The Imaginative Thinking of Mystic Seaport

Architect's rendering of the Thompson Exhibition Building.

Architect’s rendering of the Thompson Exhibition Building.

What does it mean to have imagination? Is it to see beyond the literal or concrete? Is it to think in a way that is outside the norm? Is it to build upon what is understood about the present? In the end, is it linked to creativity, to science? Whatever your answer, I suspect every reader has more than once been asked to let one’s imagination go in order to see a problem differently or to express an idea or vision from a fresh, new perspective. Certainly, we are so much the better for the solutions that imagination has created and for the works of art that have inspired us.

Over the years, imaginative thinking has provided institutions like Mystic Seaport with solutions and approaches to challenges that have proven to be critical to success. Whether such solutions were initially met with celebration or with doubt, one thing is undeniable: thoughtful imagination is a mandatory ingredient for an evolving organization. Consider these imaginative changes over time at the Museum: Three men in 1929 believed that our maritime heritage was worth saving and putting on display, and later the Mystic River was deemed the appropriate place for a relic of a whaleship. A seafaring village would be recreated on marshy land, and moving and even removing buildings would open up new spaces as the Museum continued to expand. Some felt that buying a decaying old velvet mill would eventually serve the Museum well, and others felt that holding onto our maritime trades and demonstrating them in a preservation shipyard and in the village would be essential to understanding our country’s heritage and defining Mystic Seaport.

Throughout the institution’s history, it has been the act of looking forward to find relevant solutions that has allowed Mystic Seaport to find its way successfully and to build its strong identity. Imagine if no risks were taken or bold decisions made. We would never have moved forward as the “Museum of America and the Sea.”

On January 8, we broke ground for the stunning Thompson Exhibition Building, which symbolizes the Museum’s imaginative thinking. The building evokes the spirit of the sea. It stands for opportunity that will serve the Museum well for generations to come. It will showcase our beautiful collections, and it will attract exhibitions from other leading museums around the world. It will invite our visitors during every month of the year to enter the north end of campus through the building and emerge into the Donald C. McGraw Gallery Quadrangle that will now feature seven integrated galleries with new exhibitions such as the three this year: “Modern Masterpiece – 30 Years of the Museum Purchase Award” in spring; “Voyaging in the Wake of the Whalers” in summer; and “Ships, Clocks & Stars – The Quest for Longitude” in fall. The first exhibit in the Thompson Building is planned for fall 2016.

Imagination!

Steve White