During the ceremony, Jay Thomas, NHHC’s Assistant Director for Collection Management, officially received the paintings. Painted by Danijel Frka, a Croatian artist, the paintings depict Conestoga towing two schooner barges of coal, Conestoga underway off Southeast Farallon Island before sinking and an illustration of the shipwreck itself.

“The three paintings that were commissioned by Russ Matthews demonstrate the power of an artist's imagination to supplement the photographic record, especially for a ship like Conestoga that doesn't have a large photographic record,” said Thomas. “I am very pleased that Mr. Matthews chose to donate the original paintings to the Navy Art Collection.”

Caption: WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 22, 2016) — Three original paintings by Croatian artist Danijel Frka of USS Conestoga (AT 54), a naval vessel lost in 1921 and discovered in 2014. Naval History and Heritage Command officially received these paintings from Russ Matthews. The Navy acquired Conestoga in Sept. 1917 and put her to service in the European theatre of World War I. After the war, she served for a few years in New York before transferring to the West coast. Shortly thereafter, she sank with her full crew. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Eric Lockwood/Released)

The Navy acquired USS Conestoga on Sept. 14, 1917, in order to use her as a fleet tender and mine sweeper. During World War I, she transported supplies, escorted convoys, and carried out towing duties in the European theatre. A couple years after she came back to America, she was re-designated a fleet tug and shortly thereafter switched coasts to San Diego. In 1921, sailing from Mare Island, Calif., with a coal barge in tow, she sunk with her crew of 56 Sailors. Not until 2014 did the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration find a wreck they had reason to believe was Conestoga. Consultation with NHHC, further research, and another investigation in the autumn of 2015 with NHHC participation confirmed that assessment.

NHHC accepts many kinds of donations, from archival material to artifacts like art or uniforms.  The command’s staff of professional curators review donation offers and make selection decisions based on needs and collection development policies. Gifts are accepted with the understanding that they become the property of the Navy, and that NHHC may make all necessary decisions as to their retention, location, cataloging and other considerations relating to their use and disposition.

Photo #: NH 71299 USS Conestoga
Caption: USS Conestoga (AT-54) At San Diego, California, circa early 1921, shortly before she disappeared while en route from San Diego to Samoa, by way of Pearl Harbor. Courtesy of W.P. Burbage, 1970. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

If you would like to donate an artifact, NHHC requires detailed information about the object, an account of how you acquired it and a photograph to make its decision. Please email nhhccurator@navy.mil with the requested information along with clear digital photographs. NHHC staff will contact you. If you are unable to email, please call 202-433-7873. Due to staff availability and the ongoing move of the Navy's permanent artifact collection, please allow sufficient time for your offer to be fully considered. Please do not send any original items prior to contact from curator branch staff.

Caption: 161122-N-TH437-010 WASHINGTON (Nov. 22, 2016) — Jay Thomas, the branch head for CMD, speaks at a ceremony in which NHHC officially receives three original paintings of the USS Conestoga (AT 54), a naval vessel lost in 1921 and discovered in 2016, from Russ Matthews and Jim Delgado. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Eric Lockwood/Released)

As the official repository for all U.S. Navy artifacts, NHHC is the organization charged with loaning Navy’s artifacts to museums, educational institutions, federal organizations and many others around the world. 

The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy's unique and enduring contributions through our nation's history, and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, ten museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.