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Collins Gallery, Thompson Exhibition Building
SeaChange, the inaugural exhibit in the Collins Gallery in the new Thompson Exhibition Building, presents a range of striking, surprising, and unusual objects drawn from the rich collections of Mystic Seaport. Each is a survivor of the past that speaks to a notable transformation—in material, technology, the sea itself, or the broader American culture over the past 200 years.
A special grouping of these intriguing artifacts are on display for the first time, alongside other Museum visitors’ favorites, all presented in a new setting with surprising stories. Together, they give glimpses into people’s lives in different places and times, from scientific surveyors charting the Atlantic coast on the eve of the American Revolution to western merchants trading for silk and tea in 1850s China, from Arctic explorers to laborers harvesting bird guano off Peru for American farmers. The stories of transformation they relate continue to impact our lives and our experiences with the sea.
In keeping with the bold design, clean lines, and natural materials of the Thompson Building, the exhibit design uses large, free-standing abstract structures evocative of sails or icebergs to frame each central artifact, taking advantage of the soaring heights in the Collins Gallery. The overall effect is visually stunning, an inviting space that entices visitors to contemplate, discover, discuss—and return to the exhibit.
SeaChange extends the sensory approach beyond the visual. The custom-created interactives will give people the chance to peer inside a 1740s English ship model, test the principles behind dazzling World War I ship camouflage, and zoom-in to see the tiny carved cuts on modern miniature figureheads. A range of public programs will complement the gallery experience and further explore the “sea change” that links stories from around the world to our own.