Press Releases

A new major exhibition at Mystic Seaport Museum, “Entwined: Freedom, Sovereignty, and the Sea”

First Edition Eliot Bible, New and Old Testament, 1663. Published by Samuel Green, Cambridge, MA. A rare copy of the 1663 bible. Courtesy of the Collection of Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. Photo courtesy of Mystic Seaport Museum, Joe Michael.

Mystic Seaport Museum is pleased to present Entwined: Freedom, Sovereignty, and the Sea, an exhibition that surveys the interplay of maritime histories through Indigenous, African, and African-descended worldviews. Opening on April 20, 2024 and on view until Spring 2026, the exhibition will examine the twelve millennia of Black and Indigenous history through objects and loaned belongings from Indigenous and African communities dating back 2,500 years, including a selection of 22 contemporary artworks. Entwined will be the first exhibition by Akeia de Barros Gomes, Senior Curator of Maritime Social Histories at the Museum, and is the culmination of a three-year initiative supported by the Mellon Foundation to re-examine regional museum collections through a contemporary lens. Entwined will be accessible to Black and Indigenous community contributors to the exhibition for a month prior to the official opening. 

Entwined celebrates the survival of the indigenous cultures on two continents over thousands of years and a shared connection of Indigenous Africans and Indigenous Americans to the Atlantic” shared de Barros Gomes. “This exhibition explores stories under a contemporary cultural umbrella from creation through periods of interruption and trauma to the modern traditional expressions of how we continue to thrive.” 

The earliest belonging (object) on view in Entwined dates to over 2,500 years ago, a time when both sub-Saharan Africa and the Dawnland—the name for New England among Indigenous nations in the Northeast—were centers of flourishing civilizations and cultural diversity. During this era, African societies were marked by advanced trade networks and the development of sophisticated art and craftsmanship. Meanwhile, Indigenous communities in the Dawnland maintained extensive trade networks and a deep connection with their environment, producing sophisticated artwork, spiritual belongings, and tools that reflected their ties to nature. Overseas migration—both forced, and increasingly during the era of whaling, free—brought people from the coast of Africa into contact with Indigenous communities in New England. These encounters initiated a complex intersection of social identity and shared struggle related to colonial displacement, but also a recognition of common expertise in navigating and utilizing the resources of the ocean.  

At Mystic Seaport Museum, Entwined expands upon this history to highlight the various oceanic spiritual, social, and technological threads that exist between Black and Indigenous communities on both sides of the Atlantic that continue to resonate and confront us today. Central to the exhibition is a canoe commissioned by Mystic Seaport Museum and built collaboratively by four contemporary artists: two of African descent, Sika Foyer (Togo) and Alvin Ashiatey (Ghana); and two of Native American descent, Hartman Deetz (Mashpee Wampanoag) and Gary Carter Jr. (Mashantucket Pequot). The canoe, which is both a traditional and contemporary piece of art was created in a “dugout” tradition, a process by which the wood is hollowed out by burning and then polished, which has been the way of fashioning canoes for various African and Indigenous communities for thousands of years. This shared method of craftsmanship highlights an incredible commonality between African and Indigenous peoples’ relationship to the sea that long predates European contact.  

Entwined will reveal the foundation of Black and Indigenous maritime cultures through historical artwork and belongings that outline the respective histories and traditions associated with African and Indigenous cultures’ relationship to the ocean. The Indigenous belongings include artworks on loan from Indigenous nations and individuals such as fishing decoys, beads, and a water drum. A second thematic guiding force of the exhibition, and the oldest belonging on view, is an Aboriginal Cooking Pot ca. 500 BCE. underscoring a method of shell tempering that is common to both the Dawnland and African continent. Another object loaned to the Museum by the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center is a first edition Eliot Bible, translated and printed by a Nipmuc man named Wowaus (later known as James Printer). Raised as a Christian, he was introduced to the missionary John Eliot and became one of several Indigenous men who contributed to the translation of the Eliot Bible. While initially translated into the Algonquian dialect-N as a tool for Europeans to Christianize Native Americans, the Eliot Bible was used 350 years later by Northeast Indigenous communities as reference materials to relearn and reclaim endangered Algonquian languages.   

