12.20.08 New London--& the Custom House-gave hearty welcome to Flock Theatre's The Holly & The Ivy- A Living History Play, presented by New London Main Street over three weekends proceeding Christmas. For the third year, Flock actors portrayed high-spirited Jibboom Club seamen at the Custom House: a good time was had by all!

12.18.08 Our Tugboat Festival continued last night with Carl Schultz's Third Thursday presentation on the Thames Tow Boat Company. There was standing room, only, for the talk, which traced the Chappell family--Mr. Schultz's ancestors--and the development of tug boats in New London from the 1600s to the present day.  His illustrated boards will remain on view at the museum through April.

12.17.08 Groton town historian and newspaper columnist Carol Kimball has generously contributed several new artifacts to the exhibition "100 Years of New London Tugs."   These items include Thames Tow Boat Company letterhead and an assortment of  towing slips, two of which were signed by Mr. Chappell, himself. Thank you, Carol.

12.12.08 Congratulations to former Custom House Educator Cassie Libardi & her husband Rich on the birth of Brendan Xavier Libardi. Everyone is doing well!

12.06.08 What can we say? We love the U.S. Coast Guard!
On Saturday, 15 Coast Guard cadets helped out with all aspects of our operations, from opening up a basement wall (see  left) to making Christmas ornaments and greeting visitors at the Custom House front door! THANK YOU ALL & happy holidays!

More specifically, the cadets helped us with some important preparations for 2009. One team cleaned out the attic. Another group opened a wall in the basement. This new basement space will become a food preparation area & will allow us to rent our beautiful courtyard, Jibboom Room or Amistad gallery for private functions. Other cadets painted a bathroom, cleaned the sub-basement, and organized storage facilities.

Cadets also helped with our Saturday Light & Song holiday festivities. We had an excellent greeter in full dress uniform working with Ruth Nagle and Bill LaRoue at the front door. Three cadets spent all afternoon working with children visiting the Custom House to make maritime ornaments, half of which were used to decorate the holiday tree we donated to the evening's Main Street fundraising auction. The good news is that our tree brought in the top price: $450! Thank you cadets, & a special thank you to Heather Tichenor, of the NLCHS, andCassie Libardi, who organized this effort!

11.22.08 The New London Maritime Society announces its annual Reid MacCluggage Maritime History Scholarship (click left to download flier) for area high school Juniors and Seniors.  Students must submit a literary piece based on the theme: the African-American experience in the maritime world by February 27, 2009.  First place receives a $1,000 scholarship and second place receives a $500 savings bond.  For more information on rules and eligibility see your guidance office or call 860-447-2501.

11.20.08 November's Third Thirsday speaker was artist Hardie Gramatky's daughter, Linda Gramatky Smith. Linda told how her father worked as an illustrator in NYC in a studio on Pearl Street. To rest his eyes, he often gazed out at the tugboats in the East River. One day he saw a little tug that zipped in and out from the pier and did not seem to do any work. That scene prompted Gramatky's first children's book Little Toot.

Following the talk, our entire supply of Little Toot books sold out as Linda signed them for audience members. Don't worry--we ordered more books today! And Linda will be back Saturday, December 6  to inscribe them to your favorite urchin.

11.15.08 Among the celebrities at our November 15 opening for Tugboats & Little Toot: The Art of Hardie Gramatky were, (top row from left).the Cryans, the Rozwadowski children, New London Mayor Kevin J. Cavanagh and new NLMS board president Dr. George Sprecace.

11.08.08 The Robert Mills Symposium brought 30+ serious students of architecture to the Custom House on November 8. Museum founder Greg Stone led the group through discussions of the New  London Custom House--& with representatives from New Bedford, and Newbuyrport, MA--in examinations of other Mills-designed  custom house buildings. Mid day, head docent Bill LaRoue lead a tour though the building--from attic to sub-basement. Historian John Bryan revealed Mill's multi-faceted character in the afternoon. The day ended with a panel discussion lead by Abigail Van Slyck featuring Christopher Wygren and other speakers from the morning.

11.02.08 With the help of Greg Roth, John DesJardins, Bill LaRoue, Archie Chester, Roger Clements and Cassie Libardi, the new exhibit New London's CUSTOM HOUSE was on the walls just in time for Saturday morning's event. Thank you!

10.08 The previous week, a Connecticut College anthropology class studying the native people of North America visited our two Arctic exhibitions. The students are shown to the upper left in with Inuit Prints.

11.01.08 With just two weeks to go, we are busy getting organized for the Little Toot exhibition--the art and illustration of Hardie Garamatky. It was just last August we met the artist's daughter, Linda Gramatky Smith, at New London's Fish Tales, Tugs & Sails celebration. Linda has brought together a splendid mix of watercolors, illustrations, storyboards, notebooks and archival photographs for our exhibit, which will be on view from November 15 through mid March, 2009.

