Photo by Chappell Ellison
Located on the southeast tip of Manhattan, the South Street Seaport was once the site of an active port, where goods from all over the world landed on our shores. In its heyday during the outbreak of the American Civil War, the Seaport was a raucous place, filled with culture clashes, vice and priceless cargo. That’s why it’s bizarre to see the port in its current state; gone are the fish markets and dry goods stores of the 19th century, replaced by mall retailers like Guess and Baby GAP. Now admitting that their attempt to revamp the port and create a shopping destination in the 1980s was a failure, New York City is instituting yet another makeover for the financially troubled area. The first signs of this effort is found in the South Street Seaport Museum, inconspicuously tucked into the a row of shops. Founded in 1967, the museum has undertaken a bold plan, hoping to not only save themselves, but save the entire port.
After closing for a year of renovations, the South Street Seaport Museum has reopened with a new mission to attract as much support as possible. The New York Times reported that prior to the renovation, the museum’s board members had to provide personal loans just to cover rent and utilities. Last September, the Museum of the City of New York supplied a $2 million grant with the assistance of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. After that, the mission was clear for the museum board members: the failing institution needed the fastest makeover possible. “We wanted to try to become an overnight cultural destination, ” said Susan Henshaw Jones, the president and director. But the grant lasts only so long; after 18 months, city officials will determine whether or not they will continue supporting the museum. Part of the museum’s new objective is to speak to a broader audience. Once the sole purveyors of local maritime history, the Seaport Museum now features exhibitions that skew towards a more general history of New York City.
The Seaport Museum leads with what it knows best; the first gallery is filled with ships in bottles, hung from the gallery ceiling. The display allows visitors to get as close as possible to the tiny treasures. Having never closely examined a ship in a bottle, I marveled at the precious constructions — tiny paper sails attached to masts no bigger than toothpicks. A group of young boys ran around the gallery, selecting their favorites and christening the mini-boats with names. Their fantasy shipyard game was cut short when they discovered a covert display in the corner of the gallery, revealing the secret to how craftsmen place ships inside bottles. To discover the truth, visitors lift a black curtain covering a bottled ship in progress. I won’t reveal the secret, but I’m sure a clever Google search would satisfy the curious.
I was in Japan not too long ago
April, to be exact. I went to the Aichi Expo, which is like a world's fair.
The US expo was the only one with metal detector. Quite sad.
Also, when flying back from Singapore this month, US passengers had to go to a special line during check-in for a bag search and a special line right before Singapore immigration. This was *before* the security check at the gate.