From the President
A Change for the Good
It is with great anticipation that we open SeaChange in the Collins Gallery in the new Thompson Exhibition Building. Perhaps you have been by to peek into the gallery to “sea” what is going on and to get a glimpse of what the first show will bring to the community. There was an impressive list of important criteria that we wanted the inaugural exhibition to satisfy under the leadership of our director of Exhibits, Elysa Engelman, Ph.D. Two key qualities we wanted the exhibition to convey were to “celebrate the new exhibition space” and “showcase important objects from our collections.” Once entering the Collins Gallery, you will at once realize that those two criteria and many more have been met.
The new 5,000 square-foot Collins Gallery features a simple, clean open space with sweeping wooden arches and a high ceiling. The space invites large objects as well as the opportunity for unique and dramatic presentation certainly not possible before at Mystic Seaport – or at most museums for that matter. SeaChange will feature ten key, tent-pole objects that represent different aspects of our collection and which will also introduce broad maritime themes that connect directly, or indirectly, to America’s maritime heritage. SeaChange is also a metaphor for the transformation that Mystic Seaport has undergone as a direct result of the entire McGraw Gallery Quadrangle project, but most specifically the Thompson Exhibition Building. In completing the project and now opening the exhibition, we bring closure to the journey to bring to reality the vision of Wade Thompson, whose passion drove the project from its inception. But we also open up the Museum for all sorts of new, creative possibilities in the future. We are excited by the opportunity and believe that such a continuous string of inspiring exhibitions will serve the museum community for years to come and greatly enhance our own business model.
You will see that SeaChange represents a fresh look at exhibition design. Contemporary shapes evoke the spirit of sails or icebergs, while the content derived from the objects is presented with multi-media components and in an interactive manner that invites you to go deeper into the story, and in the spirit of the space to let your imagination wander through the subject matter. It will be hard to miss the 31-foot umiak, for example. First, seeing the walrus-skinned boat suspended in space makes one dwell on the object itself, as the presentation is completely unexpected. Then, as you approach the unusual design, the story of the vessel becomes the focal point. How can such a fragile looking structure endure the complex and challenging aspects of the Northwest Passage? (Which it did.) How did this “innovation” in boat design serve indigenous peoples and also a contemporary explorer? What can we learn from this single object presented in such a stunning manner?
Much of the power of the exhibition comes from surprise: from the shape of the building, to the Collins Gallery space, and the quality of the objects; SeaChange presents a different experience for Mystic Seaport visitors. This is another proud moment for us made possible by our Exhibition and Collections Departments. Please join the excitement and help us celebrate the building, the breadth of our collections, and the talents of our staff.
Speaking of unexpected, have you seen Sabino’s boiler in the Pilalas Lobby of the Thompson Building?