The South Street Seaport Museum may not be one of New York City’s glitziest institutions, but it’s certainly one of the most resilient and perhaps the one most closely tied to the founding of the city itself. Using actual historic buildings and ships to provide interactive exhibits and educational programs, the museum tells the story of New York’s rise as a port city and how that led to the development of the entire country. But the seaport location became all too real in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy ravaged the entire historic district, leaving the museum with $20 million in damages and the loss of its institutional partner, the Museum of the City of New York.
Now, three years later, the South Street Seaport Museum is sailing into new territory, thanks in large part to its recently appointed executive director Captain Jonathan Boulware, a lifelong sailor, marine educator, expert in historic ships, and all-around lover of maritime history and culture. In August, Boulware and his team landed a $10.4 million FEMA grant to repair the storm damage, and in May, the museum launched a $10.6 million city-funded project to restore Wavertree, one of the museum’s most significant historic ships. With these exciting developments underway, we caught up with Captain Boulware to learn a bit about his background, what visitors can expect at the museum, and where the institution is heading.