Custom House Maritime Museum A View of the Museum from Water St.

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Maritime Museum looks for help from local businesses

June 29, 2010
Written by Gillian Swart Tuesday, 29 June 2010 11:50
Newburyport’s Custom House Maritime Museum is undergoing a swift change with the help of volunteer marketing services and continuing a popular exhibit thanks to the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank. Board members are looking for even more skilled volunteers and increased connections with local businesses.

“It’s a great word, ‘collaboration,’” said Robert O’Brien, a member of the museum’s Board of Directors. With sponsorship from the Newburyport Bank for the fourth year, a new exhibit “Fighting Sail: Conflict at Sea in the Age of Canvas” is now installed at the historic building on Newburyport’s waterfront.

The bank, like all community banks, is committed to giving back to the community.

 “We are fortunate to be in a position that we can do it,” said bank President and CEO Richard Eaton. “Even then, we have to make some denials; we get so many requests.”

Eaton said that as chairman of the board of the museum in 1990 and 1991, he was approached with the idea of an exhibit featuring ship models.Armed_Virginia_Sloop_2--Peter_Jacquith

“It’s amazing the work that goes into the models,” he said. “One model took over 25 years to finish.”

 Michael Mroz,  a principal at the Boston marketing and advertising firm Endeavor Associates and former Newburyport resident, is heading up the marketing campaign. The museum is “going the full guns” to get the word out about this 93-day exhibit and the benefits of corporate membership and/or sponsorship.

Mroz said that for the volunteer Board of the museum and all the volunteer staff there, the job of a museum – exciting exhibits, mostly - needs to be done. “All of that is really facilitated by individuals and businesses that want to support the museum,” said Mroz.

The museum not only has the exhibit, which is models of fighting sailing ships made by shipwrights from all over the country, but is holding talks to “provide expanding interest of what’s in the exhibit on a regular basis,” he added.

On July 2, model shipwright and museum member Mike Swanson will tell the fateful story of the Swedish battle galleon Vasa – which sank on her maiden voyage less than one nautical mile from where she was launched - and her resurrection after 333 years of being submerged.

A model of the Vasa is in the exhibit.

Board member Bill Patridge said the museum also needs a grant writer. “It’s hard to get enough people with the right skill sets,” he said.

The Newburyport Education Foundation/Newburyport Education Business Coalition also recently paid for transportation to bring the city’s third graders to a maritime adventure walking tour of the city sponsored by the museum.

“I thought it was a good story of collaboration,” said O’Brien, who chairs the museum’s education committee. “It was about hands-on learning.”

The children trekked all over the city learning about the museum, ship design and ship building, the U.S. Coast Guard station, the former Tannery on Water Street that is now a shopping center, historic buildings on Federal and High streets – and more.

All of the tour was in line with MCAS guidelines, which has been an obstacle in the past when the museum was setting up educational programs.

“We hope to have a bunch of [school] classes come through [the Fighting Sail exhibit] in September,” O’Brien said. “But we need to make a connection with local businesses.”

Eaton, although not a sailor himself, said that he is very much interested in the maritime history of Newburyport and boosting the reputation of the city as the birthplace of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Said Eaton: “I thought [the ship model exhibit] was a great idea.”Providence_Deck--Marc_Consalvo

“Without the generosity of the bank, we wouldn’t be able to do the exhibit,” said Partridge. “Richie Eaton has been incredibly supportive of the museum.”

The Custom House Maritime Museum offers different levels of corporate memberships, all of which include an array of benefits.

There will be a fighting sail ship model in the lobby of the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank for the duration of the exhibit, which is now until Sept. 26.

In the photos: (Top) The U.S.S. Hannah; (Middle) Armed Virginia Sloop; (Right) The Providence.

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