Interview by Tom Darling, Conversations with Classic Boats, “the Podcast that Talks to Boats”

Last month, we opened this gam – that’s whaling talk for a social conversation at sea – with whom I consider the top curator minds at Northeast marine museums. Christina Connett Brophy (CB), Senior VP of Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, CT, and Evelyn Ansel (EA), Curator of the Herreshoff Marine Museum in my old homeport of Bristol, RI, follow up this month with updates on their current exhibitions.


The Other Side of the Harbor, 2013 by Alison Wells   From the collection of the New Bedford Whaling Museum


Christina Brophy: Inspiring Exhibits and a Bold New Space: The Wells Boat Hall

TD: Christina, I need to catch up with you because I missed some of your shows. We worked on the Story Boats exhibit way back when, and I’ve been wanting so much to do that again. You know I love the Thompson Exhibition Building, and I know something really good is coming in the near future, but please give us a quick look at the next twelve months at Mystic Seaport Museum, at least onshore.

CB: We’ve had a lot of really wonderful things happening. Our recent Alexis Rockman: Oceanus exhibit, a series of paintings – all commissioned by Mystic Seaport Museum – looks at how marine science, maritime commerce and art convene through this brilliant artist’s mind to raise awareness of the maritime industry’s impact on ocean health and the issues we are dealing with as a region and globally.


A war shield made from a snapping turtle shell, deer antler point, embedded stone points, hemp twine, leather and acrylic paint   From the collection of Robin Spears


Oceanus is related to a fabulous show that just opened. Spineless: A Glass Menagerie of Blaschka Marine Invertebrates comprises glass models from the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard, as well as the Museum of Science in Boston. The germ of that started during my time at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, when I visited Harvard for a project on marine mammal bioacoustics, which focused on the legacy of William Schevill, Librarian of the MCZ and Assistant Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology. I saw the models and never forgot them.

Curated by Krystal Rose, Director of Collections and Special Exhibitions, and Jim Carlton, Director Emeritus of the Williams-Mystic undergraduate program, the show looks at scientific observation by mariners and by artists and artisans of the late 19th century, with journals, drawings, wet specimens and over forty-five Blaschka glass models. The exhibition got a full page spread in The New York Times, and we’ve already extended the run. It’s just a fabulous show.

Jim also worked with our team on an installation of invasive species panels around the Seaport waterfront so people can understand how maritime industry and ship design have transported a lot of these little creatures around the world, either in ballast tanks or affixed to the hulls of ships. It’s a really fascinating subject, and one we can talk about very authentically in this area.

Our newest exhibition, Entwined: Freedom, Sovereignty, and the Sea, is part of a partnership with Brown University, Williams College and many, many others. Curated by Akeia de Barros Gomes, our Senior Curator of Maritime Social Histories, Entwined explores maritime history through the perspective of black and indigenous peoples. Akela has built many partnerships and collaborations with lots of different voices in this region and beyond.

Then in 2025, we are looking at I think the largest exhibition in this country, at least that I’m aware of, on surfing. “Stoked” will be curated by Glenn Gordinier, who is just fabulous, a passionate, incredible surfer and published author. And then of course, we have the new Wells Boat Hall in the Rossie Building.


Handcrafted at the Seaport by Alvin Ashiatey, Gary Carter Jr., Hartman Deetz and Sika Foyer, this reimagined dugout canoe, melding enduring African and Dawnland (New England) indigenous boatbuilding traditions, is a cornerstone of the Entwined exhibition.   © Mystic Seaport Museum

[Note to readers: In our April edition, Chris Freeman, Head of Advancement at Mystic Seaport Museum, shared the story of the transformation of the Rossie Velvet Weaving Mill. This massive brick structure was one of two million square foot velvet weaving mills operating in the Mystic-Stonington area (the other houses the Stonington Farmers Market, six miles to the east. The Rossie Building at Mystic became a boat storage warehouse, administrative office and archival research center across Greenmanville Avenue from the North Entrance to the main campus. I have rummaged through this storehouse of maritime history ever since starting the Conversations with Classic Boats podcast in 2020. I find something new every time.

An aerial view of the mockup of the space shows an array of thematic exhibits containing hundreds of classics from the ranks of American watercraft, from dinghies to prototypes of famous runabouts, from steam engines to outboard motors.

To learn more about The Wells Boat Hall, housing the American Watercraft Collection, reach out to Chris at, call him at 860-572-5365 or better yet, stop by and see what’s going on. The fundraising drive to complete the Wells Boat Hall will be moving into a new phase very shortly and this ground
breaking expansion of the small boat exhibition space deserves your support.