The Custom House got some exciting news in October:

~ our Robert Mills Symposium & exhibition received   generous support from the Connecticut Humanities Council

~ we were awarded one  full scholarship (of four awarded) to attend the New England Museum Association (NEMA) annual conference, to be held in Warwick, RI, in mid November

~ & the Yale Center for British Art donated eleven elegant display pedestals to the museum, several of which are already in use (see walrus skull to left). Five of these cases will be uncorporated into our upcomming Mills exhibit and will allow for the safe display of the Robert Mills folio and several letters from Ingoldsby Work Crawford, the New London customs agent who oversaw the building of the Custom House 1833-35.

9.12.08 At left are glimpses belind-the-scenes as we prepared for opening of Inuit Prints and The Arctic's Pull. Artists Yves Parent and Bull Hanson are shown packing up a James Magner painting from our last exhibition of Maritime artists. To the right, is our home crew: Cassie, Capt. John, Bill, Ruth & Vinnie, in the museum basement preparing materials for the new shows. In the upper left is Alice Houston, (center left) with Prilly Porter, Sally Ryan and Oliver Porter at the opening reception for Inuit Prints.

9.08 In September, navel engineer & modelmaker Robert Stewart presented the Custom House Maritime Museum with his remarkable collection of miniature 20th-century ship models. Mr. Stewart donated not only the ships but also the corresponding notebooks containing the research he collected to build the models. The ships will be displayed with their notebooks in the Frank McGuire Memorial Research Library and will be on view beginning February 15.

8.08 There was standing room, only, for our August Third Thursday presentation: Grandma Sue: Building the Boat and its Model, with Archie Chester, Jr., and Robert Stewart, and moderated by Greg Stone. There's still time to catch our exhibition on the Grandma Sue. The show remains in our West Gallery through September 10.

The cruise ship Explorer of the Seas visited New London on August 1 and approximately 400 passengers came into the Custom House Maritime Museum--directed to us by Cassie Libardi, who manned a table at the railroad station with materials about the museum.

On July 25 Main Street New London's Fish Tales, Tugs & Sails brought hundreds of families to the New London pier and many of them made origami whales at the Custom House table.

On July 13, we hosted the awards ceremony for the 1st Annual New London Maritime Cup.

Two exhibitions opened on July 25: Contemporary Maritime Painters: Bill Hanson, Jim Magner & Yves Parent and Grandma Sue: Two Lives of a Sailboat.

July 10 we hosted a members' reception for AmistadAMERICA, Inc, which included visits onboard the Amistad ship and a program of history, storytelling and song. Workshops on July 8 & 9 allowed more than 150 New London school children the opportunity to understand the Amistad incident and make Amistad ship models, learn drumming and experience West African dance. Students also visited the Amistad ship where Estrellas of Norwich performed along with actor DaMone McCollum and singer Dana Fripp of Young Audiences Connecticut. The July 10 reception at the Custom House Maritime Museum featured drummer Dwight Baldwin and a program with Lonnie Braxton, II, member NLMS board of trustees; Sally Ryan, New London Town Historian; and Gregory Belanger, President and CEO, and Capt. William Pinkney of Amistad America. ~ All of our expenses were covered through the generosity of our sponsors. ~
Co-Organized by the New London Maritime Society in Association with Kente Cultural Center, New London Public Schools and Young Audiences Connecticut.
Amistad Education Program sponsored by Cross Sound Ferry, Inc., Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, Charles R. Weber Co., Inc., ChelseaGroton Bank, Fulton-Theroux Funeral Services, New London Maritime Society. Reception sponsored by Cross Sound Ferry, Inc. with contributions by Ashlawn Farm
Coffee, Cottrell Brewing, Co., Dev’s on Bank, South Side Bistro, & Stonington Vineyards.

In June Local author James Reyburn drew on material from his latest book to present an exhibition & Third Thursday talk on the Thames Yacht Club: The First 75 Years 1933-2008.

The season's major fundraiser for the Custom House Maritime Museum, the Caribbean Calypso Night dinner, dance & auction, was held June 21 beneath the courtyard tent.

CribbageFest II took place May 31 beneath the Custom House courtyard tent. 'Tiki's Team', Quantique White and his grandfather Richard Beplat, won the day!

The Custom House Maritime Museum has only one full-time docent—that’s the bad news. The good news is that docent William LaRoue has been recognized as the best docent in the state! On April 9, Bill was among the Distinguished Advocates who received that Governor’s Award for their service to Culture & Tourism in Connecticut. Mr. LaRoue was nominated by a Mansfield family he treated to an extended tour of our handsome federal-style granite Custom House, a tour that inspired a budding architect to prepare a special school presentation on the building. His technical knowledge and love of the Custom House had “a positive impact on a young life.”

Happy Holidays 2008