The exhibition also features a replication of a colonial attic typical of where Indigenous indentured servants and enslaved Africans were forced to live. A highlight among the belongings in this space is an 18th-century nkisi bundle originally discovered underneath a floorboard in the attic of the Wanton Lyman Hazard House, the oldest standing colonial house in Newport, Rhode Island. Minkisi (plural) are a collection of various objects such as shells, beads, and glass that were created to bridge the gap between the physical world and ancestors, maintain a connection to Africa, and provide protection and healing. The bundle is the only example surviving in New England. 

Continuing into the present day, Entwined will feature works that highlight contemporary Black and Indigenous reclaiming of freedom, sovereignty, and the sea. Painting and sculpture will be presented by Black and Indigenous artists based in the northeast United States, including Christian Gonçalves, Sherenté Mishitashin Harris, Sierra Henries, Elizabeth James Perry, Gail “White Hair Smiling” Rokotuibau, Robin Spears, Felandes Thames, Alison Wells, and Nafis M. White.  

The autonomy given through the whaling industry is explored in both Courtney M. Leonard’s BREACH: Logbook 15 / SCRIMSHAW STUDY #2 (2015) and Felandus Thames’s Wail on Whalers, a portrait of Amos Haskins (2024). Leonard referenced the history of Indigenous whaling pre-colonization with a ceramic sculpture of a whale tooth painted with red clay, while Thames presents a portrait homage to Amos Haskins, an Aquinnah Wampanoag master mariner. The Other Side of the Harbor (2013) by Alison Wells collages news clippings and references to the Underground Railroad in the free state whaling city of New Bedford. Applications of maritime culture on indigenous art are highlighted in Sierra Autumn Henries’s She Sings the Old Songs (2024), birch bark carving and wampum work paying tribute to generations of whalesong. Further works of water drums, traditional dance regalia, hair work, and jewelry were recently made to serve as a connection for future descendants to embrace and appreciate their historical narratives. These intertwined threads of history coalesce in the collaborative canoe to create a tapestry of shared experiences. 


Entwined: Freedom, Sovereignty, and the Sea is generously funded by the Just Futures Initiative of the Mellon Foundation as part of the Reimagining New England Histories project. 

Mystic Seaport Museum also gratefully acknowledges our project partners, Brown University and Williams College, and our community advisors whose collective voices, knowledge, creativity, and wisdom are foregrounded in this exhibition.

Exhibit design and fabrication by SmokeSygnals. 

Press Releases

Mystic Seaport Museum presents Spineless: A Glass Menagerie of Blaschka Marine Invertebrates

Mystic Seaport Museum presents
Spineless: A Glass Menagerie of Blaschka Marine Invertebrates

Opening October 21, 2023

Mystic, Conn. (October 3, 2023) – Mystic Seaport Museum is pleased to present Spineless: A Glass Menagerie of Blaschka Marine Invertebrates, a major exhibition featuring selections from the 19th-century Blaschka Glass Invertebrates collection at The Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard and from other institutions. The exhibition features over 40 of the exquisite models, and is the first to emphasize models which are now identified as introduced species, including many now found in New England waterways. Co-curated by Krystal Rose, Curator of Collections at Mystic Seaport Museum and Dr. James T. Carlton, Director Emeritus of the Williams-Mystic Coastal and Ocean Studies Program, Spineless will be on view October 21, 2023 through September 2024, highlighting both the history of 19th-century science and the study and tracking of marine introduced species in the wake of globalization.

Spineless provides a rare opportunity to see the world-famous Blaschka models in a new context, interpreted through the lens of maritime and marine science histories and connecting the past with the present,” said Christina Connett Brophy, Senior Director of Museum Galleries and Senior Vice President of Curatorial Affairs at Mystic Seaport Museum. “Using the Museum’s own collections as well as some exquisite loans from the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University and others, the Blaschka models come alive with themes that relate to other exhibitions and programs throughout the campus and our unique site along the Mystic River.”

