A Bold New Direction

At the start of 2018, I wrote to introduce our “Era of Exhibitions,” a dramatic and ambitious plan of programming here at Mystic Seaport that grew out of our 2010 and 2017 Strategic Plans. As I said to you then, “These last five years have been the culmination of a grand vision to reimagine the potential of the Museum, and our collective efforts have laid the groundwork for an explosive and memorable 2018.”

Yet even when I wrote that I think I didn’t realize how memorable this year would be. Earlier this year we engaged Carbone Smolan Agency in New York City to help us reposition the Museum. Their approach and ideas best captured what we have been articulating within our practices and our vision.  As a result of their research, it was they who suggested, strongly, that Mystic Seaport bring “Museum” back into its name, front and center, and with emphasis.

So on May 1 we unveiled our new name, new logo, new website and new ad campaign. What you will see is our new logo represented in a bold color and design that is consistent with the direction we set a number of years ago in designing the Thompson Exhibition Building. Together, the building, our programs and exhibitions, and now our logo all say the same thing: Mystic Seaport Museum is indeed evolving and embracing contemporary culture.

Be assured we are staying true to our roots in this new initiative. Just as the Charles W. Morgan serves as a strong, evocative symbol for our dedication to inspiring an enduring connection to the American maritime experience, so too the new logo demonstrates the manner in which Mystic Seaport Museum continues to evolve as an organization.

This comprehensive effort is the strong outgrowth of our 2017 Strategic Plan, driven by the vision to reimagine the interchange between maritime heritage and broader contemporary culture. Our 2010 Strategic Plan yielded some pretty impressive results, including the completion of the Charles W. Morgan restoration and her historic 38th Voyage; the institutional commitment to fully embrace the principles of public history as our guiding philosophy; and the design for and completion of the McGraw Gallery Quadrangle project, including the Thompson Exhibition Building.

The 2017 Strategic Plan has at its core several key components aimed at producing a more successful and sustainable future, including the commitment to: creating immersive and interactive experiences campus-wide, developing the fullest potential of our staff, sparking dialogue about contemporary issues, and producing dynamic exhibitions that capitalize on our collections and the talents of our staff and which span a broad spectrum of maritime-related subjects.

Fundamental to developing a stronger business model is increasing the number of visitors to the Museum across four seasons with a focus on appealing to new and diverse audiences.  Some organizations subscribe to the philosophy of “build it and they will come,” which is more an exercise in wishful thinking than it is an expression of a sound business model.  Given all that Mystic Seaport has accomplished in its nearly 90-year history,  the question had become, how do we stay relevant in a changing world? We have a timely opportunity to launch a comprehensive initiative to broadcast our accomplishments and our future exhibitions as well as to present the Museum in a manner consistent with our bold and more contemporary thinking.

In line with this, Carbone Smolan Agency has created new advertising messaging that is both an invitation and a call to action. I’d like to think that Carl Cutler, one of our founders, would agree that the concept of Radical Craft: Get Into It goes hand in hand with his assertion that the Museum should be “an inspiring force for the future.”  Our invitation to the public is to come to Mystic Seaport Museum and get into the immersive experiences.  Our promise is to spark contemporary conversations, grounded in history, through the Museum’s work across diverse issues facing you today.

Take note and Get Into It!