This Blaschka glass invertebrate model is part of the Spineless exhibit.   © Joe Michael

CB: The Wells Boat Hall is going to open in about a year, welcoming visitors to our Rossie Velvet Mill for the first time. We are anticipating between 250 and 300 boats being displayed in the new public space. These boats are currently in storage and can be seen only with a private tour.

TD: I’ve crawled around that building a great deal, for stories on frostbite dinghies, the Hickman Sea Sled and its cousin, the Boston Whaler. We’ll be in there doing some original research for a podcast called “The World Speedboat: Riva, Hacker and Chris Craft.” I am so excited. I have from the very beginning called the Rossie Building “the Old Curiosity Shop” of the Seaport.

CB: It’s going to be magnificent.

TD: What a thrilling opportunity to show that kind of breadth in the smaller boats…The only question I have is, what are you going to do with all of those vintage outboard motors that look like R2D2 from Star Wars?

CB: Oh, gosh. I love them.


Evelyn Ansel: In Person and Online in Pursuit of the Herreshoff Legacy

TD: Evelyn, over the past ten years that I’ve been visiting, I have seen so much evolution in what the Herreshoff Marine Museum is offering. You really innovated during those difficult pandemic years. I appreciate that, as I was getting the Conversations with Classic boats podcasts up and running during those difficult times. I followed with great interest your Project Lima emails during COVID. Even when the physical museum closed to visitors, you worked hard to engage your audience. What’s new for 2024?

EA: There are two new exhibits upstairs in the ARIA gallery. One of them is going to be a semi-permanent, “A Matter of Scale: Rigged Models from the Herreshoff Collection. We have a number of rigged models that are currently not on view, and we’re getting them together in one gallery.

The other thing we are doing is reinstalling a historic collection of Captain Nat’s personal photos that were in his house at the time he passed away. We have them, as a collection, intact. They have been on display before, but we’re reinterpreting them as an exhibit called “The Love Rocks Picture Gallery: Historic Photos from Captain Nat’s Home.”

Next winter, the plan is to redo our Hall of Fame and America’s Cup Hall of Fame downstairs. We also have plans cooking to start using some spaces as galleries in the historic factory buildings on campus that have been underutilized. We’ve taken back the old machine shop and have been using that as a lecture and events space. We plan to put more material in there in the coming years, and it’s an opportunity to showcase historic prints and photos from our collection, and potentially contemporary marine artists.


A small part of the Herreshoff Marine Museum’s “Challengers, Defenders, and Contenders: The Hodgdon Collection of America’s Cup Models 1851-1937” exhibition   ©


TD: Thank you, Evelyn. I’d like to inject a little Darling history related to the HMM buildings. In the early 1960s, my father Wells Darling was involved in the purchase of Pearson Yachts by Grumman. The production space for models like the Ensign was in the buildings where the white offices are now. My two sisters and I would be called on at inventory times, in January as I recall, to help count the screws and bolts. That was our first task in the marine business, and I remember the space very well. Such a great campus with such amazing history, and who better to frame the HMM’s place in marine history than Bill Lynn, President and Executive Director, who also serves as Managing Director of the Classic Yacht Owners Association. I have seen Bill wear a lot of hats: Sonar ace, crew on the mega-classic Outlier, driver for the NY 50 Spartan, the CYOA, now the HMM. He’s a versatile classical boat player, and here is what the POHMM (President of Herreshoff Marine Museum) says about the mission:

“For over fifty years, the Herreshoff Marine Museum has been preserving the legacy of the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company, one of America’s first blue tech startups, exemplifying innovation, engineering and entrepreneurial success.

The Herreshoff is on a mission to inspire the next generation of problem solvers through an extensive collection and compelling exhibits, a campus that is quickly becoming a dynamic hub for modern innovators addressing current challenges, and an education program that serves as a platform for inspiring the blue economy leaders of tomorrow.

Whether you experience the exhibits or engage in its programming, the Herreshoff Museum invites you to explore the past and to help shape a future that values ingenuity and sustains our marine world. Please support us and reach us at”


A 1933 HMCo.-built replica of Captain Nat’s 1875 design of the same name, the record-setting catamaran Amaryllis II hangs on display in the Museum’s Hall of Boats.   © Conversations with Classic Boats


TD: Readers and Conversations listeners, spring has sprung. Mystic Seaport Museum and the Herreshoff Marine Museum are waiting to welcome you and your family for a visit. Fair Sailing. ■

Not a formally trained historian nevertheless a boat storyteller, collecting and reciting stories for the boating curious, Tom Darling hosts Conversations with Classic Boats, “the podcast that talks to boats.” Tune in via Apple Podcast, Google Podcast or Spotify, or online at

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