The International Sports Heritage Association recently awarded a special project grant in the amount of $2,000 to The Sailing Museum (TSM) and National Sailing Hall of Fame, an institutional member of the organization. The grant was made available from the ISHA Founder’s Fund.
The Sailing Museum opened in May of 2022 and is an educational non-profit organization that is home to the National Sailing Hall of Fame (NSHOF) and serves as Newport, Rhode Island’s newest cultural attraction. The museum celebrates the heritage of sailing, the legends of the sport and new sailors alike as well as inspiring sailing innovators. Interactive educational exhibits bring STEAM concepts alive through sailing.
The museum sought grant funding to purchase a necessary piece of equipment to increase awareness for this brand-new museum and home of the NSHOF.
TSM is housed in a historic 1894 stone Armory building constructed for the Rhode Island militia. The museum undertook a three-year restoration of the historic building and is proud to be its next caretaker. However, while the Armory building is a familiar sight to those who live in Newport, its imposing stone facade belies its newest purpose that lies beyond the imposing oak doors. To that end and to continue introducing the museum to the landscape of busy downtown Thames Street, staff soon began looking in earnest for a sailboat to stage in front of the building. One of TSM’s partners, the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol, RI, offered the donation of a millimeter yacht (based on the iconic 12-meter design of the America’s Cup era).
One of the goals of the museum is to promote sports heritage by introducing visitors of all ages, non-sailors, and sailors alike, to the achievements, innovations, and rich stories the legends of sailing represent. While the hall of fame is established, the museum is still in its infancy and it is vital to continue to build the brand and establish the museum as an important part of the Newport community, one that is steeped in sailing history. This is a simple but meaningful way to achieve that. Now when visitors travel up and down this busy thoroughfare, the colorful sailboat in the front courtyard signals that they’ve reached The Sailing Museum, home to the National Sailing Hall of Fame, the place to explore the titans of the sport and the legacy they have left.
Because this exhibit is outside, it must be wheeled back inside the museum each evening, both for the safety of the object and the public. Wheels were put on the cradle, allowing employees of all ages and abilities to accomplish this task. However, after only four months of use, the hardboard masonite cradle (that had been in continuous use outside in its previous location) disintegrated, rendering it useless. For that reason, a new dolly system must be secured. The museum plans to purchase two marine dollies from West Marine for this purpose.
As a new institution, they recognize that the first two years is an opportunity to build their brand. While they have followed traditional avenues in advertising on local media channels, they view the boat in the courtyard as a key piece of our site-based marketing plan. It instantly connects sailing to the place for the casual passerby. It reinforces the idea for visitors that they are in a sailing capital, a place where waterways and the sport of sailing are an integral part of its heritage. It encourages exploration beyond the massive wooden doors.
The Sailing Museum has already experienced many visitors commenting on how much they like the exhibit in the courtyard and hope with its updated features it will only serve to help boost and increase visitation for the next high summer season in Newport as they continue to celebrate the heritage of the sport and honor those who have shaped it over time.