Archer and his wife, sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington, acquired 800 acres of land that would come to hold 61,000 square feet of exhibition galleries, a research library, a 167-acre lake, a five-mile shoreline trail with fourteen bridges, and over 35,000 maritime artifacts from around the globe. After acquisition took place, the first two years were devoted to creating and improving a natural park and constructing a dam to create Lake Maury, named after the nineteenth-century Virginia oceanographer Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury.
Known as the Lion's Bridge, the dam forming the lake provides a breathtaking view of the James River, as well as a family gathering place to enjoy the Museum Park. The beauty of the dam is enhanced by several fine pieces of statuary designed by Anna Hyatt Huntington. Four stone lions were mounted on the ends of the parapets of the dam in October 1932. Anna also created and dedicated a monument entitled "Conquering the Wild." The central theme of this monument consists of a man engaged in a titanic struggle to subdue a rearing horse. Elevated on a massive octagonal Indiana limestone pedestal and flanked at four corners by life-size figures representing science, art, learning, and industry, the monument overlooks the Lion's Bridge, the Park, and Lake Maury.
The Museum's collection totals approximately 35,000 artifacts, of which approximately one-third are paintings and two-thirds are three-dimensional objects. This vast collection of maritime objects had to be aggressively acquired by Museum agents. On August 1, 1933, regular collectors were inaugurated. The first purchases of artifacts in any quantity were made in New York and New England. Since the scope of the Museum would be international, contacts were made in lands such as Holland, England, China, and the South Sea Islands. In 1935, its was deemed desirable to extend the Museum's collecting expedition to the West Indies and the Spanish Main. In January 1936, a 9,200-mile trip southward touched Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. The Museum even commissioned a yachtsman embarking on a round-the-world voyage to acquire maritime material.
Collis P. Huntington, the rail baron who formed the Central Pacific railroad in the west and the C&O in the east, provided his son, Archer Huntington, with the wherewithal and wisdom to form several enduring museums with a combination of objects, books, and endowments. Much of the early bibliographic holdings of The Mariners' Museum were obtained from Archer Huntington's personal library. The marine artifacts were acquired by a small platoon of carefully selected individuals working under the guidance of Huntington and Newport News Shipyard's legendary president, Homer Ferguson.