A Museum for Everyone

The landscape of Mystic Seaport is changing, as it has since the very beginning in 1929. There has been the acquisition of property, the creation of the Museum Village, the building of the Shipyard, dedicated exhibition buildings, the conversion of the Rossie Mill into the Collections Research Center, and constant modifications and upgrades to existing facilities. All these editions of the Museum have worked well, and as the public demands and visitation patterns have changed, so has Mystic Seaport. As you are well aware, in recent winters, we have been closed to the public for six weeks in response to a declining demand, yet we know that the campus is a remarkable asset that needs to be used to its fullest potential in all seasons and weather conditions.

The Donald C. McGraw Gallery Quadrangle, featuring the Thompson Exhibition Building and modifications to the other buildings around the Quad, is the physical response to that need. It ushers in a new business model that features an integrated exhibition space and year-round opportunity for drawing visitors. We finished the first phase of the project this summer with the completion of the Quad space and improvements to the surrounding buildings and the initiation of the construction of the Thompson Building. After seeing the results and progress first-hand, I can say that both the late Wade Thompson and the late Donald McGraw would be extremely pleased.

It is only fitting that two remarkable exhibitions opened in the Quad that herald the establishment of this new and enhanced area at Mystic Seaport. “Ships, Clocks & Stars: The Quest for Longitude” opened on September 19 in the renovated R.J. Schaefer Building, and “Voyaging in the Wake of the Whalers” opened on June 20 on the first floor of the Stillman Building. They demonstrate the fulfilment of a priority for Mystic Seaport: presenting stunning exhibitions that feature either our collections or exhibitions from other leading maritime museums.

These exhibitions show what is possible at the Museum and what we intend for the future. Also, they allow us to establish a new winter operations model for Mystic Seaport beginning this year, which is described in some detail in the following pages. This new model calls for the Museum to reopen to the public for the entirety of the winter season, but in a manner that focuses primarily on indoor spaces in the Quad and related buildings. It allows us to provide a distinctive and compelling experience for our visitors year-round: one we believe will have something for everyone. What the visitors will experience this winter foretells what will exist when the Thompson Building is open next year, creating an even more dynamic winter experience. At that time, the fullest potential of the Donald C. McGraw Gallery Quadrangle will be realized, and we will have a compelling winter destination for our members and visitors to the Mystic region.

Steve White