Unearthing and Restoring a Map of the Atlantic Theater on the USS Texas

The Battleship of Texas has a long and important history. It served in both World Wars, fought in numerous pivotal battles, and served as a home to thousands of sailors and marines. One of these sailors was Chief John Jack McKeown who served in the Navy on the ship and later became its caretaker until his death in 1970.

Photograph: The Battleship of Texas Foundation and TPWD Cultural Resource.
Photograph: The Battleship of Texas Foundation and TPWD Cultural Resource.

Back in the early 2000s, restoration efforts on the Battleship Texas revealed sections of a map that was painted on the bulkhead in the Captain’s Cabin. One historic photo was found, dating from around 1966, which shows Chief McKeown writing at his desk in the Captain’s Cabin with the map of the Atlantic Theater in the background. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's (TPWD) Cultural Resources branch dated this map to around 1944. Sometime after the photo of Chief McKeown was taken, a viewing window was cut out of the bulkhead and the cabin was painted white in the 1970s, unknowingly destroying parts of the map. Although the photo of Chief McKeown and the map was found in 2009, budgetary limitations did not allow for any restoration. The map sat untouched and partially revealed until conservation efforts began in 2022.

OnAim Conservation was hired to stabilize, conserve, and restore the map. By carefully removing the remaining white paint, the rest of the map was revealed – along with some exciting discoveries! One of these revelations was an outline of Texas in an orange hue, superimposed over Africa. While parts of the compass rose were already exposed and one could see a faint outline of Africa before stripping the top white layer, there had been no indication that Texas was somehow incorporated on the map.


OnAim and The Battleship Foundation agreed that paint infill restoration should be done in such a way as to tell the story of the Map, memorialize the actions that were taken, and not obscure what had occurred. Each paint color was carefully matched to the original using the Ship’s paint index from 1939. To set the restoration apart from the original, the newly painted areas left consciously smooth while the original kept its rougher texture. Fonts and symbols used in the map were also matched based on the time period and remaining parts of the map.

With the help of Kati Ozanic, a local painter, teacher, and artistic director, OnAim restored the map. Using the newly unearthed original parts and historical maps of that era as guides, the map’s paint was repainted to reflect its former glory and give visitors a glance into the history of The Battleship of Texas. Finally, OnAim applied a varnish to protect the map for future generations to experience.

Read more about this project in PCE-International magazine (pub Nov 13, 2023) and keep up to date on the ship's ongoing restorations at The Battleship of Texas website.