CAC Certification Announcement Banner 2023

Museum Achieves Autism Certification and Partnership with National Autism Sailing Program

Thursday, May 25, 2023 (Toledo, Ohio) – The National Museum of the Great Lakes proudly announces the recent completion of autism training and certification through IBCCES designating them as a Certified Autism Center™ (CAC). 

“Statistics show that 1 in 6 people have sensory needs and 1 in 36 children are diagnosed with autism. The National Museum of the Great Lakes is committed to fostering an inclusive and welcoming environment for all individuals,” explains Ellen Kennedy, the Musuem’s Education and Visitor Experience Director. “Our team of staff and volunteers have completed hours of autism sensitivity and awareness training to ensure they have the knowledge and skills to better understand and communicate with those who may have sensory sensitivities.”

In connection to achieving this certification, the museum has been actively searching for ways to increase partnerships with organizations supporting autistic individuals. This led to preliminary conversations with Spectrum Sailing—a nonprofit organization providing maritime education, programming and outreach for autistic children. 

“When we discovered that Spectrum Sailing was expanding their 3-day sailing camp to numerous stops on the Great Lakes and that the Toledo-area would be host to one such camp, we gladly jumped onboard,” shares Kate Fineske who oversees the museum’s community partnership work. “We plan to actively participate in this year’s camp, hosted by North Cape Yacht Club from June 13 – 16, and are offering a FREE Day at the museum for campers, their families and all the applicants who submitted registrations.

Moving forward, the National Museum of the Great Lakes plans to continue their support of the sailing program and grow their autism spectrum partnership work in Toledo and the Great Lakes region. By completing the CAC program, the National Museum of the Great Lakes joins Destination Toledo’s initiative to achieve the Certified Autism Destination™ (CAD) designation, which IBCCES awards to cities with a variety of trained and certified lodging, entertainment, and recreation organizations to better welcome travelers to the area.

Media interested in learning more about the National Museum of the Great Lakes, their partnership with Spectrum Sailing, or specifics related to their certification are encouraged to reach out directly to Kate Fineske at or 419-214-5000 ext. 202.


About the National Museum of the Great Lakes: Founded in 1944, the Great Lakes Historical Society has been preserving our shared cultural history by publishing a quarterly journal Inland Seas® since 1945; by operating a maritime museum since 1952; by offering educational programs to the general public since 1956; by conducting underwater archaeological research across the Great Lakes since 2001; and by managing the Col. James M. Schoonmaker Museum Ship since 2014 and Museum Tug Ohio since 2019. The opening of the National Museum of the Great Lakes enables the Great Lakes Historical Society to continue its mission to preserve and make known the important history of the Great Lakes.

About Spectrum Sailing: Spectrum Sailing is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides maritime education, programming and outreach for autistic individuals through free sailing camps. After originating with one local program in Charleston, South Carolina, Spectrum Sailing has expanded every year since. The popular sailing camp is offered to autistic individuals at no cost thanks to the generosity of both the Autism and Sailing communities.

About IBCCES: Committed to providing The Global Standard For Training and Certification in The Field of Cognitive Disorders—IBCCES provides a series of certifications that empower professionals to be leaders in their field and improve the outcomes for the individuals they serve. These programs are recognized around the world as the leading benchmark for training and certification in the areas of autism and other cognitive disorders.

Museum’s Boats Reopen for Season; Museum Launches Initial Volunteers 1st Day

Tuesday, April 25, 2023 (Toledo, Ohio) – On Monday, May 1st, the National Museum of the Great Lakes will reopen the Col. James M. Schoonmaker Museum Ship and Museum Tug Ohio for the 2023 season. That same day they will also welcome volunteers during a new “Volunteers 1st Day.” In addition, beginning in May the museum’s open hours will also increase from 6 to 7 days a week, Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

“May 1 has always marked the beginning of our museum vessel season—but this year the date has increased significance as a way to celebrate and engage the community with our mission during “Volunteers 1st Day,” says Rebecca Gray, who oversees the museum’s volunteer initiative. “Volunteers are vital to the museum’s mission, and we are really focused on providing more opportunities to individuals interested in donating their time.

