The second Wave, becoming the place where all Great Lakes conversations happen

National Museum of the Great Lakes Announces Second Wave Expansion Groundbreaking Ceremony

The National Museum of the Great Lakes is thrilled to celebrate our past, present, and future as we break ground on our Second Wave Expansion Monday, April 22nd at 2:00 PM. 

The Second Wave Expansion represents a pivotal step forward for the museum, made possible by the unwavering support of our community including the State of Ohio, forward-thinking businesses, generous donors, loyal museum members, and visitors. With the addition of a new 5,000-square-foot space, anchored by the revered pilothouse of the St. Mary’s Challenger, we are poised to enhance our offerings and provide an enriched experience for visitors. It’s important to note that the Museum will remain open during construction.

“I am thrilled to embark on this next chapter with the groundbreaking of our Second Wave Expansion,” said Kate Fineske, Executive Director of the National Museum of the Great Lakes.  “From the moment we opened our doors, we knew our mission to showcase the rich maritime history of the Great Lakes would resonate deeply. Yet, our rapid growth quickly outpaced our physical space.”

During the ceremony, attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about the exciting plans for the expansion, including dedicated areas for temporary and traveling exhibits, innovative permanent exhibit spaces, and a new Great Lakes community education center. 

“At the heart of this expansion lies our Great Lakes community education center — a space designed to be the hub where all Great Lakes conversations happen. This center will not only enrich the visitor experience but also solidify our new vision to become the gathering place of all Great Lakes conversations. I am beyond excited to see how this new space will empower us to continue our mission for generations to come,” added Fineske. 

As we commemorate a decade of presence in the Toledo community, we invite everyone to reflect on our journey thus far and to envision the boundless opportunities that lie ahead.

Speakers at the ceremony will include Fineske along with Mark Barker, NMGL Board President and President of Interlake Maritime Services, and Dr. Bill Davis, who serves as NMGL’s local public campaign board lead and is presently Chair of the Department of Dentistry and Associate Dean of Continuing Medical Education at the University of Toledo.

Following the ceremony, guests are invited to enjoy coffee and conversation inside the museum, and the media is invited to hold interviews with our team while getting a preview of the expansion area. The event will take place in front of the iconic John Sherwin propeller, and in the event of rain, the ceremony will be relocated to our community room.

The National Museum of the Great Lakes extends its deepest gratitude to the community for their continued support, which is instrumental to our growth and positive impact.

For more details about the expansion, visit

Spring Lecture #3 All aboard how sarah e. ray integrated the boblo boats

Museum Presents Final Spring Lecture: All Aboard: How Sarah E. Ray Integrated the Boblo Boats

The National Museum of the Great Lakes invites the community to its final installment of its Spring Lecture Series, presented by Impact Employment Solutions. All Aboard: How Sarah E. Ray Integrated the Boblo Boats sheds light on the courageous story of Sarah E. Ray, an African American woman whose defiance against racial discrimination aboard a Boblo Boat in Detroit left an indelible mark on history.

Desiree Cooper, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist and esteemed author, will lead the lecture, uncovering Ray’s remarkable journey. Often referred to as “Detroit’s Other Rosa Parks,” 75 years ago, 24-year-old Ray was denied a seat on the segregated Boblo boat, SS Columbia. Her fight ultimately led to a landmark legal victory in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1948. Cooper’s meticulous research, in partnership with filmmaker Aaron Schillinger, provides a comprehensive understanding of Ray’s legacy and her pivotal role in the battle against racial injustice.

“We are thrilled to host this important lecture as part of our Spring Series,” said Carrie Sowden, Archaeology and Research Director at the National Museum of the Great Lakes. “Sarah E. Ray’s story is a vital piece of American history, and it’s crucial that we educate our community about her remarkable contributions, which occurred less than an hour away from our museum. Ray’s bravery and determination paved the way for the end of legal segregation in the United States, making her an unsung hero of the civil rights movement.”

Cooper, known for her insightful storytelling and dedication to amplifying marginalized voices, brings a wealth of expertise to the presentation. As co-founder of The Sarah E. Ray Project alongside Schillinger, Cooper has played a pivotal role in raising awareness of Ray’s legacy, resulting in numerous accolades and recognitions, including Ray’s induction into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame and the establishment of dedicated archives at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library.

