6.24.10 NLMS trustee Alice Houston had a great idea, acted on it, and here it is! She unveiled her gift at the June trustees' meeting. Watch the skies about the Custom House... THANK YOU ALICE!
6.19.10 Also visiting the NL Boat Expo, (below, near left) were three generations of New London boaters: Carolyn Lewes and her daughter Katie, the sail maker, (both with New London Community Boating), and Carolyn's granddaughter Hannah, who for the first time will be teaching sailing at Mystic Seaport this summer . Far left is Matias Luis Francone Rocchia (with Carolyn), who stopped by to say hello. Last year Matias won the museum's Reid McCluggage Black Maritime History Award. He just finished his first year at American University in DC. Near left, our friends the Beaudoins (Mystic Knotters) were busy knotting at the Expo, too!
6.19.10 The New London Boating Expo is a great idea whose time has come, thanks to Barbara Neff, who organized presentations by several dozen New London-area marine business and organizations, the Custom House among them. Near left, NLMS trustee Carolyn Lewes, shared the tent with NLMS treasurer John Desjardins. Carolyn was there representing New London Community Boating, a group she helped found, and which now teaches more than 300 area children to sail, free of charge, every summer! The photo far left shows Community Boating's boats, just readied for summer and set out in the water.
6.18.10 Jim Diaz-Saavedra always comes through. This spring, he loaned several olbects to our Awesome Oyster exhibition. Last summer, when we received New London Harbor Light, he loaned us his exceptional collection of postcard images of the light for a special exhibition (& he gave a talk on collecting postcards). Remembering a problem with the building from the spring (& discovering we still hadn't corrected it) he came in on Friday to fix it! J.D. ever-so-slightly reconfigured our back door, and added weatherstripping and caulk to make the lower-level entry weather ( & river rat) tight! Thank you, J.D. (far left)!
6.17.10 Part B of our 2-part Third Thursday program brought in the officers of TACC--the Thames America's Cup Committee--from left Kathleen Burns, John Johnson, Michael Passero and Frank McLaughlin. In a word: yes, New London does stand a chance of getting the Cup. And this is the crew that will make it happen. Bill LaRoue with a portrait of New London's A.J. Constock.
6.17.10 The common theme at our June Third Thursday program was not Kathleen Burns--although she participated in both halves of the program. It was, rather, greater New London's love of the sea and how that focus can lead in many positive directions.
The evening opened with John Neikrash, Kathleen Burns and Richmond Crolius--all Noank-based volunteer organizers of Work Vessels for Veterans, John told about how he first decided to donate his lobster boat to a veteran wanting to start a fishing business. Mike told about the organization's events and particularly about the WVFV Dave Mason concert at the Garde last Friday. Kathleen recalled occasions when the gifts of boats, other vehicles, or farmland were made and how affecting it was to meet the the veterans' families. Their stories were moving for us all.
6.12.10 Connecticut Open House Day brought 29 visitors to the Custom House Maritime Museum, free of charge, on Saturday. It's all an effort on the part of the State to promote cultural tourism. Thanks to docents Bill LaRoue & Ruth Nagle who ably managed the crowd at our place. Near left is our Sunday volunteer crew: from left: Archie Chester, Mariea Spencer, Brandy Baltimore and Ivan Metzger. Archie hung the banner.
6.11.10 The Flying Dutchmen -- a bicycle team from the Netherlands -- were welcomed by the City of New London Friday evening with a reception under the Custom House tent. They are shown, far left, reviewing the track with Ned Hammond, the City's Director of Economic Development, who planned the event. On Sunday they'll race in the 3rd Annual Whaling City Cyclone on Fort Trumbull!
6.9.10 Small boat aficionado and Stonington resident Tom Sanford gave an ancedote-rich talk about his long history of paddling with oars, paddles and sculls for June's Heritage Workshop. Tom is shown, far left, with paddle in hand admidst assorted kayaks.
Near left is one of the new bronze panels, recently installed on the Parade plaza, telling of New London's maritime history.
6.5.10 Two new special exhibitions last week: on Friday, we opened Work Vessels for Veterans (far left), telling the story of a New London-area nonprofit. Two years old, Noank lobsterman John Niekrash decided to buy a larger fishing boat. He thought to give his old boat to a veteran in-need-of-work and so Work Vessels for Veterans was launched. Now it's a nation-wide effort to which people donate everything from boats to lap tops to blueberry farms. One person can make a difference. John did!
In support of Parade Parade, in our North Gallery on Saturday we opened a reprise of last Spring's local history exhibition, New London's Front Door: The Parade, written by The Day's John Ruddy. To put the show together in a different way this time, we took advantage of our fantastic new copier machine and magnified the many wonderful archival photographs, loaned to us by the Public Library of New London, to make a time line showing the transformations of the plaza over 200 years, both looking up State Street and down to the Thames.