To help increase volunteer opportunities, on the first of every month the museum will host “drop in days” for volunteers to support our mission in various ways. In addition, a ‘Crew Connection’ newsletter has been developed and is being send out monthly to update volunteers on all the ways they can get involved.

The museum ships close annually over the winter months, re-opening for public tours only between May 1 and October 31. When open, visitors can climb onboard the 617-foot cargo ship and historic tug to experience what life was like on the lakes in the early 1900s while also visiting the museum galleries. The interior of the museum features awe-inspiring stories from our Great Lakes exhibited through breathtaking photography, over 300 incredible artifacts, a number of powerful audiovisual displays and 40 hands-on interactive exhibits.

To pre-purchase tickets for a museum visit, go to To learn more about
volunteering or to sign-up to volunteer visit: www.

Museum’s Next Lecture Delves into President Hayes History & Connection to the Great Lakes

Thursday, March 9, 2023 (Toledo, Ohio) – On Wednesday, March 29, at 7 p.m. the National Museum of the Great Lakes will hold their second presentation of the 2023 Spring Lecture Series exploring president Rutherford B. Hayes and his family’s close ties to the Great Lakes. Presented by Dan Baker, the lecture explores topics such as the joint purchase of an island in Lake Erie and a family-owned, Lima-based Dart speed boat manufacturing company.

“During his third term as Ohio Governor, soon-to-be president Rutherford B. Hayes entered into a partnership with individuals to purchase Mouse Island,” says Carrie Sowden, the museum’s Archaeological and Research Director who oversees the lecture series. “This Island became a place for his entire family to fish, camp, and relax—highlighting just one of the many deep connections he had over his lifetime to the Great Lakes”

The lecturer’s presenter, Dan Baker, works at Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Libraries and Museums in Fremont, Ohio. He also instructs for the Terra State College Life Scholar’s program on a wide variety of historical subjects.

As in all the museum’s lectures, this presentation will be offered as a hybrid event using Zoom or in-person at the museum. Event registration is free, but required for all lectures. Donations are encouraged and can be given upon registration. For more information or to register, visit

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New Exhibit Taps into Museum’s Vast Nautical Flag Collection

Thursday, February 16, 2023 (Toledo, Ohio) – The National Museum of the Great Lakes (NMGL) is proud to introduce a brand new online and micro exhibit—Waving Through Time: Flags of the Sweetwater Seas. This 2-part exhibit highlighting commercial and recreational flags on the Great Lakes has  launched Part 1 today with a focus on the Great Lakes Industry. The online exhibit will feature six different series of flags that have helped commercial vessels thrive on the Great Lakes and throughout North America. 

“We are excited to tap into the National Museum of the Great Lakes’s vast collection to highlight the navigational symbols and house flags whose passage through our Sweetwater Seas helped build the world we live in today,” shares Carrie Sowden, the museum’s Archaeological and Research Director who also oversees the organization’s installation of temporary and micro-exhibits. 

“From company logos and signal flags to yachting association celebratory flags—we’re exploring their history and significance all year long,” continues Ring Lardner, NMGL’s Collections Coordinator who is the exhibit’s primary curator and researcher. “This spring, every couple weeks through April, we will introduce a new series of flags online who have helped Great Lakes commercial vessels thrive. Additionally, in mid-March, individuals can visit the museum to see some of the historical flags featured in the online exhibit through installation of an accompanying micro-exhibit meant to expand their stories and highlight related artifacts that further showcase their significance.”

Waving Through Time: Flags of the Sweetwater Seas will be available online for individuals to interact with all year. Part 2: Recreational Boating, will launch this fall and also feature an online and micro-exhibit—turning the exhibit’s focus on flags that have helped recreational sailors showcase their identity and communicate. 

To access the exhibit, visit The museum also encourages individuals to follow @NMGLToledo on social media and sign-up to receive emails to be notified throughout the year when each of the 12 new series and accompanying micro-exhibits launch.

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Museum Releases Spring Lecture Line-up

February 9, 2023 (Toledo, Ohio) – On Wednesday, March 8 at 7 p.m. the National Museum of the Great Lakes (NMGL) begins their annual spring lecture series by exploring the life of nineteenth century surveyor Admiral Henry Wolsey Bayfield.