The lecture will take place on Thursday, May 2, 2024, at 7 p.m. and is offered as a hybrid event with in-person and virtual attendance options available. While the event is free, registration is required. Donations to support the museum’s initiatives are welcomed.

Don’t miss this opportunity to dive deep into the inspiring tale of Sarah E. Ray and her fight for equality. Join us as we honor her legacy and reflect on the enduring impact of her courageous actions.

For more information and to register for the lecture, please visit the

National Museum of the Great Lakes Celebrates 10 Years in Toledo with City Council Resolution

The National Museum of the Great Lakes is gearing up to celebrate a decade of enriching the Toledo community with its immersive exhibits and educational programs. The Museum has become a beacon for maritime history enthusiasts and a cornerstone of the city’s cultural landscape, and its milestone will be recognized by Toledo City Council with a Resolution on Wednesday, April 10, 2024 at 4 pm. 

Initially founded in 1944 by a group of passionate maritime enthusiasts in Cleveland, Ohio, the Great Lakes Historical Society has remained steadfast in its mission to preserve and showcase the rich history of the Great Lakes region. This commitment continued when the National Museum of the Great Lakes moved to Toledo in 2014, situated gracefully along the banks of the Maumee River.

Over the past ten years, the museum has captivated visitors with its diverse array of exhibits, featuring visual, audiovisual, and hands-on experiences spanning centuries of Great Lakes history. From the era of fur trading to the challenges of the underground railroad and the exploits of rum runners, the museum offers a comprehensive journey through the pivotal moments that have shaped the Great Lakes into the vital resource it is today.

One of the highlights of the museum’s collection is the Col. James M. Schoonmaker Museum Ship, affectionately known as the “Queen of the Lakes.” This iconic vessel, measuring over 617 feet in length and 64 feet in width, served as a coal hauler for over seven decades, traversing the Great Lakes and leaving an indelible mark on maritime history. Additionally, the Museum Tug Ohio, generously donated by the Great Lakes Towing Company, stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of Great Lakes shipping.

As the National Museum of the Great Lakes prepares to mark this significant milestone, Executive Director, Kate Fineske, reflects on the museum’s integral role within the community. “For the past decade, the National Museum of the Great Lakes has been more than just a repository of history – it’s been a gathering place, a source of pride, and a catalyst for discussions around our natural resources. Our goal is to make Toledo the epicenter of Great Lakes conversations, where stories are shared, connections are forged, and the spirit of the region thrives.”

Echoing Fineske’s sentiments, Sam Melden, Toledo City Councilman, underscored the significance of having the National Museum of the Great Lakes within Toledo’s borders. “The presence of the National Museum of the Great Lakes in Toledo has been instrumental in fostering a deeper appreciation for our region’s maritime heritage. Not only does it serve as a vital educational resource, but it also enhances Toledo’s identity as the premier destination for all things Great Lakes.”

As the Museum prepares to celebrate its milestone anniversary on April 10th, the City of Toledo and its residents join in commemorating a decade of excellence, inspiration, and celebration of the rich tapestry of Great Lakes history.

Sensory Friendly Mornings

Exploration Meets Comfort: National Museum of the Great Lakes Introduces Sensory Friendly Mornings

 The National Museum of the Great Lakes is thrilled to announce the launch of Sensory Friendly Mornings, offering an inclusive and serene environment for families and individuals with sensory sensitivities to explore and enjoy our exhibits.

“We recognize the importance of providing a welcoming environment for all visitors,” said Ellen Kennedy, Director of Museum Operations at the National Museum of the Great Lakes. “Sensory Friendly Mornings allow us to create a space where everyone can feel comfortable and empowered to explore our exhibits at their own pace.”

During Sensory Friendly Mornings, attendees can expect:

  • Limited crowds to ensure a peaceful visit
  • Dim lighting for a calming ambiance
  • Reduced or eliminated exhibit sounds to minimize auditory stimulation

This year, Sensory Friendly Mornings will be available on select Saturdays including April 20th, June 22nd, September 21st, and December 14th, 2024, from 9:00 am to 10:00 am.

The National Museum of the Great Lakes is proud to be designated as a Certified Autism Center™ (CAC) by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Services (IBCCES). This certification underscores our commitment and dedication to understanding and supporting individuals with autism and other sensory sensitivities.