6.5.10 After the fireworks at the Parade Parade celebration, we had an event of our own starting up at 9 PM. For the evening, the Showalter Gallery was transformed into an intimate stage upon which singer/entertainer Gary Baillargeon performed his new cabaret act "Love Is...," a series of 15 love songs which chart the arc of a romance.
If one were to be a musical star, one would wish to play the roles Gary has: Frederick in 'The Mikado', Lieutenant Cable in 'South Pacific', Harold Hill in 'The Music Man'. A few familiar songs from these musicals appeared in his performance ('Younger than Springtime' comes to mind) but there were surprises, too. Gary gave a warm and delightful performance.
The evening began with wine, desserts (provided by Just Desserts, etc.) & coffee.We had standing-room only! A great event. Commented a docent, "Everyone left with a smile'. Thanks to our wonderful docents and especially Kathleen Gaynor for helping with this event. Thanks, too to friends Doug Bjorn (center left above) & Alice Houston!
6.5.10 Parade Parade began, for us, in the rain at 7 AM on the plaza, when the 300' ribbon had to be installed 30' above the ground!
Things improved as the afternoon's activities got underway. Our old friend Norman Bliss showed up in Jibboon garb to tell stories and generally lend an historical component to the festivities.
A highlight of the day came at 7:30 PM, when New London Mayor Rob Pero ascended in a cherry picker to cut the ribbon and officially 'open' the Parade plaza. Bands played. Fireworks! It was a great start to summer.
6.2.10 All of the sudden yesterday there appeared colorful mosaics along one wall on the Parade! Today we discovered it was the work of Gwen Basilica, an artist and native New Londoner, who was out putting the finishing touches on a portion of the wall depicting New London Harbor Light. We love it!
6.1.10 The Custom House was invited to Mystic Seaport on Tuesday to learn more about the National Park Service's Freedom Trail program. The presenter was the Northeast Regional Coordinator for the National Park Service's Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Sheri Jackson.
You'll remember, Elysa Engleman's UCONN Class on Public History spent last semester preparing the application to put the Custom House into this NPS program, which will be submitted in July. After the meeting in Mystic, Sheri came to the Custom House to see our site and the new Amistad exhibition. She then took a side trip to visit New London Harbor Light (see Sheri near left).
5.27.10 NLMS treasurer John Desjardins was the guest speaker before an enthusiastic crowd at the May Friends of Fort Trumbull meeting to speak about the history of New London Harbor Light (far left).
5.23.10 Our friends at Kente Cultural Center and Provenance Center have held their Amistad: Revolt to Freedom exhibitions up through the weekend.
Kente used images from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture along with a collection of African masks to tell the story of the many instances of African revolt against slavery. Provenance Center featured images, objects, and writings about the revolt that set Haiti free.
5.22.10 Sunday saw the last in a series of three significant events this week at the Custom House. It was the final day for our U.S.S. Squalus exhibition. We were very happy to have Leske (far left, below), the exhibition's curator, back at the museum after a spell captaining the boat for Project "O".
That afternoon, we held a memorial event to honor those who were on the submarine on that fateful day exactly 71 years ago. Allyn Donath, daughter of the last survivor Carl Bryson of New London, tossed the roses into the Sound and led our singing of the submariner verses of the Navy hymn.
5.21.10 Saturday's Chowda' Fest ended to the sound of music lilting over the train tracks from the Custom House Pier. "Today New London feels like a really cool place", commented one visitor, who paused to listen.
Chaplin’s New London Chowder was voted #1 at the Custom House Maritime Museum Chowda’ Fest!
We'd like to thank all our chowder donors: Captain Scott's, Chaplin's, Flanders Fish, Mystic Hilton, & Seawell Seafood.
We'd also like to thank our neighbors who contributed prizes to the Silent Auction: Bankok City & Little Tokyo, Blissworks Yoga & Healing Arts, Caruso Music, Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra, eugene o'neill theater center, Garde Arts Center, Jennifer Hillhouse, Hygeinic Art, Mystic Seaport, New London Main Street, Project Oceanology, George Sprecace, Studio 33, Water Street Parking Garage & Waterhouse Salon.
5.21.10 The Custom House Maritime Museum's 2nd Annual Chowda' Fest and Silent Auction took place Saturday beneath the courtyard tent. This year, it fell on National Maritime Day, and our attendees included the local members of the Merchant Marine, who meet monthly at our museum. Annually, on May 21, the group holds a memorial celebration at Fort Trumbull. From the museum's courtyard, we could hear the guns' salute so we knew the group would soon be joining us for chowder.
In the photos at left are Amistad America President Greg Belanger, Chantyman Geoff Kauffman, New London Main Street director Penny Parsekian, and Amistad Captain Sean Bercaw. Near left photo is of our Chowda' Champ, chef Jack Chaplin.