“Considered a Master Chart Maker of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, The Admiral’s navigational charts saved countless lives and literally mapped the way for settlement into our continent’s interior,” shares Carrie Sowden, the museum’s Archaeological and Research Director who also oversees the museum’s lecture series. “A naval officer, explorer, naturalist, and polymath, Bayfield, was one of the most extraordinary individuals of the nineteenth century and spent forty years of his life mapping Canada’s vast coasts and inland waterways.” 

The presenter, David Yates is an award-winning author and semi-retired teacher who resides in Goderich, Ontario. In addition, since 2007, his local history column has appeared regularly in Huron County (ON) papers and he has written several books on local Huron County History. Mr. Yates will be presenting virtually, but individuals who register for the lecture will have the option to watch him at the Museum during an in-person watch party and live-streamed question and answer session following the presentation. 

NMGL continues their Spring 2023 lecture series on March 29 in partnership with the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Libraries and Museums with “From Mouse to Dart—President Hayes Family History on the Great Lakes.” The final series presentation is scheduled for April 19 and explores individuals working to make the Great Lakes watershed cleaner by featuring scholar John Hartig, who authored the book “Great Lakes Champions: Grassroots Efforts to Clean Up Polluted Watersheds.” 

Over the past 2 years, since transitioning the lecture series to a hybrid-event format, the in-person lecture has regularly sold out and, at the same time, the museum has had up to 500 devices streaming the presentations live. Because of their popularity, registration for all lectures, although free, is required. Donations are encouraged and can be given upon registration. For more information or to register to join the events, visit

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Museum Announces Access Program for Low-Income Individuals and Families

January 17, 2023 (Toledo, Ohio) – The National Museum of the Great Lakes (NMGL) is pleased to announce it has joined Museums For All—a program providing free and reduced admission to those receiving food assistance (SNAP) benefits. With the presentation of a SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, museum visitors receive free admission to its 11,000 square-foot interior museum and $3 admission inclusive of the Museum Ships.

“Museums for All is a national, branded access program that encourages individuals of all backgrounds to visit museums regularly and build lifelong museum habits,” shares Ellen Kennedy, NMGL’s Education and Visitor Experience Director. “Standard admission to our museum ranges from $8-17. We recognize this can be a barrier for many low-income families and want to eliminate that barrier.”

By participating in Museums for All, the National Museum of the Great Lakes can offer access to a greater percentage of individuals. It is part of the museum’s broad commitment to seek, include, and welcome all audiences through their doors. The museum already offers various free programming, as well as educational field trip grants.

Museums for All is a program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), administered by the Association of Children’s Museums (ACM). More than 850 institutions participate in the initiative, including art museums, children’s museums, science centers, botanical gardens, zoos, history museums, and more. Participating museums are located nationwide, representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Virgin Islands.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Association of Children’s Museums (ACM)The Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) champions children’s museums worldwide. With more than 460 members in 50 states and 16 countries, ACM leverages the collective knowledge of children’s museums through convening, sharing, and dissemination. Learn more at

Free Museum Admission Banner 2022

Museum Celebrates Community with Free Admission

January 10, 2023 (Toledo, Ohio) – In the community improvement and service spirit of the Martin Luther King holiday, beginning Saturday, January 14, through Monday, January 16th, The National Museum of the Great Lakes will open their doors for FREE in recognition of the support visitors, members and community partners have shown over the years. 

“We will be celebrating the re-opening after our annual cleaning shutdown as well as welcoming a new year with an extended weekend of FREE admission, ” shares National Museum of the Great Lakes Education and Visitor Experience Director Ellen Kennedy. “We love showing off our incredible facilities and couldn’t think of a better way to enter 2023 than offering this.”

The museum originally introduced Community Appreciation Days in 2021 after being inspired to give back to those who generously continued to support our mission with the onset of the pandemic. “We appreciate all the support our community provides and are always looking for ways to connect more people with Great Lakes history as well as say thank you,” adds Kate Fineske, the museum’s Senior Director of Institutional Advancement. 