“Our exhibit space is thoughtfully designed to encourage hands-on discovery and immersive learning experiences for all visitors,” added Kennedy. “With dim lights and a welcoming atmosphere already in place, our additional measures, such as reducing noise and limiting crowds, make these mornings extra special and inviting for individuals with sensory sensitivities.”

Tickets can be pre-ordered online or purchased at the door upon arrival. Regular admission rates apply, admission free for Museum Members. 

For more information about Sensory Friendly Mornings and to purchase tickets, please visit


50 years of history and science on the Great Lakes

Museum’s Second Spring Lecture Explores 50 Years of History and Science on the Great Lakes

The National Museum of the Great Lakes is looking forward to the next installment of its 2024 Spring Lecture Series presented by Impact Employment Solutions happening on April 10 at 7 pm. Join Jennifer Day, Regional Coordinator at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) and dive into 50 years of history and scientific advancements on the Great Lakes

“As a team deeply committed to environmental stewardship, we believe that educating the public on the scientific history of Great Lakes degradation serves a dual purpose: it empowers individuals with knowledge to make informed decisions about our natural resources while fostering a greater appreciation for the irreplaceable beauty and importance of our Great Lakes,” said Carrie Sowden, Archaeological and Research Director at the National Museum of the Great Lakes.

Established on April 25, 1974, NOAA’s GLERL has been instrumental in advancing environmental and ecosystem research in the Great Lakes and coastal marine environments. The lecture offers up a unique perspective on the evolution of our vital ecosystem. 

“By understanding the challenges we’ve faced and the progress we’ve made, we can collectively work towards a sustainable future for generations to come,” added Sowden.

What to expect from the lecture:

  • Gain valuable insights into the historical context of the Great Lakes environmental      challenges and successes
  • Discover the latest scientific breakthroughs driving improvements in the physical, biological, and chemical ecosystems of the Great Lakes
  • Explore innovative research initiatives by NOAA GLERL and its collaborative partners over the past five decades

Attendees have the flexibility of joining either in-person at the National Museum of the Great Lakes or online via Zoom. Admission to the lecture is free, with registration required to secure a spot. Register at Donations to support the educational initiatives Museum are gratefully accepted.

Don’t miss this opportunity to commemorate 50 years of history and science in the Great Lakes region. 

Spring Break promotions

Spring Break Admission Promotion and Eclipse Weekend Specials at the National Museum of the Great Lakes

With the buds popping and temps rising, the National Museum of the Great Lakes is delighted to announce its Spring Break Admission Promotion, inviting families to embark on an enriching adventure together. Now through April 14, visitors who pre-purchase adult tickets online will receive a complimentary youth ticket (ages 6 to 17).

“With school out and the weather warming, there’s no better time to explore the engaging exhibits at our museum,” said Ellen Kennedy, Director of Museum Operations. “Dive into the rich history of the Great Lakes region and create lasting memories with your loved ones.”

But the excitement doesn’t stop there! From April 6 to April 8, coinciding with the Total Solar Eclipse weekend, the museum has additional specials in store. In addition to our Spring Break BOGO offer, the first 100 visitors will receive complimentary eclipse viewing glasses

“We’re eagerly anticipating the buzz surrounding the total eclipse on our side of the river,” added Kennedy. “In addition to our weekend specials, we’re thrilled to join the Glass City Metropark’s eclipse party with Great Lakes themed activities. It’s a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the awe-inspiring beauty of nature and the rich heritage of our region under the celestial spectacle of the eclipse.”

For those considering becoming museum members, Eclipse weekend presents an enticing opportunity. Purchase a membership during this time (April 6-8) and enjoy an extra 10% off your first museum store purchase, totaling 20% in savings.

Also, through the month of March, we’re celebrating Women’s History Month with a curated selection of special books and media available in our Museum Store. Join us as we honor the remarkable contributions of women to the Great Lakes region throughout history.

In addition to our specials, we are proud to participate in Jūpmode’s Here for Good initiative, supporting the National Museum of the Great Lakes through the sale of limited edition tees and crews. Featuring a custom design by Paul LaMarre, Jr. showcasing our esteemed Museum Ship Col. James M. Schoonmaker, these shirts and crews are available for purchase until March 31. With $10 from each shirt and $15 from each sweatshirt sale directly benefiting the museum, it’s a stylish way to show your support. You can purchase our shirts and support other local businesses at

Don’t miss out on these exciting opportunities to experience the wonders of the National Museum of the Great Lakes. For more information and to purchase tickets or merchandise, visit

Volunteers Needed

Join the Crew: Volunteer Opportunities Available with the National Museum of the Great Lakes

As the flowers bloom and the temperatures rise, the National Museum of the Great Lakes is calling on the Toledo community and beyond to be part of their crew. With spring in the air, it’s the perfect time to explore volunteer opportunities at the museum, where every role is an adventure in itself. Whether you’re a history aficionado, a special events enthusiast, or passionate about unique team-building activities, the museum offers a wide array of options to get involved.

