Through Sept. 18, the Bonita Museum is home to an American naval history with its “Permission To Come Aboard” exhibit curated by veteran Joe Frangiosa, Jr., which includes his collections of “scratch built” models, toys, ship artifacts, artwork, films and photography.
Bonita Museum Director Wendy Wilson said the exhibit chronicles the history of the U.S. Navy, its ships and how they have evolved over time from the Revolutionary War period, through the Civil War, into the Spanish-American War, then World War I and World War II, including the beginning of naval aviation. Wilson said in addition to the exhibits, the museum’s intern Nathan Scheffler did research and found historical film footage to enhance the experience.
“It is amazing,” she said. “It is more than 1,000 objects, and Joe has built environments so that you feel like you are walking through with a captain’s eye view of what it would look like during that period.’
Wilson said there is a ship’s environment for kids where they can go in and steer a battleship and communicate between the different decks of the ship. So, it is and interactive exhibit for children. “This is a great show,” she said.
Frangiosa joined the Navy at 19, becoming an aviation boatswains’ mate and spent his four-year career on the U.S.S. Roosevelt. He said his term on the ship took him to the Mediterranean, North Atlantic, Caribbean, and many other places that allowed him to visit more than 13 countries. He said he missed the Navy and wanted to go back, but it was not selecting prior sailors, so he finished his 20 year career by joining the U.S. Marines. Frangiosa said he had nine or ten models in the show, but that only four of them he created while on active duty.
“I would make a model when I came back from deployment to relax,” he said. “I did not do it therapeutically, but when I look back on it, it was. I would just lose myself and brain dump myself into the models.”
He said in between, he would collect artifacts that went with his models. He said they were not kits, as he would study Naval history and make these models from scratch.
“That is what you see in here, are those models, and what I have done after retiring,” he said. “Wendy found me at my little shop in La Jolla, saw one of my models in the window, a 1986 battleship that one of her relatives served on. She came in and asked if I wanted to use the space at the museum and make it ‘big,’ and I did not hesitate to say yes.”
Until this exhibition, Frangiosa showed his models at his small shop in La Jolla, the Nautical History Gallery.
Frangiosa designed the room for models starting from 1775 to 1945, then built backdrops in panels and display cases to create the feeling on the model. Adding the artifacts and other items, he said it is like walking through history.
“This has been fun to do,” he said. “I also designed this to be portable, so if people are loving it, the exhibit can be moved to another location or set it up permanent somewhere.”
He said there is a variety of models from the periods to look at, including the 74 two-decker from the British Navy, a cutaway where you can see decks and activities happening inside the vessel. Then you see a model of the U.S.S. Constitution, U.S.S. Vermont, a four deck battleship.
Visit bonitahistoricalsociety.org for more information.