The Stage is Set

Steve White presenting Conn. Gov. Dannel Malloy with a Morgan trunnel at a press conference in Hartford on April 18, 2012. At the conference Gov. Malloy and other Connecticut state legislators designated the 2013-14 academic year to be the “Year of the Charles W. Morgan” in the State of Connecticut.

There is much to look forward to in 2013 at Mystic Seaport, but now is the opportunity to reflect on the accomplishments of so many throughout the past year. Has Mystic Seaport delivered on its promise to inspire an enduring connection to the American maritime experience? The answer is a resounding YES! Over the span of a year, it’s quite remarkable just how much the staff provided for our members and visitors with respect to events, programs, and exhibits. Let’s begin with the two recent exhibits: “Treasures of the Collection” and the Dalvero Academy’s “Restoring a Past, Charting a Future.” Each continues to bring wide acclaim for its beauty and perspective; each serves to inspire an appreciation for interpretations of our maritime heritage both contemporary and traditional. And both can be viewed time and time again while delivering the same impressive result.

Our time-proven events, including the Sea Music Festival, the WoodenBoat Show, the Antique Marine Engine Show, and Lantern Light Tours, treated us to aspects of our maritime heritage as only Mystic Seaport can by virtue of its compelling environment. The success of these events and others depends entirely on the talent of our staff from all departments, but especially the Interpretation Department who create an engaging and memorable experience for all visitors. A new event, a naturalization ceremony for new citizens on Flag Day, directly connected us to our national heritage and our country’s values. As most Americans can trace their ancestors’ arrival here by sea, there is perhaps no better place to hold such a ceremony.

Throughout the year, the Shipyard was in full gear caring for numerous vessels in our watercraft collection and for vessels of other organizations. At one point last spring, our waterfront and Shipyard were graced by the presence of three visiting vessels: Amistad, Lynx, and the Lettie G. Howard, underscoring the importance of Mystic Seaport to the traditional vessel world. And of course the inspirational work on the Charles W. Morgan continued giving visitors an extraordinary view of the tremendous work being completed in the final months of her restoration. There is no place in America where one can witness such significant and meaningful work on vessels of great importance. In just this past year, three of our four National Historic Landmark vessels were hauled for maintenance, and in late fall the Joseph Conrad joined the Morgan again on the hard.

Not quite as visible but equally as important to the Museum is the work carried on by the Collections and Education Departments. School groups abounded and found inspiration in new programs enhanced by the Online Learning Community work that has yielded fresh and innovative ways to use our collections and other assets. Quietly and behind the scenes the collections grew and were utilized to support all the work done at the Museum, and a portion of our artifacts was moved to new quarters in the Mill. As recently as just before Christmas, a beautiful new half model of the clipper ship David Crockett was added to the collection. It was a significant addition as the 218′ ship was built by the Greenman Brothers Shipyard (on what is now our Lighthouse Point) in 1853.

Of course our events and programs would not be possible without our beautiful buildings and grounds, which provide meaningful context and are maintained and enhanced by a skillful and dedicated team. With a mandate by the Board of Trustees, 2012 saw the Museum accelerate its commitment to addressing deferred maintenance to deal with painting, roofing, boilers, and many other projects that have long needed attention. One will see that work continue this winter.

During 2012, Gov. Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly declared that the 2013-14 school year would be designated as “The Year of the Charles W. Morgan.” Beginning with her launch on July 21, 2013 and ending with her 38th Voyage in 2014, the year will feature special events to highlight the significance of the Morgan to Connecticut, New England, and America. Plans have begun to directly link the Morgan and Mystic Seaport with Connecticut’s schools, utilizing the diverse historical content that exists with the ship and her history.

The stage was set in 2012 to make 2013 and 2014 years that will long be long remembered. I express my deep appreciation to all members and donors whose generosity in support of our mission and staff provided the resources to make it all work. How fortunate we all have been. Stay tuned and plan on many visits in 2013.

Happy New Year!

Steve White