Rebecca Gray, the museum’s Data and System Analyst and Volunteer Coordinator, emphasizes that there’s a place for everyone. “No matter how much time you can dedicate, whether it’s once a month or several times a week, or if you’re looking to involve your company in the community, we have the perfect role for you,” said Gray. 

The goal is clear: to bridge the community with the fascinating history of the Great Lakes, ensuring that each volunteer finds both purpose and joy in their contributions.

The museum is currently seeking volunteers across various capacities:

  • Educational Guides: Become a docent for our galleries and museum ships, sharing the rich tales of the Great Lakes with visitors.
  • Administrative Support: Assist behind the scenes with essential tasks that keep the museum running smoothly.
  • Event and Landscaping Support: Lend a hand in creating beautiful spaces and memorable experiences for our guests.
  • Research and Writing: Contribute to the discovery and sharing of knowledge through research projects and publications.
  • Corporate and Group Volunteering: Host unique team building events while giving back to the community.

“Our volunteers are the heartbeat of our organization, whether they’re helping with administrative tasks, guiding visitors, or supporting our special events,” added Gray.

For those interested in stepping aboard, the museum hosts its monthly Volunteers 1st Days, an open house for prospective volunteers, on the first day of every month from 12 to 4 pm. This is a great opportunity to learn more about how you can contribute, meet the team, and find the right volunteer role for you.

To stay updated on the latest volunteer opportunities, training sessions, and special events, sign up for the Crew Connection newsletter. This is your gateway to all things volunteering at the museum.

Ready to embark on this volunteering voyage? For a full list of open positions, how to subscribe to the Crew Connection newsletter, and to access the volunteer application, please visit Your adventure with the National Museum of the Great Lakes awaits!

2024 Spring Lecture Series Kicks Off with the Remarkable Journey of Migratory Songbirds Along the Great Lakes

On Thursday, March 14th at 7 p.m. the National Museum of the Great Lakes (NMGL) kicks off its annual Spring Lecture Series presented by Impact Employment Solutions. In the first session, “The World of Songbird Migration,” featuring Kimberly Kaufman, Executive Director of Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO), attendees will discover the remarkable journeys of migratory birds across the Great Lakes region and understand the environmental significance of their gatherings here during spring and fall.

“The annual Spring Lecture Series is a staple at the National Museum of the Great Lakes. We take pride in bringing a variety of topics and speakers to Toledo,” said Carrie Sowden,  Archaeological and Research Director with the National Museum of the Great Lakes.

Kaufman joined the BSBO in 2005 as Education Director, developing school programs and the successful Ohio Young Birders Club. She also co-founded The Biggest Week in American Birding, the largest U.S. birding festival. Under her leadership, BSBO established birding tourism in northwest Ohio, generating over $40 million annually for the local economy.

As with the entire series, this lecture will be offered as a hybrid event. Participants can choose when registering to take part in-person at the museum or online via Zoom. 

“This season, we have topics on how to interact with your environment today, the history of the study of the Great Lakes environment, and a story of racial injustice on the Great Lakes, and how it went all the way to the Supreme Court. Our spring lectures are the perfect way to reflect on the impact of the past, present, and future of our coveted natural resources,” added Sowden

The second lecture in the series, “50 Years of History and Science on the Great Lakes,” will be on April 10. The final presentation, highlighting the remarkable courage of Detroit native Sarah Elizabeth Ray and her fight against racial injustice aboard the segregated Boblo boat, SS Columbia, is scheduled for May 2.

Event registration is free, but required for all lectures. Donations are encouraged and can be given upon registration. For more information or to register to join the events, visit Eventbrite.

