asked an illustrator that I work with to help me with the colors, and another illustrator overheard the advice, disagreed and I was in a 30 minute conversation about when to use levels or colors or Bezier curves to create color levels. Their final consensus was there were different ways to skin a cat which was good, but unhelpful for my task at hand.


I have commented on Mark’s blog, Joshua’s blog and Claire’s blog.