The exhibition highlights the intriguing story of father and son glassmakers Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka of Dresden, Germany. In the 1850s, the elder Blaschka became fascinated by invertebrates he observed while at sea.  After a successful commission to create sea anemone models for a nearby natural history museum, Leopold and later on his son, Rudolf, went on to produce glass models of hundreds of marine invertebrates.  The glasswork of the Blaschkas beautifully captured the forms, anatomical details, and colors of these magnificent sea creatures.  Through a mail-order business, they successfully sold and distributed these often extraordinarily fragile pieces to museums and universities around the world for teaching and display purposes.

When creating the models, the Blaschkas relied on their relationships with scientists, along with observations of live specimens held in aquariums, wet specimens, books, and scientific journals. In Spineless, selected models are accompanied by sailors’ journals and rare books containing sketches, watercolors, written descriptions, and photographs, giving a glimpse into early documentation and scientific work at sea. Wet specimens, preserved in jars, highlight the challenges that the Blaschkas and scientists faced in preserving and documenting invertebrates for study. These historic objects are complemented by depictions of marine invertebrates by contemporary artists, demonstrating our enduring interest in these remarkable, often mysterious creatures.

A special presentation within Spineless turns an eye towards some of the invertebrates’ modern-day environmental impact as introduced species. Since the models’ creation in the late 19th century, some of the species they represent have been introduced around the world, traveling on the hulls of ships and in ballast water. Those models are singled out and contextualized through the work of co-curator Dr. James T. Carlton, one of the world’s leading experts in marine bioinvasions. In Carlton’s own words, “the Blaschka glass models elegantly illustrate the absence of any boundaries between art and the science of the sea, including our modern-day environmental concerns for ocean conservation.”

Spineless: A Glass Menagerie of Blaschka Marine Invertebrates marks the continuation of the Museum’s educational initiatives on introduced species in the context of maritime history, which began with the currently-on-view Alexis Rockman: Oceanus. A new series of waterfront panels on introduced species, Spineless, and Oceanus will highlight many of the same invertebrates created by the Blaschkas in a contemporary context.

Spineless: A Glass Menagerie of Blaschka Marine Invertebrates will be accompanied by various programs and lectures throughout the duration of the show.

Spineless was made possible by generous support from:

The Edward and Mary Lord Foundation

The SpringRiver Foundation

Design Principles, Inc.

Thank you to the individuals and institutions who loaned materials for this exhibition.

Elizabeth Brill

Marian and Russell Burke

Corning Museum of Glass

Ernst Mayr Library at Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology

Suzette Mouchaty

Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University

Museum of Science, Boston

New Bedford Whaling Museum

Emily Williams

Yale Peabody Museum Department of Invertebrate Zoology


Media Contact

Sophia Matsas
Director of Marketing & Communications
Mystic Seaport Museum
860.572.5317 (o)

About Mystic Seaport Museum

Mystic Seaport Museum is the nation’s leading maritime Museum. Founded in 1929 to gather and preserve the rapidly disappearing artifacts of America’s seafaring past, the Museum has grown to become a national center for research and education with the mission to “inspire an enduring connection to the American maritime experience.” The Museum’s grounds cover 19 acres on the Mystic River in Mystic, CT, and include a recreated New England coastal village, a working shipyard, formal exhibit halls, and state-of-the-art artifact storage facilities. The Museum is home to more than 500 historic watercraft, including four National Historic Landmark vessels, most notably the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan. For more information, please visit mysticseaport.org and follow the Museum on FacebookTwitterYouTube, and Instagram.


Press Releases

“Story Boats: The Tales They Tell” Opens at Mystic Seaport Museum May 28

Franklin Delano Roosevelt's yacht VIREO.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s yacht VIREO.

Mystic, Conn. (April 6, 2022) – The exhibition “Story Boats: The Tales They Tell” gathers a diverse selection of boats, large and small, to offer a fresh and exciting view into the American maritime experience. Drawn from the Museum’s extensive watercraft collection (including some that are being shown to the public for the very first time) the boats in the show bring to life remarkable stories of humanity’s connection to the sea.

“Story Boats: The Tales They Tell” will be on view in the Collins Gallery at Mystic Seaport Museum from May 28 through August 14, 2022. It was curated by Quentin Snediker, the Museum’s Clark Senior Curator for Watercraft and Krystal Rose, Curator of Collections.