WHAT: 2024 Spring Lecture Series presented by Impact Employment Solutions  featuring

  • The World of Songbird Migration
  • 50 Years of History and Science on the Great Lakes
  • All Aboard: How Sarah E. Ray Integrated the Boblo Boats


  • The World of Songbird Migration 
    • March 14, 2024, 7 pm – 8:30 pm
  • 50 Years of History and Science on the Great Lakes
    • April 10, 2024, 7 pm – 8:30 pm 
  • All Aboard: How Sarah E. Ray Integrated the Boblo Boat 
    • May 2, 2024, 7 pm – 8:30 pm  


National Museum of the Great Lakes
1701 Front St., Toledo, OH 43605

Or, Online via Zoom. Registration required at: or

Elite African American WWII Tuskegee Airmen Topic of New Museum Micro Exhibit

Wednesday, February 7, 2024 (Toledo, Ohio) – This Friday, February 9, The National Museum of the Great Lakes will open a new micro exhibit titled Taking Flight: The Tuskegee Airmen and The Great Lakes. The exhibit examines the Great Lakes connection to the famed Tuskegee Airmen, an elite group of African American military pilots and airmen who fought in World War II. 

“During World War II, with a segregated military, African American men were sent to the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama to train for working in, on, and around airplanes,” shares Carrie Sowden, the museum’s Archaeological and Research Director who developed the micro exhibit and is also a part of the archaeological team studying the Tuskegee aircraft recently discovered at the bottom of Lake Huron. “Held to a much higher standard to enter the military’s aviation program, African American men graduating from Tuskegee were some of the smartest and most fit pilots of their time.” 

The exhibit uses images and words to tell visitors the story of the Great Lakes connection to the famed Tuskegee Airmen. It works to examine the elite men trained in the program and focuses particularly on the tragic story of Lt. Frank Moody, who lost his life on a training mission over Lake Huron on April 11, 1944.

Taking Flight: The Tuskegee Airmen and The Great Lakes micro exhibit is included with regular admission to the National Museum of the Great Lakes. The exhibit is available to view beginning Friday, February 9 through Sunday, March 31. For more information on the exhibit, museum hours, and ticket pricing visit   

2023 Waving Through Time Banner

Museum’s Waving Through Time: Flags of the Sweetwater Seas Nautical Flag Collection Exhibit Expands Online with Part Two

Tuesday, February 16, 2024 (Toledo, Ohio) – The National Museum of the Great Lakes (NMGL) has released the first series in part two of its Waving Through Time: Flags of the Sweetwater Seas online exhibit. Every two weeks through March 26, the museum will introduce a series of flags online that have helped recreational sailors to showcase their identity as well as communicate on the Great Lakes. From yachting association celebratory flags to flags alerting boaters of weather or distress—their history and significance will be explored.

“The National Museum of the Great Lakes’ extensive collection of navigational symbols and house flags is steeped in such rich history. These flags represent the demanding travel and industrious effort that has taken place on the Great Lakes for centuries,” explains Carrie Sowden, the museum’s Archaeological and Research Director. “Our Sweetwater Seas have played an essential role in building all that we enjoy on our shores and beyond.”

Part two of the museum’s flag exhibit will be featured exclusively online. More than 95,000 square miles of navigable water has allowed a large marine recreation industry to anchor itself within our Great Lakes, and its history is captured in these symbols. Centuries of communication in recreational sailing on the Sweetwater Seas will be showcased for anyone to explore on the National Museum of the Great Lakes’s website. To access the exhibit, including part one highlighting commercial flags, visit

The museum encourages individuals to follow @NMGLToledo on social media and sign-up to receive emails for new series launch notifications. The click-and-learn interactive Waving Through Time exhibit is one of many online museum learning opportunities. During the cold winter months and beyond, online visitors can also take a virtual tour of the museum and its ships, see the Port of Toledo Then & Now online exhibit, read through back issues of the award-winning Inland Seas Journal, and even shop the museum’s store. A special Captain Scupper’s Kids Club section of the website offers fun learning activities for children of all ages.

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.

WHAT: Waving through Time: Flags of the Sweetwater Seas,
PART – 2 Online Exhibit

WHEN: Part 2 will release new content every 2-weeks through 6 Series:
Series 1: January 16; Series 2: January 30; Series 3: February 13; Series 4: February 27; Series 5: March 12; Series 6: March 26

WHERE: Online:

ADMISSION: FREE Interactive Online Exhibit

MEDIA CONTACT: Ellen Kennedy; 330.957.0371