Museum Completes Transformation of Grounds, Strategic Expansion of Indoor Exhibit Capacity
Mystic, Conn. (September 24, 2016) — Mystic Seaport celebrated the opening of the Thompson Exhibition Building, a 14,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility to enhance and increase the Museum’s ability to host world-class exhibits and succeed in its mission to inspire an enduring connection to America’s maritime heritage.
“Today we embark on a new era for the Museum,” said Steve White, president of Mystic Seaport. “The Thompson Building provides expansive, modern exhibit space that enables us to showcase the treasures of our vast collections in new and exciting ways. With its completion, we strengthen our position as a year-round destination and create a new gateway to Mystic Seaport and the Mystic area.
“This is an exciting expansion that will add to the magnetism of one of eastern Connecticut’s most cherished institutions,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT 2nd). “Mystic Seaport has long been a leading attraction in our region for both locals and out-of-state visitors alike. The addition of the brand new Thompson Exhibition Building and the completion of the north end of the museum will greatly enhance its ability to tell the story of our maritime past.”
The Thompson Building is the cornerstone and final element of the McGraw Gallery Quadrangle, a $15.3 million project which integrated existing buildings and grounds with new construction and unified the buildings of the north end of the Museum by focusing on their common role as formal exhibition galleries.
Named for the late Wade Thompson, a Mystic Seaport trustee for 27 years who believed passionately in the need for modern exhibition space and its importance for the future of the Museum, the Thompson Building houses the Collins Gallery, a 5,000-square-foot hall featuring soaring ceilings and a flexible layout that provides the caliber of conditions required to curate not only exhibits from the Mystic Seaport collections, but also permit the borrowing of outstanding art and artifacts from other museums around the world.
Other elements of the building include a prominent visitor’s entrance, a sweeping reception lobby, a ticketing center, a retail shop, and a meeting space, and the Masin Room, a conference room and meeting space which looks out over the Mystic River. A wraparound deck invites visitors to enjoy the riverside setting and serves as a covered overlook to the quadrangle’s common area.
Designed by the Connecticut firm Centerbrook Architects and Planners, the building seeks to evoke the “geometry of the sea,” drawing design cues from the interior of a wooden ship, the undulating sea, and a spiraling nautilus shell. Construction was managed by A/Z Corporation of North Stonington, CT.
The Thompson Building was funded through private and public sources, including generous support from individual philanthropists and foundations, the Thompson family, and a $2 million grant from the State of Connecticut.
Unveiled Saturday was a mural commissioned specifically for the lobby. Titled “Away,” the 59-foot-long work of art was created by Nikki McClure, an artist from Olympia, WA. The image was cut from black paper using an X-ACTO knife, then enlarged and fabricated in vinyl to install on wall. “Away” depicts a figure in a boat dragging his or her hand in the water, reflecting the continuing human desire “to touch the water and feel the wake,” in the words of the artist.
The first exhibit to be installed in the Collins gallery will be SeaChange, a dramatic presentation of a range of beautiful and unique objects drawn from the collections of Mystic Seaport. A handful of these intriguing artifacts will be on display for the first time, and all will be presented in a new setting which reveals surprising stories of transformation that continue to impact a contemporary audience and its experience with the sea. The exhibit opens December 10.
The Collins Gallery will also be the site of the presentation of the 2016 America and the Sea Award honoring Rod and Bob Johnstone and their company J/Boats. Given annually by the Museum, the prestigious award recognizes individuals or organizations whose contribution to the history, arts, business, or sciences of the sea best exemplify the American character. The award will be presented at a gala dinner on October 22.
About Mystic Seaport
Mystic Seaport is the nation’s leading maritime museum. Founded in 1929, the Museum is home to four National Historic Landmark vessels, including the Charles W. Morgan, America’s oldest commercial ship and the last wooden whaleship in the world. The Museum’s collection of more than two million artifacts includes more than 500 historic vessels and one of the largest collections of maritime photography in the country. The state-of-the-art Collections Research Center at Mystic Seaport provides scholars and researchers from around the world access to the Museum’s renowned archives. Mystic Seaport is located one mile south of Exit 90 off I-95 in Mystic, CT. Admission is $26 for adults and $17 for children ages 6-17. Museum members and children 5 and under are admitted free. For more information, please visit https://mysticseaport.wpengine.com/ and follow Mystic Seaport on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.