“While many visitors and field experts are interested in the technical and material aspects of the collection, what resonates with a broader audience are the diverse personal stories that are inherently tied to those boats and how these stories connect with our visitors’ own journeys,” said Christina Brophy, Senior Vice President of Curatorial Affairs and Senior Director of Museum Galleries at Mystic Seaport Museum. “What ties these boats together thematically, and is the inspiration for the exhibition ‘Story Boats: The Tales They Tell,’ is the remarkable richness of human-interest stories behind them, which include themes of hope, exploration, survival, joy, adventure, sport, immigration, and many others.”

One of the Museum’s greatest assets is its collection of small watercraft, which is arguably the largest of its type and the best in the country. Mystic Seaport Museum has more than 450 small boats as well as a fleet of larger historic vessels moored on its waterfront along the Mystic River. Four of these vessels are designated National Historic Landmarks. As a whole, they represent an extraordinary array of design, purpose, and materials beginning in the early 19th century to the present, from dugout canoes to duck boats to recreational Boston Whalers and everything in between and beyond.

Senior Curator for Watercraft, Quentin Snediker and Curator of Collections, Krystal Rose, along with the Museum’s exhibits team consulted with a diverse pool of experts and lay people to distill a list of boats from the collection that have these outstanding stories to tell. The exhibition installation in the Thompson Building Collins Gallery and Pilalas Lobby will fully utilize the grand volume of the space to advantage, where some of the lighter vessels will “fly” suspended from the ceiling, while others will be mounted on the gallery floor. Each vessel will be exhibited with an iconic object that alludes to its story.

A few highlights from the exhibit include:

Franklin D Roosevelt’s Vireo

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1914 knockabout sloop Vireo (from our collection) will be displayed alongside his wheelchair (on loan from the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites). Roosevelt contracted polio in 1921 shortly before a family trip and was aboard the vessel on the last day he walked without assistance.

Steven Callahan’s 76 Days Adrift

Mystic Seaport Museum recently received a collection of material from Steven Callahan, author of “Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea,” the true story of his survival of being lost at sea in a rubber life raft after his solo sailing trip across the Atlantic met with disaster. His sketches and some of the survival tools he created from his scant supplies will be on display with a similar model of the raft from which he found rescue off Guadeloupe. Callahan’s recent oral histories recorded by Mystic Seaport Museum will also be available in the exhibition.

Escape from Cuba Aboard Analuisa

The Analuisa is a 20-foot fishing vessel built by Luciano Cuadras Fernández, launched from Mariel, Cuba, in 1994 with 19 people aboard bound for Florida. Partway across, they were picked up by a passing cruise ship, abadoning the Analuisa. A very fortunate group of four on a totally different, floundering vessel (also out of Cuba) happened upon the abandoned Analuisa and navigated her safely to Key West. The sturdy Analuisa was a success story for two immigrant groups in one voyage. These are just a few of the hundreds of amazing stories that are tied to our Gallery collection.

To complement the main exhibition, other watercraft will be mounted on the deck surrounding the Thompson Exhibition Building and on the surrounding grounds, including Tango, a bright orange foot-pedal powered craft designed by the legendary naval architect Bruce Kirby. In 1992, Dwight Collins pedaled the boat from Newfoundland to England in 41 days, the fastest human-powered crossing in known history. In addition to these displays, visitors can explore our grounds to floating Story Boats vessels that carry their own powerful tales, including the Gerda III, which is on long-term loan from the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. In 1943, a courageous 22-year-old woman named Henny Sinding organized a resistance team to carry more than 300 Jews from Nazi-occupied Denmark to safety in Sweden aboard the Gerda III.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a souvenir book, “Story Boats,” to be published by Mystic Seaport Museum.

Media Contact:
Sophia Matsas
Director of Marketing & Communications
Mystic Seaport Museum
860.572.5317 (o)

About Mystic Seaport Museum

Mystic Seaport Museum is the nation’s leading maritime Museum. Founded in 1929 to gather and preserve the rapidly disappearing artifacts of America’s seafaring past, the Museum has grown to become a national center for research and education with the mission to “inspire an enduring connection to the American maritime experience.” The Museum’s grounds cover 19 acres on the Mystic River in Mystic, CT, and include a recreated New England coastal village, a working shipyard, formal exhibit halls, and state-of-the-art artifact storage facilities. The Museum is home to more than 500 historic watercraft, including four National Historic Landmark vessels, most notably the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan. For more information, please visit mysticseaport.org and follow the Museum on FacebookTwitterYouTube, and Instagram.



