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Mystic Seaport Museum
Mystic Shipyard aerial by Don Ramey Logan.jpg
View from the Mystic River Estuary
Established 1932
Location Mystic, Connecticut, US
Type History Museum
Collection size sailing ships and boats

Mystic Seaport Museum or Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea in Mystic, Connecticut is the largest maritime museum in the United States. It is notable for its collection of sailing ships and boats and for the re-creation of the crafts and fabric of an entire 19th-century seafaring village. It consists of more than 60 historic buildings, most of them rare commercial structures moved to the 19-acre (0.077 km2) site and meticulously restored.


The museum was established in 1929 as the "Marine Historical Association". Its fame came with the acquisition of the Charles W. Morgan in 1941, the only surviving wooden sailing whaler. The Seaport was one of the first living history museums in the United States, with a collection of buildings and craftsmen to show how people lived; it now receives about 250,000 visitors each year.

The Seaport supports research via an extensive library and runs the Frank C. Munson Institute of American Maritime Studies, a summer graduate-level academic program established in 1955 by maritime historian Professor Robert G. Albion of Harvard University. The museum also hosts Williams–Mystic in conjunction with Williams College, an undergraduate program in maritime studies. Outreach includes sailing and history classes for area children.

National Historic Landmarks

Four vessels at Mystic Seaport have been recognized by the United States Government as National Historic Landmarks

Vessel Image Type Overall length Built Description
Emma C. Berry EmmaberrymysticCTUSA.jpg well smack 39 ft 1866 Emma C. Berry is the last surviving American well smack (also called Noank smacks). Well smacks originated in England about 1775 and were designed to keep the catch alive in an internal water-filled compartment known as a wet well. Seawater circulated through large holes in the bottom planking. She was donated to Mystic Seaport in 1969 and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1994.
L. A. Dunton Mystic Seaport L.A. Dunton - Fishing Schooner.JPG fishing schooner 123 ft 1921 L. A. Dunton was built in Massachusetts and is among the last of the larger fishing vessels that were powered solely by sail. She was named after Louis A. Dunton, a sailmaker who was a member of the syndicate that commissioned her construction. She was worked in the New England fisheries until 1934 and then in the Newfoundland cod fishery of the Grand Banks into the 1950s. In 1955, she was converted for use as a coastal cargo boat. She was acquired by Mystic Seaport in 1963 and restored to her original condition. Dunton was declared a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.
Charles W. Morgan Charles W Morgan.jpg whaler 113 ft 1841 Charles W. Morgan is a whaling ship which was active for 80 years. She is the only surviving wooden whaler from 2,700 ships that operated in the United States whaling fleet. On her deck are huge try pots used to render blubber into whale oil. She came to Mystic Seaport in 1941 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966.
Sabino Sabino in 2005.jpg island steamer 57 ft 1908 Sabino is a small wooden, coal-fired steamboat and is one of only two surviving members of the United States mosquito fleet. She was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1992. Mystic Seaport acquired her after she became obsolete in 1974. She returned to service on August 2, 2017 after undergoing a full restoration.

