The Mystic Seaport Museum houses 19th century buildings, ships and history

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For 90 years, the Mystical Seaport Museum was a celebration of historic New England culture, trades and industry. Loving to learn and experience all things New England, I recently took a trip to Connecticut to check it out.

Located just across the border from Rhode Island in Connecticut, Mystic is conveniently located just off Route 95. Little did I know until this visit that Mystic wasn’t actually its own town; it is a village of both Groton and Stonington.

Spread over 19 acres along the Mystic River, the Mystic Seaport Museum is a sprawling campus dedicated to maritime history – the largest maritime museum in the United States.

One of the museum’s main attractions is the Seaport Village, an interactive collection of buildings, all built in the 1800s, transported to Mystic from original locations across New England to create a seafaring village.

Visitors can see how the ropes were made at Plymouth Cordage Companydiscover barrel making at Cooperagefind out about browsing by period at Nautical instrument shopand see the newspaper and printing company in action at Mystic Press Printing Officeamong dozens of ancient structures.

Growing up I was a huge fan of model trains, Legos, my sister’s Barbie houses with all the little plastic accessories. Something about things in miniature has always touched me, so it’s no surprise that two of my favorite places in the museum take a look at the world on a smaller scale.

First of all, the Mystic Seaport Ship Modelers, who trained at the museum in 2012. Here, many enthusiasts were busy in their workshop making model ships, ready to answer any questions visitors might have or show their in-process or finished products. From time to time they will sail their models in the museum Australia Beach.

Another highlight? A Highly detailed full room sized scale model of a mile along the Mystic River as it was in the mid-19th century, with all the cattle, workers, ships, and structures that made up the bustling seaside community.

The actual physical river is also an integral part of the museum, and not just as a backdrop. Visitors can take in the scenery from the water, either as part of guided tours by motorboat or sailboat, or on their own from one of the museum’s rowing boats, sailboats and pedal boats.

Ships are, naturally, at the center of Mystic Seaport, home to 18 historic shipsmaking it the largest collection of its type in the country, including the whaling ship Charles W. Morgan, the oldest surviving American commercial ship afloat, one of four National Historic Landmark ships in the museum.

After: I read ‘Moby Dick’ in 24 hours on a whaler in Connecticut. Here’s why you should too.

I was at the museum on a particularly hot summer day, so visiting the museum’s Trewworgy Planetarium, which has several shows a day, was an air-conditioned delight. Thinking it was surprising to find a planetarium in a maritime museum rather than a science museum, I quickly realized how insane that assumption was. Star navigation, after all, was the original GPS, an integral tool for sailors of the day.

Walking south through the museum campus, the smell of freshly cut wood and the sound of tools become hard to miss; at the museum’s active preservation shipyard, visitors can see craftsmen at work in their highly skilled trades. This is where the museum’s vessels are kept and maintained; recent restoration work on the Mayflower II was also completed here.

I could easily have spent hours more at the museum, visiting the ancient structures in the village, watching one of the many daily demonstrations, or perusing the various exhibits. There is simply a ton to explore.

For anyone interested in ships, history, or New England, the Mystic Seaport Museum is absolutely worth a visit.

About Bobby F. Lopez

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