Mystic Seaport officially opened its newest exhibit, “Ships, Clocks & Stars: The Quest for Longitude” with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday, September 19. Museum staff and dignitaries gathered in front of the R.J. Schaefer Building to offer some brief comments and declare the exhibit open to the public.
The exhibit, on loan from the National Maritime Museum in London, was created to commemorate the tercentennial anniversary of the passing of the 1714 Longitude Act, which offered a prize to anyone who could demonstrate a reliable and accurate method to determine longitude at sea. It chronicles how some of the leading minds of the 17th and 18th centuries applied astronomy, horology, the study of the earth’s magnetism, and other disciplines in their quest to discover a way for mariners to know where they were at sea. Some highlights of the exhibit include four of John Harrison’s timekeepers, one of the earliest sextants ever constructed, the sea watches Captain James Cook and Lt. William Bligh carried on their Pacific voyages, and a pamphlet from the library of Sir. Isaac Newton.
“We are very proud and excited to be able to bring this remarkable exhibit to Mystic Seaport,” said Museum President Steve White. “It demonstrates a sincere collaboration between two of the leading maritime museums in the world, and also the high quality of exhibition visitors can expect from us as we move into a new era for Mystic Seaport with the completion next year of the new Thompson Exhibition Building.”
White was joined at the ribbon cutting by Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-2); Dava Sobel, author of the bestselling book Longitude; Will Andrewes, a consultant and horology expert who was instrumental in creating the exhibit; and Connecticut state Sen. Andrew Maynard. Once the ribbon was cut, the assembled crowd was invited in to view the exhibit for the first time.
“Ships, Clocks & Stars” will run through March 28, 2016, after which time it will move to the Australian Maritime Museum in Sydney.