Guest post by Sandy Eames, a friend, a South Street Seaport Museum volunteer since 2001, and a Save Our Seaport steering committee member. Sandy read this at Community Board 1 meeting of 5/24/2011. In my 2006 foto below, Sandy is working on Pioneer‘s tender, named for a museum volunteer John Willett. In the background, left to right are Helen McAllister, Marion M, Peking, and (barely visible) Pioneer.
“I do not want to run anything, I simply want to be able to learn how to cut wood better and varnish it so that it onlookers say “oooh”, and steer a historic schooner again through the night under the stars. Of course, being able to do this with the ships under the capable care of the leading maritime museum in America in New York would be wonderful too! But we are not there yet!
I wonder how we got to live in New York City. Our forebears came the hard way – by sailing ship on journeys often taking a month. I came here in 1980 the easy way, on a Laker Skytrain into JFK. But are we going to teach our children and visitors here that everyone arrived by jet at JFK in the 1600’s? I don’t think so.
What has happened to the South Street Seaport Museum over the last decade or more simply appalls its friends, supporters and volunteers. Take a favorite schooner away from a sailor and you have trouble!
But what’s much worse is the secrecy of the Seaport Museum’s administration, its failure to outreach to its members, volunteers, the local community, and the maritime community, and the management’s ineptitude in running the museum effectively. The result is now that the museum is on the rocks, mostly out of business, yet the existing captain and admiral remain at the helm. It’s no wonder that a large group of people is upset, wanting change, and making noise.
I hope I speak for the many volunteers, museum members, local waterfront supporters and many maritime leaders across the country who would love to pitch in, do what they can to help save this institution, and put it back together – back on an even keel perhaps? Just where did all these maritime expressions come from? Did you get your one square meal today? Is the cat still in the bag? Such a teaching opportunity!
Here’s my proposal:
First: Lock down the museum immediately. Stop any further damage to the museum. Change the locks. Ask the volunteers to monitor and sustain the ships.
Second: Bring in an Interim CEO to run the place, to give us a chance to rebuild, make a new business plan, raise new funds, and then hire a new full time top flight CEO from the maritime museum field to run the place. Volunteers can run Pioneer this summer and generate needed revenue.
Third: Return to profitable sanity. Go back to teaching our kids and visitors the maritime history of New York. Re-open the museum’s galleries showing its extensive collection of paintings, scrimshaw and tools. Put the ships back to work as floating galleries with exhibitions of how New York really started, and take some of them out working on the water.
We urgently need your help in cutting through the thicket of government institutions so that we can achieve a change from secrecy, ineptitude and lack of trust, to openness, competency, support and engagement.”
Thank you, Sandy!
In the second foto, taken by the inimitable bowsprite, Sandy’s showing off the brass treads he installed in Pioneer‘s aft cabin ladder.