The South Street Seaport Museum entrance features 4,000 fishing weights suspended from blue cords
Among many wondrous elements that helped build the City of New York, the sea trade is the legacy of Lower Manhattan as a commercial district. At the South Street Seaport Museum, that rich history is commemorated and celebrated, with exhibits stretching back well beyond the first European explorers arrival in Nieuw Amsterdam.
To view a photo slide show of the Seaport Museum and The Ambrose lightship, click here.
Located at 12 Fulton Street in the landmarked 1811 Schermerhorn Row building, the museum is itself part of the Seaport history. Inside its four stories are galleries that reveal glimpses of life in early New York, from stevedore tools, to locally made furniture and goods, to a geological history of Manahatta island.
The exhibits stand in spaces enclosed by original walls grafittied with names and dates nearly two centuries old, which are housed alongside a preserved section of Sweets Hotel -- where sailors lodged between 1870 and 1920. (Peeling wallpaper and creaky floorboards included.)
The Seaport Museum opened in 1967, and was reopened in January 2012 under the management of the Museum of the City of New York. That partnership has strengthened the museums multimedia innovations and notable presentations, encapsulating the stories of Seaports past, present, and future.
A visit begins with a brief, complete history of the modern city via Timescapes, a 22-minute, three-screen video narrated by New Yorker Stanley Tucci, and produced by interactive-media designer Jake Barton and historian James Sanders. It sets the stage for greater insights about the exhibits currently on display, including Folk Art in Four Directions, which categorizes mainly New York-based art from centuries past into Exploration, Shipping, Social Networking, and Wind, Water and Weather.
The storied history of longshoremen and their day-to-day lives is another key aspect of the museum. It is represented through changing exhibits; the current display includes hundreds of actual hand tools dock workers used on the nearby piers, as well as other equipment taken directly from the Seaport, such as scales, baskets, even an original office door from the Maine Lobster Company showing the address of 6 Fulton Street.
To accompany the physical history, Seaport Museum visitors can step aboard the 1907 lightship Ambrose, docked on the pier across South Street. The Ambrose was used in New York Bay as a floating lighthouse to guide ships safely from the Atlantic Ocean into the harbor. She was donated to the museum in 1968 by the U.S. Coast Guard, and is now available as a tangible seafaring artifact.
Historic and contemporary art also are represented here. The newest exhibit features strikingly photo-realistic watercolors by native New Yorker Frederick Brosen, in a collection called Romancing New York. On display through January 6, 2012, the large-scale watercolors feature notable 19th-century local architecture, including an enchanting and highly detailed five-by-three-foot depiction of the Brooklyn Bridge.
New York City panoramic photographs fill out the Widely Different exhibit, and an extensive collection of images of the Occupy Wall Street encampment represent some of the latest visions of Lower Manhattan, culled from local photographers.
The South Street Seaport Museum also works with historic Bowne & Co., Stationers, located nearby on Water Street, to teach letterpress techniques as part of the adult programs. Family and kids programs also take place regularly at the museum.
The South Street Seaport Museum (www.southstreetseaportmuseum.org) is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $10; $6 for students and seniors; and free for children under 9.