Leading the Way

Steve White presenting Conn. Gov. Dannel Malloy with a Morgan trunnel at a press conference in Hartford announcing the academic year 2013-14 as the “Year of the Charles W. Morgan.”

Steve White presenting Conn. Gov. Dannel Malloy with a Morgan trunnel at a press conference in Hartford announcing the academic year 2013-14 as the “Year of the Charles W. Morgan.”

Last month in a ceremony at the state Capitol in Hartford, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the State Senate declared the 2013-14 academic year to be the “Year of the Charles W. Morgan.” It was a proud moment for the Museum and we are grateful for the endorsement and support of our local political leaders.

The year will be a great opportunity for us to collaborate with the state on a variety of fronts. Foremost are our plans to build resources for educators to help them instruct students using the Morgan to teach a range of subject material, including – but not limited to – history. The story of whaling and the Morgan touches on themes of globalization, America’s economic and social history, science, and environmental conservation, among others. Mystic Seaport is working with educators, administrators, foundations, and students to craft innovative programs that we hope will be an example for other institutions.

We are breaking new ground for museums with this project, as we should, being the Museum of America and the Sea. Isn’t this what you should expect from us?

Leadership is a guiding principle for Mystic Seaport and we seek opportunities to lead the way, whether it is in curation, education, preservation, scholarship, or any of our endeavors.

The 38th Voyage of the Morgan in 2014 will be unprecedented. No one has experienced what it is to steer an American whaleship under sail since 1924. The Voyage will inform not only the historian, but the process of making that happen will also inform the stewards of other historic vessels who may be inspired to undertake a voyage of their own.

As Tom Jackson observed in the latest issue of WoodenBoat magazine, in the current challenging environment for historic vessels, the Morgan restoration is “a bracing success story.” The exhaustive level of documentation of the vessel’s construction is setting new standards for maritime preservation, and the traditional skills and techniques necessary to work on a large-timber wooden vessel are being passed on to a new generation of shipwrights.

As befits our status as America’s leading maritime museum, we are constantly being asked to contribute our time, expertise, and content from our collections. A recent example is our contribution to the new book, The War of 1812 and the Rise of the U.S. Navy. This is the U.S. Navy’s official commemorative book of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. This book well represents how we serve as a team at Mystic Seaport, saving and sharing public history. Louisa Alger Watrous, the Museum’s intellectual property manager and a descendent of the war’s famous Commodore John Rodgers, assisted the researchers in identifying material to illustrate his personal life. In the process, a trunk of valuable material found by another Rodgers’ descendant was saved and donated to Mystic Seaport through the guidance of Collections staff, cataloged with grant support, and made available for study. The researchers for this book pored through it and other historical material here, resulting in a great representation of Collections work in the publication.

The “Year of the Charles W. Morgan” is an opportunity for us to lead in many others ways and I look forward to sharing our plans and accomplishments in the future.

Steve White