More specifics on Seaport Museum takeover disclosed

BY ALINE REYNOLDS  |  The Museum of the City of New York is moving forward with its plans to get the Seaport Museum New York back up and running. Priority number one is to remedy the maritime museum’s dire financial conditions by carving out a path to long-term sustainability, according to M.C.N.Y. Director Susan Henshaw Jones.

“You keep a nonprofit museum afloat with earned income and contributed income,” said Jones. “It’s that blend that we’re going to have to work on in the next 12 months.”

Other key elements of M.C.N.Y.’s strategy to revitalize the dying institution is to reorganize its library and archives, re-activate its historic printing shop and open a new exhibit in its Fulton Street gallery space, Jones said.

“We think that it would be a terrific thing to reopen Bowne & Co., Stationers for the holiday season,” said Jones.

The famed printing company, whose Water Street headquarters date back to the early 19th century, is known as one of the world’s largest international financial printers.

“It represents a great deal more than I think many people realize,” Jones said. “It is in its own right a little museum unto itself.”

While Jones will primarily be using internal staff and resources to manage the maritime museum, the director intends to hire master printers for the print shop as well as an archivist to assist in the revamping of its library. The M.C.N.Y. is also beginning to brainstorm themes for a forthcoming exhibit in the galleries to open later this year or early next year.

“I haven’t had a chance to sort of flesh that out, but there will definitely be an element that focuses on the history of the Seaport,” said Jones. “We’re also thinking we’d like to utilize the space with other edgy Downtown types of exhibitions.”

Meanwhile, Save Our Seaport, a grassroots coalition formed earlier this year to help resuscitate the Seaport Museum, continues to meet a few times per month to discuss updates and developments.

The M.C.N.Y.’s takeover of the Seaport Museum is “far more promising than other options we’ve been looking at,” S.O.S. member David Sheldon said after the group’s most recent meeting last Thursday, Sept. 22.

The group, moving forward, will serve as the museum’s local outreach arm, Sheldon said.

“We’re very excited about what’s happening,” chimed in fellow S.O.S. member Sandy Eames. “It’s probably the best news all year.”

Beth Childs, who has served as volunteer coordinator at the Seaport Museum for several years, was equally delighted to hear about the takeover.

“I want to see the museum reopen in a functional way to serve the community,” said Childs. “I want everyone to have the opportunity to volunteer as crew or to go out [on the ships] as paying passengers.”

Childs can’t wait to get back to work at the Seaport.

“The friends that I made when I started volunteering there in 1984 are still my good friends,” said Childs. “They feel almost like family.”

Jones, who was scheduled to address Community Board 1 at the Sept. 27 full-board meeting, said she welcomes a separate meeting with S.O.S. and supports the group’s participation in publicizing the maritime museum’s mission.

“I think that it’s a terrific role,” said Jones. “The community needs to use the Seaport more, for sure, and we’re amenable to that.”

Specifically, Jones wants to solicit advice for the future use of the museum’s eight vessels, which won’t be back in full until sailing season resumes next year.

“The boats right now need to be winterized,” noted Jones, “but I want to talk to [S.O.S.] to see if we could revive some of the [vessel programming] for the springtime.”