Mystic Seaport to highlight U.S. tugboat industry in exhibit

The following is the text of a press release issued by Mystic Seaport:
(MYSTIC, Conn.) — Tugs!, an interactive exhibition that will trace the past, present and future of the American tug, tow and barge industry, will open at Mystic Seaport Saturday, May 22.

Designed for visitors of all ages, Tugs! will detail how tugboats play a crucial role in our 21st-century economy that is vital to American commerce and economic success. With more than 5,000 registered tugboats and towboats operating in the U.S., the industry moves more than 800 million tons of raw material and finished goods, including 60 percent of our nation’s grain exports and most of New England’s home heating oil and gasoline.

Tugs! will present this powerful story through custom-created videos, stories, rare artifacts, images and large-scale graphics, hands-on activities, audio/visual elements and outdoor programming. Original artworks, scale models, and artifacts on loan from Thames Towing, Foss Maritime, the Coast Guard Art Program, Ocean Tug and Barge Engineering, Townsend Marine Associates and private collectors will also be displayed.
Mystic Seaport will celebrate the opening of Tugs! with a special “Tug Blast†weekend, Saturday and Sunday, May 22 – 23, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visiting tugboats will be docked along the Museum’s waterfront and special events throughout the weekend will include radio-controlled tug demonstrations, behind-the-scenes tours, illustrated presentations, line-throwing competitions and tug-related activities and crafts for both children and adults.
“We are proud to bring the story of the American tugboat to life for visitors,†said Mystic Seaport President Steve White. “The Museum has wanted to tell this story for some time, and we believe this exhibit will educate, entertain and inspire.â€
Key themes explored throughout the exhibit include the many types of tugboats and their various jobs; the vital role of the tow and barge industry in America’s economy; the role of tugs in popular culture, from children’s books to music; significant innovations in tug design, propulsion and engineering; the jobs aboard a tug and the people who perform them; the training and skill needed to handle these powerful workboats and their valuable tows; and the restoration of historic tugs by individuals and organizations.
“We’re thrilled with all the interest and support we’ve received for Tugs!,” said Jonathan Shay, director of exhibits and interpretation at Mystic Seaport. “This exhibit builds upon research and planning done over the past few years, including a symposium we hosted for tugs enthusiasts in March 2007.”
Additionally, the Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport will host a complementary exhibition, Celebrating the Tugboat, which will feature original fine art paintings and ship models. The exhibit and sale will open July 30 and run through September 1.
Funding for Tugs! has been made possible with a $149,136 grant awarded to Mystic Seaport from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Individual donations and in-kind support will additionally help fund the exhibit. With leadership support from the Dibner Family Fund, Professional Mariner and an anonymous family foundation in hand, Mystic Seaport seeks to match the IMLS grant funds in total. Those interested in supporting the project can contact Chris Freeman at 860.912.3121 or at

Tugs! will remain open in the Museum’s R.J. Schaefer Exhibit Hall through spring 2011. For more information, visit

Mystic Seaport is the nation’s leading maritime museum. Currently celebrating its 80th anniversary, the Museum features a re-created 19th-century seafaring village, tall ships, a working preservation shipyard, exhibits and a planetarium. For more information, visit
By Professional Mariner Staff