Other vessels

Vessel Image Type Overall length Built Description
Annie Annie sloop 2008.jpg sandbagger sloop 28 ft 1880 Annie was used for competitive racing. She was donated to Mystic Seaport in 1931 and became the first vessel in the collection. She was extensively restored in 2004.
Australia Australia (schooner).jpg coastal schooner 71 ft 1862 Australia was designed to carry freight in shallow coastal water. She was used as a blockade runner during the American Civil War until she was captured by Union warships and sold at auction. Mystic Seaport acquired her in 1951 for use as a training vessel. In 1962, she was hauled out of the water for restoration, but damage to the hull was deemed too extensive and the vessel was permanently beached. Australia is now housed in a shed and used as an exhibit on ship construction.
Breck Marshall Cat boat Brek Marshall.jpg cat boat 20 ft c. 1900 The Breck Marshall is a replica constructed in 1987 of Cape Cod catboats used for pleasure and fishing around 1900.
Brilliant Brilliant (schooner).jpg auxiliary schooner 61 ft 1932 Brilliant was built to a high standard as an ocean racing yacht. She crossed the Atlantic Ocean in just over 15 days on her maiden voyage, a record for a sailing yacht of her size. Subsequently, she did a run in England from the Lightship Nantucket to Bishop Rock Light. During World War II, she was acquired by the U.S. Coast Guard, equipped with machine guns, and used to patrol the New England coast for enemy submarines. She was donated to Mystic Seaport in 1957, where she is used as an offshore classroom.
Estella A. Friendship Sloop 34 ft 1904 Estella A. is a classic friendship sloop built in Maine. She was acquired by Mystic Seaport in 1957 and restored in 1970–72.
Florence Florence Mystic Seaport.jpg dragger 40 ft 1926 Florence is a western rig dragger built in 1926 along the Mystic River. She was used to trawl for fish at the bottom of Long Island Sound, dragging a conical net. In 1982, she was acquired by Mystic Seaport and restored to her original configuration. Florence is the only working dragger in a museum collection. She is now used to carry students to collect marine biology specimens from Fishers Island Sound.
Gerda III Mystic Seaport Gerda III.JPG lighthouse tender 40 ft 1926 Gerda III was built in 1928 in Denmark as a lighthouse tender, though she appears to have been used as a common work boat. In 1943, she was used to smuggle Jews from Nazi-occupied Denmark to Sweden. Approximately 300 Jews were rescued by Greda III, and the Danish Parliament donated her to the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Mystic Seaport helps care for the boat and features her as part of their collection.
Joseph Conrad JosephConradMysticRiver.jpg training ship 111 ft 1882 Joseph Conrad is named after author Joseph Conrad. She is an iron-hulled and fully rigged sailing ship which was used to train sailors in Denmark. She sailed around the world as a private yacht in 1934, then served as a training ship in the United States. She was acquired by Mystic Seaport in 1947, and currently continues in her role as a training ship.
Nellie Nellie 2008.jpg oyster or shoal-draft sloop 36 ft 1891 Nellie was built in New York and was used for oyster dredging in Long Island Sound. Mystic Seaport acquired her in 1964.
Regina M. Regina M.jpg carry-away sloop 45 ft c. 1900 Regina M. was built in 1900 in Passamaquoddy Bay and was used to collect herring from fish weirs and transport them to canneries on shore. Mystic Seaport acquired the vessel in 1940, and she was restored in 1992 to the way that she looked in 1909.
Roann Roann2010.jpg dragger 60 ft 1947 Roann is an eastern rig dragger built in Maine in 1947 and used to fish for flounder, cod, and haddock. Mystic Seaport acquired the vessel after she became obsolete in the 1970s. In 2009, Roann underwent complete restoration.
Star Fishing vessel 34 ft 1950 Star was built in Connecticut for swordfishing and tuna fishing off Long Island. She was acquired by Mystic Seaport in 1976 and has undergone major restoration.

Grounds and programs

Mystic Seaport-500px
Street in Mystic Seaport, masts of Charles W. Morgan in background
Scale model of Mystic, Connecticut as it was about 1870

The Preservation Shipyard is an important part of the museum, where traditional tools and techniques are used to preserve the Museum's collection of historic vessels, including the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan. A replica of the slave ship La Amistad was constructed in the shipyard and launched in 2000. Amistad departed from New Haven on June 21, 2007 on a 14,000-mile (23,000 km) transatlantic voyage to Great Britain, Lisbon, West Africa, and the Caribbean, marking the Atlantic trade and slave route to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the end of slavery in Great Britain.

The 19th-century seafaring village contains nearly all the types of general and specialized trades associated with building and operating a sailing fleet. They include a chandlery, sail loft, ropewalk, cooperage, shipping agent's office, printing office, bank, and others. Also included is The Spouter Tavern, open seasonally and serving "travelers' fare". Each building is used both to show the original activity and to display examples of what was sold or constructed; the nautical instrument shop, for example, displays sextants, nautical timepieces, and so forth, while demonstrations at the cooperage show how casks are assembled.

Additional buildings house more exhibits. One is a 1128 scale model of the entire Mystic River area as it appeared around 1870, complete down to the outhouse behind every residence; the model is 40 feet (12 m) long. Another contains a collection of carved ship figureheads. Also among the museum's buildings is a planetarium which demonstrates how seamen used stars for navigation.

Children learning to sail in JY15s and Dyer Dhows

Sailing instruction is also offered, as well as tourist rides in various historical small craft. Such tours give a good overview of historic ships at their moorings. Mystic Seaport's music program is unusual, as it prominently features sea shanties in their original contexts as work songs. The Mystic Seaport Sea Music Festival is held annually in June and is among the oldest and largest in the United States.


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