OPEN ROAD LIFESTYLE
Brilliance On The Waters: Mystic Seaport
The Largest Maritime Museum In The Country That Offers An Interactive And Educational Experience For All Ages
The largest maritime museum in the country, Mystic Seaport is an interactive and educational experience sure to appeal to all ages. More than just a museum, visitors can take a boat out and learn to sail or meander through a recreated seaport town.
“We don't want to just force information on people,” said Productions Manager Sarah Spencer. “We want people to experience and learn about 19th and 20th century maritime history. Our history, regardless of maritime or not, is important for people to know about. It's the background we all generate from. Maritime history, many people find that somewhat exotic or mysterious and entertaining. It's not always pretty, but it's an important part of history to learn from.”
An example of that is one of Mystic Seaport's most prized boats in their large collection: The Morgan, a whaling ship from the 19th century. She is the only wooden whale ship and the last American-built commercial vessel of the 19th century.
“She represents an important element in our country's development, in that industry,” said Spencer. “It's not something we are advocating. But it was a necessity back then. Petroleum wasn't discovered in 1857. These are not pretty parts of our history, but we do need to talk about them or we don't learn from them.”
The water is full of ships from throughout the years. And the land
nearby is a small seaport town, recreated to represent the 1860s. Before
Mystic Seaport became a museum and shipyard, the banks of the Mystic
River were the center of shipbuilding. Between 1784 and 1919 - “the
golden age of American maritime enterprise – more than 600 vessels were
constructed along the Mystic River in eastern Connecticut. Said Spencer:
“Mystic was renowned for ship building. If you had a Mystic-built ship
that was cache.”
Inside Mystic Seaport's seaport town are many interactive things to take advantage of. Aside from their two or three re-enactors (who stay in character – asking you what your camera is), the seaport town is occupied by a demonstration squad. Throughout the town are employees partaking in activities that sailors may have once done, like setting sails and raising anchors. These are physical activities that visitors can often come and help with.
“We try to be as interactive and participatory as possible, as safety allows. We also offer during the warmer seasons – boat rides in the river. We have a horse and carriage that people can take a ride around the grounds,” said Spencer. “We have a planetarium on the property that has programs during the day, learning about celestial navigation and the history of navigating.”
But one part of the Mystic Seaport experience that stands out to Spencer is a 62 foot sail educational vessel called Brilliance. A captain and mate take small groups of people out to sail on the Brilliance, allowing them to act as the crew and learn about various sailing skills.
“She is one of my favorites. I have been able to sail on her as a staff member and she is just a beautiful boat,” said Spencer. “If you're not familiar with vessels and not sure you're comfortable, she's very safe and stable. The captain and crew are always informative, great instructors.”
While not many people may be specifically interested in maritime history or New England history, Spencer believes that doesn't really factor into why people love their trip to Mystic Seaport.
She explained: “I think they will find an exhibit, a ship, an activity, something that will cause them to pause and really enjoy and learn.”
A graduate of East Connecticut State University in Journalism, Olivia
has written for Stonebridge Press & Antiques Marketplace among
others. She enjoys writing, running and video games.