Shown, left, are NLMS docents & trustees Bill LaRoue and Jennifer Hillhouse, Barbara Tamulevich (center), and NLMS president George Sprecace and trustees Alma Peterson and Carolyn Lewes.
One family brought their own pirate ship (far left). In the center photo, NLMS docent Brandy Baltimore and trustee & Fest organizer Kathy Gaynor served five different chowders for 2 & 1/2 hours. NLMS treasurer John Desjardins (near left) managed the finances.
5.21.10 Kente Cultural Center's events, a component of Amistad: A True Story of Freedom celebration, took place Saturday afternoon on the Custom House pier & included story tellers, dancing and creative art activities for kids. Here is the program:
Kente Cultural Center presents
'African Resistance: The Forgotten Story'
219 Bank Street, New London
May 20 through 31, 2010
'The Sounds of Freedom Celebration'
Saturday, May 22, 2010, 1 to 3 PM
New London Waterfront
African dancers, drumming, children's activities
There was a beautiful display of storytelling and dance on stage on the Custom House Pier.
Meanwhile, the Freedom Schooner Amistad was open for visitors on the nearby Amistad Pier, with more than 500 visiors this weekend, alone.
Also on the Custom House Pier, and a part of Kente Cultural Center's offering, were activities for kids, which kept the scene lively and fun for everybody. The music and drumming filled the waterfront.
5:22.10 NLMS trustee Kathleen Gaynor, shown far left with NLMS trustees John Desjardins and Lee Jewitt, had no time for the Parade as she oversaw the whole of the 2nd annual Chowda Fest & Silent Auction, which began at noon, right after the Hope Week Parade.
Meanwhile, the Flock Theatre stopped by the Custom House for a formal portrait & some chowder. Dressed in their Jibboom Club and Seamans' Aid Society attire, they are posed at the table with their patron saint, George Washington.
5.22.10 Festivities continue on Saturday morning with the City's Hope Week Parade. The photos above show Flock Theatre dressed as the Jibboom Club!
The Ancient Mariners (far left) march by the Custom House on Saturday.
5.21.10 Provenance Center presents, a component of Amistad: A True Story of Freedom celebration:
'From Bondage to Freedom in the New World'
A Provenance Center exhibition
May 20 through 23, 2010
'The Haitian Revolution'
Friday, May 21, 7 to 10 PM
Provenance Center (The Atrium)
165 State Street, New London
A celebration with food, music, dancing.
At left, Nadesho Mijoba of Provenance Center and Jane Glover of Kente Cultural Center dance the night away at "The Haitian Revolution" celebration.
Near left, is Barbara Neff, of the City of New London, Tracy Trembly, and Bud McAlister who attended the exhibition opening and evening's festivities. In the photo above, near left, Nadesha thanks a young Hatian actor/musician who performed at the event.
5.21.10 Of course, nothing is possible without a little help from our friends--in the case of our guest lecturer, NLMS trustee Alice Houston, (above, far left, center), provided a home-away-from-home in Stonington Borough for Prof. Walvin, who was here from Yorkshire. Alice's friend Elizabeth Hopkins took Jim to Mystic Seaport this afternoon, where everyone they ran into recognized the professor from his talk Thursday night!
5.20.10 This was the evening's line-up on Thursday:
Custom House Maritime Museum presents
A reception for Amistad America
& openings for two exhibitions:
AMISTAD: A True Story of Freedom,
Amistad photographs of Wojtek Wacowski,
& a special display of contemporary ironwork from Sierra Leone on loan from Brian McCarthy.
Thursday, May 20 at 6 PM
150 Bank Street, New London
Sponsored by Lawrence and Memorial Hospital.
The Amistad program continued indoors at 7:30 with a performance by Nzinga's Daughters. Director Susan Tamulevich welcomed everyone and explained how the relationship with Amistad America and our New London partners came about. Our speakers were (from far left):
Greg Belanger, director and CEO of Amistad America, who introduced Prof. Walvin.
James Walvin, University of York, whose talk was entitled 'Why we should remember--and treasure--the Amistad.'
Captain Bill Pinkney, who reflected on his 10 years with the Freedom Schooner Amistad and what it meant to have fufilled the promise to have had the ship sail from Cuba to New London.
At left above, is a special exhibit in our library of materials related to the Amistad case selected by Brian Rogers--our librarian. Near left is the wonderful Nzinga's Daughters, whose music & good energy added so much to the evening.
At the far left, above, is Kate Steinway, director of the Connecticut Historical Society and the author and creator of this exhibition.
Near left, above, is a view of our splendid full house!
