New SeaChange Exhibit in Mystic Seaport’s New Thompson Exhibition Building

Photo: Brad Horrigan/The Hartford Courant

The Hartford Courant describes the new Thompson Exhibition Building, on the northern end of the 19-acre Mystic Seaport Museum as sitting “like a piece of 21st-century abstract sculpture in the midst of a 19th-century fishing village.” Chad Floyd, one of the architect involved in the design, says that the Thompson is “not intended to evoke a historical maritime theme like the legendary seaport. Rather, the building calls to mind the sea itself.”  Well, OK then.

I will reserve judgement on the structure until I see it in person. The structure may seem less jarringly out of place when viewed first hand than it appears to be in the photographs. Be that as it may, the Thomson Building’s Collins Gallery is the site of a new museum exhibit, “SeaChange,” which looks very interesting. The museum describes the exhibit as follows:

SeaChange, the inaugural exhibit in the Collins Gallery in the new Thompson Exhibition Building, presents a range of striking, surprising, and unusual objects drawn from the rich collections of Mystic Seaport. Each is a survivor of the past that speaks to a notable transformation—in material, technology, the sea itself, or the broader American culture over the past 200 years.

A special grouping of these intriguing artifacts are on display for the first time, alongside other Museum visitors’ favorites, all presented in a new setting with surprising stories. Together, they give glimpses into people’s lives in different places and times, from scientific surveyors charting the Atlantic coast on the eve of the American Revolution to western merchants trading for silk and tea in 1850s China, from Arctic explorers to laborers harvesting bird guano off Peru for American farmers. The stories of transformation they relate continue to impact our lives and our experiences with the sea.

Charting the Coast: SeaChange Exhibit at Mystic Seaport

Charting the Coast

Thanks to Irwin Bryan for contributing to this post.

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6 Responses to New SeaChange Exhibit in Mystic Seaport’s New Thompson Exhibition Building

  1. Ginny says:

    As a former Mystic resident, and a former employee of the Museum I am both a very loyal and totally devoted supporter of the Museum. However the Thompson building is so jarringly out of synch with the rest of the architecture and period buildings in the Museum that it is hard to be enthusiastic about any aspect of it except for, perhaps, the exhibit spaces that it encompasses. The Museum is described as a “Living history museum [which] features village, ships and 17 acres of exhibits depicting coastal life in New England in the 19th century.” Indeed “The Museum of America and the Sea” is much more and the scope of the exhibits about international maritime history such as whaling is fabulous as well as exhibits and vessels from the 20th century. Fortunately the new building (state of the art and engineered to resist ocean rise from climate change) is at the north end where it is separated from the more traditional buildings and activities. However it looks like — well Trump’s hairdo is about the best that I can do. From the other side of the Mystic River it sticks out like a sore thumb and it does from Route 27 as well. I understand that the Groton side has an architectural review for buildings along the river which the Stonington side does not have. That review process might have created a building more in keeping with the rest of the Museum and both communities. Presumably time will soften the edges of the building and create a patina but blend in or depict coastal New England in the 19th century? Not at all. In fact, despite the the risk of offending the administration the design of this building is a major blunder. Trump’s hair do, as I said…………….

  2. Ginny says:

    Totally forgot to mention that the Museum is a magnificent place for families of all ages (from toddlers to elderly grandparents) to visit with exhibits which will appeal, engage, inform and delight just about anyone. Take a ride on SABINO along the waterfront (when she’s operational again) or go to a lecture. Attend one of the very popular events such as the WoodenBoat Show, or the various shorter events. Go to the Planetarium (where you can learn celestial navigation — still an essential skill for a sailor) or research anyone of a number of subjects. Book your kids a sail training cruise on the Schooner BRILLIANT (one of the world’s finest yachts and finest sail training programs), or just spend time on the grounds admiring all the different types of boats or you can spend time at the Shipyard watching the crew rebuilding historic vessels using traditional tools and skills. You can even take a ride in a horse drawn wagon around the village. It is an incredible bargain for membership, or even a day out. Conveniently located off Route 95 about half way between NYC and Boston, stop there on your way to a vacation on the Cape or up in Maine! You won’t regret it.

  3. Jan Christensen says:

    We plan to see it in person on Saturday, January 14th, before the annual Mystic Chantey Blast at the German Club across the street from the Seaport. The Chantey Blast helps raise money for the Mystic Sea Music Festival held every June.

    A Happy and a Healthy New Year to you, Rick!

  4. Daniel Quinn says:

    I have to agree with Ginny. I grew up in Mystic. I usually go back once a year or so, and always visit the Seaport when I do. I was so surprised when I saw this building being erected on the north end. It is totally out of character and keeping with the community in general and the museum in particular. I can only imagine the beautiful, traditional structure that could have been built in it’s stead. I love the seaport, and appreciate what it has done and continues to do for our country’s maritime heritage. I too hope it will soften over time, but IMHO it is an expensive mistake. Jan, I was at the Chantey Blast last year. It’s worth the trip!

  5. DMS says:

    As the author wrote, maybe wisest & fairest to judge when seen in person.

  6. Phil says:

    A squashed quonset hut building.

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