Museum admission is always free for members, with non-member museum-only admission ranging from $8 – 11. Over Martin Luther King Day weekend the museum will be open from 10 – 5 p.m. on Saturday and Monday and Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday with free admission for all visitors. 

Although not required, individuals may reserve their free tickets by pre-ordering and scheduling their visit online at For more information on visitation, visit us online or call 419-214-5000. 

Museum Kicks Off 2023 Great Lakes Book Club

December 29th, 2022 (Toledo, Ohio) – The National Museum of the Great Lakes is kicking off 2023 programming season with our virtual lunchtime Great Lakes Book Club, featuring three books meant to provide new insights into our nation’s inland seas. The museum is encouraging interested participants to grab their own lunch and join others online for three monthly guided discussions held Tuesdays at noon on January 31, February 28, and March 28. 

“We created this book club last year as a great way to get people to engage and learn more about the Great Lakes,” shares Ellen Kennedy, Education and Visitor Experience Director at the National Museum of the Great Lakes. “This year we choose three different books that span from non-fiction to fiction, and cover a wide range of historical and contemporary topics about the Great Lakes. So whether you’re a boat-nerd, history buff, or nature-lover, there is a little something for everyone.”

The featured books for this year include: Floating Palaces of the Great Lakes by Joel Stone (January), The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan (February), and Sisters of Sweetwater Fury by Kinley Bryan (March). On January 31, author Joel Stone, will join in on the discussion to answer questions and provide insight into his book’s topic.Registration to participate in the Great Lakes book club is FREE but also required. Participants can choose to purchase the book(s) at the museum store by visiting the museum in person or by shopping online at For more information on book club events or to register to participate, visit

The 2022 Christmas Tree Ship is CANCELED

Wednesday, November 30, 2022 (Toledo, Ohio)  – Due to forecasted high winds, the National Museum of the Great Lakes has made the tough decision to cancel our annual Christmas Tree Ship event which was scheduled to take place from 1-4 p.m. Individuals who purchased a tree for themselves will still be able to pick up their tree at the museum from 1 – 4 p.m. on Saturday, December 3 or can receive a full refund. 

Additionally, the museum will still be collecting donations towards gift cards for holiday needs in support of East Toledo Family Center,  Family House, Lucas County Children’s Services, and Sylvania Area Family Services. To donate holiday gift card support us online at our event page or call 419-214-5000. Anyone who donates towards a gift card online, over the phone, or at the museum will receive free admission to the museum on Saturday, December 3 or Sunday, December 4.


2022 Christmas Tree Ship Holiday Tradition (EVENT CANCELED)

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November 11, 2022 (Toledo, Ohio) – On Saturday, December 3 from 1-4pm the National Museum of the Great Lakes will welcome the arrival of the Christmas Tree Ship. Together in partnership with Geo. Gradel Co., individuals are invited to purchase a Christmas Tree for themselves or a family in need and then watch Santa arrive with a boatload of trees.

“On November 23, 1912, the schooner Rouse Simmons sank while carrying Christmas trees,” shares Ellen Kennedy, the museum’s Director of Education and Visitor Experience. “Known as the Christmas Tree Ship, her captain, lovingly referred to as “Captain Santa”, was remembered for giving trees to families in need.”

Inspired by the original Christmas Tree Ship tale, participants can pre-purchase a live Christmas Tree for themselves and/or donate a tree or gift card to a family in need. The museum has partnered with United Way of Greater Toledo and 2-1-1 and are working with East Toledo Family Center, Family House, Lucas County Children’s Services, and Sylvania Area Family Services to distribute trees and holiday support to families in need.

This year, in collaboration with the East Toledo community, the museum will host the event in the afternoon to encourage visitors to participate in the neighboring East Toledo Holiday Parade beginning at 11 a.m. and traveling along East Broadway and Starr Avenue.

This is a FREE outdoor event and will be open to the general public. In addition, admission to the museum exhibits will be free for all who purchase a tree, donate a tree, or donate towards a gift card. To learn more about the event, purchase a tree for yourself or a family in need, or donate holiday gift card support visit or call 419-214-5000. Individuals interested in learning more about receiving a donated tree are encouraged to call 2-1-1.