Thursday, December 4, 2014

Preserving History at Mystic Seaport

This blog comes to us from Chris Freeman at the Mystic Seaport. 
We're so grateful for everything they do to preserve this history.

Howard Mansfield wrote that, “Good preservation is the life preserver thrown to us in a shipwreck.  Good preservation keeps us in touch with the graces of this life….But true preservation is like the hand that shelters a fire from the wind.  It protects the spark of life.”

So it was and is with Gerda III.  During her working days she protected life. Her people took great risks to save their fellow man, because it was the humane thing to do.  Now as a museum ship she embodies and preserves the important stories of her crew and her passengers so that future generations may remember them and we hope learn from them.

However, the fact that Gerda III survives to carry this story forward is in itself a demonstration of the power and importance of good preseveration.  The story of Gerda III is something of a contradiction, being at once a singular, remarkable story of heroism and at the same time a rather common tale.  History is replete with stories of ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary feats and that is largely the story of Gerda III.  

Mystic Seaport, The Museum of America and the Sea; is proud to have been asked by the Museum of Jewish Heritage to take on a stewardship role to maintain the artifact that is Gerda III but also to carry forward her important stories.  Moored to the wharf at the Museum, she attracts a good deal of attention.  She has also attracted a passionate group of volunteers who commit their time to maintaining her. 

On a recent October weekend, volunteer Howard Veisz led a small group of Mystic Seaport volunteers who are part of the Mystic Seaport PILOTS** on a day long work project to apply some fresh paint to Gerda III.    After a full day of work around the Museum, the PILOTS convened for dinner, socializing and a special presentation.  At the October gathering the evening presentation was the story of Gerda III, delivered by Howard.  One of the PILOT volunteers had this to say about his experience that weekend:

“Dear Howard….It was an honor to have the opportunity to work on a vessel with such a proud history.  I thoroughly enjoyed your evening presentation and have shared my recollections of Gerda III's history with many of my friends and co-workers since my return. ….The Mystic Seaport PILOTS program has always provided me the opportunity to work with staff and volunteers whose love for Mystic Seaport and commitment to the preservation and interpretation of maritime history is inspirational.” 

**The Mystic Seaport PILOTS are a group of active Museum members who volunteer their time two weekends each year to work alongside the professional staff and other regular Museum volunteers at a wide variety of work projects throughout the Museum.

Photos courtesy of Mystic Seaport.

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