5.20.10 And we are happy to report that the installation of the exhibition Amistad: A True Story of Freedom, was completed at 3 o'clock the afternoon of May 20--a full three hours before the official opening began. Prior to the main events in the gallery, at 7:30 PM, guests were invited upstairs to view the exhibit
The exhibition, itslef, was a most generous gift from the Connecticut Historical Society, in Hartford. Read more about it by clicking>>HERE.
The move & installation of the exhibit were made possible by a near-$10,000 grant from the Connecticut Humanities Council.
The opening event was sponsored by Lawrence and Memorial Hospital.
Amistad: A True Story of Freedom, seen left, is an award-winning exhibition that filled five large galleries and a stately main hallway at the Connecticut Historical Society, where it was on view for twelve years.
The exhibition tells the Amistad story through the stories of individuals involved and details how many Connecticut towns contributed to the proceedings during the captives' year in the United States. Our challenge, here, was to make that five-room exhibition fit into the one gallery at the Custom House.
How did we do it? First, we concentrated on the New London components of the story. For example, when you enter the room, the two large scrims facing you are 1.) the July 1839 scene of La Amistad in Long Island Sound, and 2.) July 23, 1839 scene the deck of the ship when La Amistad was brought into New London--both views possible from the Custom House gallery's windows!
The exhibition is almost like a stage set and was, in fact, designed by a company of theater designers. The first exhibition vignettes set the scene for the captives being shackled on the ship and then of the rebellion (at left). Later scenes (above) refer to the Supreme Court trial and resolution--the first case in the United States to set captive Africans free. At top in that photo are portraits of 22 of the Amistad captives. Prof. Walvin made the point in his talk that--unnlike the case for many millions of anonymous slaves--what is exceptional about the Amistad captives is that we have a record of their faces and words.
Speakers included NLMS president George Sprecae (far left, above) and Captain Sean Bercaw (near left).
NLMS trustee Lonnie Braxton, shown left with drummer Dwight Baldwin (in purple), made the introductions on behalf of the museum.
Up at the Custom House, a crowd gathered by 6 PM to welcome the crew, staff & board of Amistad America to New London.
Former Custom House educator, Cassie Libardi, (far left) was there with her son Brendan.
Other guests included City Manager Martin Berliner & wife Randee, and Parade Parade organizer Joseph Celli and wife Jin Hi - shown near left.
Near left is Steve Smith, director of Mystic Seaport, greeting Captain emeritas Bill Pinkney and Captain Sean Bercaw of the Freedom Schooner Amistad.
At far left, NLMS trustee Rob Pittaway and Louise Pittaway visit the Amsitad before wandering up the the courtyard for the reception & talk at the Custom House.
The the Freedom Schooner Amistad arrived at 4 PM at the Amistad Pier in New London for its official entry to the United States from Cuba. The ship was following the original path of La Amistad, which arrived in New London in August, 1839!
Captain Sean Bercaw is shown waiving to Captain emeritas Bill Pinkney on New London's Amistad Pier as the ship sailed in.
Six years ago, Amistad America set two goals:
1.) sail the Amistad to Sierra Leone, which they did in 2008 as part of the UK's bicentennial celebration of the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade;
and 2.) sail from Havana, Cuba, to New London, Connecticut--thereby recreating the original 1839 voyage of La Amistad.
Today the second of those two promises was kept.
The public was allowed to visit the ship, FREE of charge, on New London's Amistad Pier from 5 to 6 PM, and all day Friday and Saturday.
In preparation for the evening's festivities, earlier that afternoon out under the courtyard tent, Marian Shilstone of the Thames Garden Club finished putting in the pink impatiens, while our favorite baker NLMS trustee Vinnie Belbruno took care of setting up for the reception.
Meanwhile, photographer Wojtek Wacowski completed his installation on Amistad images that afternoon - hanging the exhibition in the 2nd-floor Maritime Gallery.
5.17.10 Wojtek "Voytec" Wacowski (near left, below) began installing his exhibition by making use of the storefront across the street. Mr. DeBiasi of Modern Electric kindly allowed Wojtek to fill the front windows with his Amistad photos.
5.15.10 Preparations for the three big events of the year--all of which happen this week: the Amistad's arrivel & exhibition openings, our 2nd annual Chowda' Fest & Silent Auction, and U.S.S. Squalus Memorial and the closing of that exhibition--have been going on in ernest this past month.
Working with the Greg Belanger of Amistad America, Inc., Barbara Neff of the City of New London, Jane Glover of Kente Cultural Center and Nadesha Mijoba of Provenance Center, we have been planning Amistad: Revolt to Freedom -- one event with three days of celebrations at four different venues.
Nadesha Mijoba designed the striking poster (shown left). The event is planned to coincide with the return of the Amistad to New London.
AMISTAD: Revolt to Freedom A Remembrance of Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade takes place Thursday through Saturday, May 20-22. Click >> HERE for details.