Fine Silver and Wood Carvings Inspired by the Sea

Sea as Muse, Now on Exhibit

Sea As MuseFor artists, inspiration can come from anywhere, but in the late 19th century, wood carvers and silversmiths often drew it from the sea. In the fourth and final exhibit funded by a generous grant from the Henry Luce foundation, the Sea as Muse exhibit will display 115 beautiful objects inspired by the sea, including anything from sea life to sea creatures to the yachting and sailing life.

Sea as Muse opened on September 18th and was curated by Katherine Hijar. The exhibit will showcase more than 40 silver trophies, many of which were locally made in either Meriden, Connecticut or Providence, Rhode Island. Both cities were home to some of the largest silver manufacturing companies in the country during that time.

A lot of the trophies were awards for yachting and sailing competitions, and while previous exhibits focused on the yachts themselves and their often-famous owners, this exhibit offers a fresh perspective, focusing on the fine art and intricate design of the treasures themselves, as well as the stories behind them.

One trophy in particular has quite the unusual backstory. In big regattas during the late 1800s, it was common to give the owners of losing yachts a presentation piece as recognition of their participation. However, the Livonia trophy, was awarded by anonymous Americans in London who clearly intended to mock the Livonia’s owner.

It commemorates the results of a yachting challenge to the New York Yacht Club by James Ashbury of England, who was determined to win the America’s Cup for the Royal Harwich Yacht Club. In a series of seven races in October 1871, Ashbury’s Livonia competed against two American yachts, winning just one race against the Columbia. Ashbury contested the result but after an investigation, the New York Yacht Club affirmed its original decision. This trophy was not awarded by the New York Yacht Club however, as the engraving tells us that it was commissioned and presented to Ashbury by “Americans in London” as acknowledgment of Ashbury’s single win. The fact that it only mentions one win out of five and that both Ashbury’s name and the name of his yacht were misspelled all point towards this trophy being one very expensive insult.  The figures on top of the cup further suggest this, as the standing figure is Columbia, representing the United States, and the figure that kneels before her is Britannia, representing Great Britain. These two figures were depicted frequently in art and political cartoons that aimed to show that both nations were equally great, however on this trophy, Britannia shows subservience to Columbia—a subtle but clear suggestion of Britain’s—and Ashbury’s—inferiority.

Unsurprisingly, Ashbury refused the cup, and it was returned to the unknown Americans who gave it to him.

Another piece in the collection, the “Palladium Trophy” was named after The Daily Palladium, which was once a newspaper in New Haven, Connecticut. The piece was made by Rogers, Smith & Co. in 1887 in Meriden, Connecticut and was donated by the paper. It is widely recognized as the “Neptune Trophy” for the statue of the Roman god of freshwater and the sea that sits atop it.

The exhibit also includes a few masterpieces from The Gorham Manufacturing Company and Tiffany, including two Astor Cups, named for John Jacob Astor the IV, who donated a large sum of money to the New York Yacht Club to pay for two trophies a year that would bear his name.

While much of the exhibit showcases fine silver, there is also an incredible wood carving portion, featuring items from the yacht Aloha II, which was owned by wealthy American Arthur Curtiss James, a true yachtsman who loved everything about yachting and the sea, including the active yachting social life. The carvings on display are from his deck saloon and include a series of magnificently carved wood panels that illustrate excerpts from an ancient Norse epic poem, “The Volsunga Saga.”

An interesting discovery during Hijar’s research was the fact that many of the artists and designers during that time were immigrants. Scandinavian artist Karl von Rydingsvard is responsible for the woodwork on the Aloha II, including furniture such as hand carved chairs that will also be on display.

From dolphins to mermaids and seaweed to sea urchins, come enjoy this exhibit and gain a deeper appreciation of the sea and its beauty, while exploring the wonder of life on the sea.